Chapter 5

Pythagoras in Samos Icon

September 28, 2015

He was admired even more after his return to Samos, by the more aged inhabitants.

He appeared to them to be more beautiful and wise, and to possess a divine gracefulness in a more eminent degree. Hence, he was publicly called upon by his country to benefit all men, by imparting to them what he knew.

Nor was he averse to this request, but endeavoured to introduce the symbolical mode of teaching, in a way perfectly similar to the documents by which he had been instructed in Egypt; though the Samians did not very much admit this mode of tuition, and did not adhere to him with that according aptitude which was requisite.

Though no one therefore attended to him, and no one was genuinely desirous of those disciplines 14 which he endeavoured by all means to introduce among the Greeks, yet he neither despised nor neglected Samos, because it was his country, and therefore wished to give his fellow-citizens a taste of the sweetness of the mathematical disciplines, though they were unwilling to be instructed in them. With a view to this, therefore, he employed the following method and artifice.

Happening to observe a certain youth, who was a great lover of gymnastic and other corporeal exercises, but otherwise poor and in difficult circumstances, playing at ball in the Gymnasium with great aptness and facility, he thought the young man might easily be persuaded to attend to him, if he was sufficiently supplied with the necessaries of life, and freed from the care of procuring them.

As soon as the youth, therefore, left the bath, Pythagoras called him to him, and promised that he would furnish him with every thing requisite to the support of his bodily exercise, on condition that he would receive from him gradually and easily, but continually, so that he might not be burthened by receiving them at once, certain disciplines, which he said he had learnt from the Barbarians in his youth, but which now began to desert him through forgetfulness and the incursions of old age. But the young man immediately acceded to the conditions, through the hope of having necessary support.

Pythagoras tried to instruct him in the disciplines of arithmetic and geometry, forming each of his demonstrations in an abacus, and giving the youth three oboli as a reward for every figure which he learnt.

This also he continued to do for a long time, exciting him to the geometrical theory by the desire of honour; diligently, and in the best order, giving him (as we have said) three oboli for every figure which he apprehended. But when the wise man observed that the elegance, sweetness, and connexion of these disciplines, to which the youth had been led in a certain orderly path, had so captivated him that he would not neglect their pursuit though he should suffer the extremity of want, he pretended poverty, and an inability of giving him three oboli any longer. But the youth on hearing this replied, “I am able without these to learn and receive your disciplines.” Pythagoras then said, “But I have not the means of procuring sufficient nutriment for myself.”

As it is requisite, therefore, to labour in order to procure daily necessaries and mortal food, it would not be proper that his attention should be distracted by the abacus, and by stupid and vain pursuits.

The youth, however, vehemently abhorring the thought of discontinuing his studies, replied= “I will in future provide for you, and repay your kindness in a way resembling that of the stork= for I in my turn will give you three oboli for every figure.” And from this time he was so captivated by these disciplines, that he alone, of all the Samians, migrated from his 16 country with Pythagoras, having the same name with him, but being the son of Eratocles. There are said to be three books of this Samian On Athletics, in which he orders the Athletæ to feed on flesh instead of dry figs; which books are very improperly ascribed by some to Pythagoras the son of Mnesarchus.

Around the same time, Pythagoras was admired at Delos, when he approached to the bloodless altar, as it is called, of the father Apollo, and worshipped it.

After which he went to all the oracles. He likewise dwelt for some time in Crete and Sparta, for the purpose of becoming acquainted with their laws; and, having been an auditor and learner of all these, he returned home in order to investigate what he had omitted.

He established a school in the city, which is even now called the semicircle of Pythagoras; and in which the Samians now consult about public affairs, conceiving it right to investigate things just and advantageous in that place which he had constructed who paid attention to the welfare of all men.

He also formed a cavern out of the city, adapted to his philosophy, in which he spent the greatest part both of the day and night; employing himself in the investigation of things useful in disciplines, framing intellectual conceptions after the same manner as Minos the son of Jupiter.

He so much surpassed those who afterwards employed his disciplines, that they 17 conceived magnificently of themselves, from the knowledge of theorems of small importance; but Pythagoras gave completion to the science of the celestial orbs, and unfolded the whole of it by arithmetical and geometrical demonstrations. He is, however, to be admired in a still greater degree for what he afterwards accomplished. For when now philosophy had received a great accession, he was admired by all Greece, and the best of those who philosophized came to Samos on his account, in order that they might participate of his erudition.

The citizens likewise employed him in all their embassies, and compelled him to unite with them in the administration of public affairs. However, as he easily saw the difficulty of complying with the laws of his country, and at the same time remaining at home and philosophizing, and considered that all philosophers before him had passed their life in foreign countries, he determined to neglect all political occupations; induced to this, according to the testimony of others, by the negligence of the Samians in what relates to education, and went into Italy, conceiving that place to be his proper country, in which men well disposed towards learning were to be found in the greatest abundance. And such was the success of his journey, that on his arrival at Crotona, which was the noblest city in Italy, he had many followers, amounting, as it is said, to the number of six hundred, who were not only excited by his discourses 18 to the study of philosophy, but also to an amicable division of the goods of life in common; from whence they acquired the appellation of Cœnobitæ.


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