Pythagorean Diet

September 16, 2015

Nutrition greatly contributes to the best discipline when properly used.

Pythagoras instituted as a law the rejection of all such food as is flatulent, and the cause of perturbation. But he approved of food contrary to this. He ordered it to be used, viz. such food as composes and compresses the habit of the body.

Thus, the millet was a plant adapted to nutrition. But he altogether rejected such food as is foreign to the Gods; because it withdraws us from familiarity with the Gods.

Again, according to another mode also, he ordered his disciples to abstain from such food as is reckoned sacred, as being worthy of honor, and not to be appropriated to common and human utility.

He likewise exhorted them to abstain from such things as are an impediment to prophesy, or to the purity and chastity of the soul, or to the habit of temperance, or of virtue.

He rejected all such things as are adverse to sanctity, and which obscure and disturb the other purities of the soul, and the phantasms which occur in sleep. These things therefore he instituted as laws in common about nutriment.

Separately, he forbade the most contemplative of philosophers the use of superfluous and unjust food. He ordered them:

  • never to eat anything animated
  • never to drink wine
  • never injure animals or sacrifice them to the Gods

Instead he urged them to preserve most solicitously justice towards animals.

He himself lived in this way, abstaining from animal food, and adoring altars undefiled with blood.

He was likewise careful in preventing others from destroying animals that are of a kindred nature with us, and rather corrected and instructed savage animals through words and deeds, than injured them through punishment. He also injoined those politicians that were legislators to abstain from animals.

For as they wished to act in the highest degree justly, it is certainly necessary that they should not injure any kindred animal.

Since, how could they persuade others to act justly, if they themselves were detected in indulging an insatiable avidity by partaking of animals that are allied to us?

For through the communion of life and the same elements, and the mixture subsisting from these, they are as it were conjoined to us by a fraternal alliance.

He permitted, however, others whose life was not entirely purified, sacred and philosophic, to eat of certain animals; and for these he appointed a definite time of abstinence. These therefore, he ordered not to eat the heart, nor the brain; and from the eating of these he entirely prohibited all the Pythagoreans.

For these parts are of a ruling nature, and are as it were certain ladders and seats of wisdom and life.

But other things were considered by him as sacred on account of the nature of a divine reason. Thus he exhorted his disciples to abstain from mallows, because this plant is the first messenger 80 and signal of the sympathy of celestial with terrestrial natures. Thus, too, he ordered them to abstain from the fish melanurus; for it is sacred to the terrestrial Gods.

And also not to receive the fish erythinus, through other such like causes.

He likewise exhorted them to abstain from beans, on account of many sacred and physical causes, and also such causes as pertain to the soul.


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