Chapter 33

The Community of Pythagoraeans Icon

September 7, 2015

With respect to the amity, however, which subsists in all things towards all, Pythagoras delivered it in the clearest manner.

And, the amity of the Gods indeed towards men, he unfolded through piety and scientific cultivation; but that of dogmas towards each other, and universally of the soul towards the body, and of the rational towards the species of the irrational part, through philosophy, and the theory pertaining to it. With respect to the amity of men also towards each other; that of citizens he delivered through sane legislation, but that of strangers through a correct physiology; and that between man and wife, or children, or brothers, 163 and kindred, through unperverted communion. In short, he unfolded the friendship of all things towards all, and still farther, of certain irrational animals, through justice and a physical connexion and association.

But the pacification and conciliation of the body, which is of itself mortal, and of its latent contrary powers, he unfolded through health, and a diet and temperance conformable to this, in imitation of the salubrious condition of the mundane elements. In all these, however, Pythagoras is acknowledged to have been the inventor and legislator of the summary comprehension of them in one and the same name, which is that of friendship. And indeed he delivered such an admirable friendship to his associates, that even now those who are benevolent in the extreme towards each other, are said to belong to the Pythagoreans. It is necessary therefore to narrate the discipline of Pythagoras respecting these things, and the precepts which he used towards his disciples.

These men, then, exhorted others to remove from true friendship, contest and contention, and if possible, indeed, from all friendship; but if not, at least from that which is parental, and universally from that which pertains to seniors and benefactors. For to strive or contend with such as these, in consequence of anger intervening, or some other such-like passion, is not the salvation of the existing 164 friendship. But they said it is requisite that there should be the least possible scars and ulcers in friendships; and that this will be the case, if those that are friends know how to soften and subdue anger. If both indeed know this, or rather the younger of the two, and who ranks in some one of the above-mentioned orders [their friendship will be more easily preserved]. They also were of opinion, that corrections and admonitions, which they called pædartases, should take place from the elder to the younger with much suavity and caution; and likewise, that much sedulous and appropriate attention should be manifested in admonitions. For thus they will be decorous and beneficial. They also said, that confidence should never be separated from friendship, neither seriously nor even in jest. For it is no longer easy for the existing friendship to be in a sane condition, when falsehood once insinuates itself into the manners of those that acknowledge themselves to be friends. Again, according to them, friendship should not be abandoned on account of misfortune, or any other imbecility to which human life is incident; but they said, that the only approvable rejection of a friend and friendship, is that which arises from great and incorrigible vice. Likewise, that hatred should not be voluntarily entertained against those who are not perfectly bad; but that if it is once formed, it should be generously and strenuously 165 retained, unless the object of it changes his manners, so as to become a better man. That the hostility also should not consist in words, but in deeds; And that this war is legitimate and holy, when it is conducted in such a way as it becomes one man to contend with another.

They likewise said, that we should never, to the utmost of our power, become the cause of dissension; but that we should as much as possible avoid the source of it. That in the friendship also, which is intended to be pure, the greater part of the things pertaining to it ought to be definite and legitimate. And that these should be properly distinguished, and should not be casual; and moreover, that we should be careful that our conversation may never be negligently and casually performed, but with modesty, benevolence, and good order. Also, that no passion, such as desire, or anger, be rashly excited, and in a bad and erroneous manner. And the same thing must be said of the remaining passions and dispositions.

Moreover, that they did not decline foreign friendships carelessly, but that they avoided and guarded against them, with the greatest sedulity; and also, that they rigidly preserved friendship towards each other for many ages, may be inferred from what Aristoxenus in his treatise On the Pythagoric life, says he heard from Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, when having fallen from monarchy he taught grammar at Corinth. For Aristoxenus says as follows= “These men as much as possible prohibited lamentations and tears, and every thing of this kind; and in a similar manner adulation, entreaty, supplication, and the like.

Dionysius, therefore, having fallen from his tyranny and come to Corinth, narrated to us the particulars concerning Phintias and Damon the Pythagoreans; and these were respecting the one being sponsor for the death of the other. But the mode of the suretyship was as follows= He said that certain persons, who were familiar with him, had frequently made mention of the Pythagoreans, defaming and reviling them, calling them arrogant, and asserting that their gravity, their pretended fidelity, and apathy would be laid aside, if any one should cause them to fall into [some great] calamity.

Certain persons however contradicting this, and contention arising on the subject, recourse was had to artifice, and one of the accusers of Phintias said before him, that he evidently conspired with certain others against the life of Dionysius. This also was testified by some that were present, and the charges against Phintias appeared to be very probable. Phintias therefore was astonished at the accusation. But when Dionysius had unequivocally said, that he had accurately explored all these particulars, and that it was necessary that he should die, Phintias replied, that if it appeared requisite to him that this should take place, he requested that he would grant him the remainder of the day, in order that he might settle his own affairs, and also those of Damon. For those men lived together, and had all things in common.

Phintias, however, being the elder, the management of the domestic concerns was for the most part undertaken by him. He requested therefore, that Dionysius would suffer him to depart for this purpose, and he would appoint Damon for his surety. Dionysius therefore said that he wondered at the request, and that he asked him whether there was any man who was willing to become security for the death of another.

But Phintias asserting that there was, Damon was sent for, who, on hearing what had happened, said that he would become the sponsor, and that he would remain there till Phintias returned. Dionysius therefore said, that he was immediately astonished at these circumstances; but that they who at first introduced the experiment, derided Damon as one who would be caught, and said sneeringly that he would be the vicarious stag. When therefore it was near sunset, Phintias came to die; at which all that were present were astonished and subdued. But Dionysius said, that having embraced and kissed the men, he requested that they would receive him as the third into their friendship. They however would by no means consent to a thing of this kind, though he entreated 168 them to comply with his request.” And these things are related by Aristoxenus, who received them from Dionysius himself.

The Pythagoreans endeavoured to perform the offices of friendship to those of their sect, though they were unknown to, and had never been seen by each other, when they had received a certain indication of the participation of the same doctrines; so that from such friendly offices the assertion may be credited, that worthy men, even though they should dwell in the most remote parts of the earth, are mutually friends, and this before they become known to and salute each other.

A certain Pythagorean, travelling through a long and solitary road on foot, came to an inn and subsequently fell into a long and severe disease from the labor.

The inn-keeper supplied him with every thing that was requisite, neither sparing for this purpose any assistance or expense.

But the Pythagorean falling a victim to the disease, wrote a certain symbol, before he died, in a table, and desired the inn-keeper, if he should happen to die, to suspend the table near the road, and observe whether any passenger read the symbol.

For that person, said he, will repay you what you have spent on me, and will also thank you for your kindness. The inn-keeper, therefore, after the death of the Pythagorean, having buried, and paid the requisite attention to his body, had neither any hopes of being repaid, nor of receiving any recompense from some one who might read the table.

At the same time, however, being surprised at the request of the Pythagorean, he was induced to expose the writing in the public road. A long time after, therefore, a certain Pythagorean passing that way, having understood the symbol, and learnt who it was that placed the table there, and having also investigated every particular, paid the inn-keeper a much greater sum of money than he had disbursed.

Clinias the Tarentine learned that Prorus the Cyrenæan was zealously addicted to the Pythagorean doctrines and was in danger of losing all his property. So he sailed to Cyrene, after having collected a sum of money, and restored the affairs of Prorus to a better condition, not only incurring, in so doing, a diminution of his own property, but despising the peril which he was exposed to in the voyage.

After the same manner also, Thestor Posidoniates, having learnt from report alone, that Thymaridas Parius the Pythagorean had fallen into poverty, from the possession of great wealth, is said to have sailed to Parus, after having collected a large sum of money, and thus reinstated Thymaridas in property.

These therefore are beautiful instances of friendship. The decisions, however, of the Pythagoreans respecting the communion of divine goods, the concord of intellect, and things pertaining to a divine soul, are much more admirable than the above examples. For they perpetually exhorted each other, not to divulse the God within them. Hence all the endeavour of their friendship both in deeds and words, was directed to a certain divine mixture, to a union with divinity, and to a communion with intellect and a divine soul.


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