Chapter 34

Pythagoras' Political Contributions Icon

September 5, 2015

The Greeks who joined the community of the Pythagoreans were ordered to use their native language because the Pythagoreans did not approve of foreign languages.

Foreigners also united themselves to the Pythagoric sect such as:

  • the Messenians
  • the Lucani
  • Picentini
  • the Romans

Metrodorus was the son of Thyrsus who was the father of Epicharmus. He transferred most of his doctrine to medicine.

He says that Epicharmus, and prior to him Pythagoras, conceived that:

  • the best dialect, as well as the best harmony of music, is the Doric
  • the Ionic and the Æolic have chromatic harmony
  • the Attic dialect is replete with this in a still greater degree.

They also thought that the Doric dialect, which consists of vocal letters, is enharmonic.

Fables likewise bear testimony to the antiquity of this dialect. For in these it is said that Nereus married Doris the daughter of Ocean; by whom he had 50 daughters, one of which was the mother of Achilles.

Metrodorus also says that Hellen was the offspring of Deucalion, who was the son of Prometheus and Pyrrha the daughter of Epimetheus. From him came Dorus, and Æolus.

He farther observes, that he learnt from the sacred rites of the Babylonians, that Hellen was the offspring of Jupiter, and that the sons of Hellen were Dorus, Xuthus, and Æolus; with which narrations Herodotus also accords.

  1. The Doric dialect is the most ancient
  2. This is followed by the Aeolic which came from Æolus.
  3. The Ionic ranks as the third, coming from Ion the son of Xuthus.
  4. The Attic is the fourth, which was denominated from Creusa, the daughter of Erectheus, and is posterior to the former dialects by three generations, as it existed about the time of the Thracians, and the rape of Orithyia, as is evident from the testimony of most histories.

Orpheus also, who is the most ancient of the poets, used the Doric dialect.

Of medicine, however, they especially embraced the diætetic species, and in the exercise of this were most accurate.

They tried to learn the indications of symmetry, labor, food, and sleep.

In the next place, with respect to the preparation of food, they were nearly the first who attempted to employ themselves in it, and to define the mode in which it should be performed.

The Pythagoreans likewise employed cataplasms, more frequently than their predecessors. But they approved of medicated ointments much less, principally used to cure ulcerations.

They admitted to incisions and burnings the least. Some diseases they cured by incantations. But they objected to those who sold their disciplines.

who open their souls like the gates of an inn to every man that approaches to them; and who, if they do not thus find buyers, diffuse themselves through cities, and, in short, hire gymnasia and require a reward from young men for those things which are without price.

Pythagoras concealed the meaning of much that was said by him so that those who were genuinely instructed might clearly be partakers of it. The others, as Homer says of Tantalus, would be pained of what they heard, being unable to understand it.

The Pythagoreans said that those who taught for the sake of reward were worse than those artists who perform their work sitting.

For these, when some one orders them to make a statue of Hermes, search for wood adapted to the reception of the proper form; but those pretend that they can readily produce the works of virtue from every nature.[49]

The Pythagoreans likewise said, that it is more necessary to pay attention to philosophy, than to parents and agriculture.

We owe our lives to the latter. But philosophers and preceptors lead us to a better life by discovering the right mode of discipline and instruction.

The Pythagoreans spoke and wrote in such a way that was hard for casual persons to understand. Pythagoras taught this to those who came to him. They were then purified from all incontinence so that they would preserve in silence the doctrines they had heard.

The Pythagoreans hated the person who first divulged the theory of commensurable and incommensurable quantities to the unworthy. They expelled him from their common association and also constructed a tomb for him, as one who had migrated to another life.

Others say that the Divine Power hated those who divulged the dogmas of Pythagoras. The icostagonus was a person who delivered the method of drawing in a sphere the dodecaedron, which is one of the 5 solid figures. Such a man was an impious person and so he perished in the sea.

But according to others, this happened to the person who unfolded the doctrine of irrational and incommensurable quantities.[50]

The Pythagoric discipline was symbolic. It resembled enigmas and riddles, consisting of apothegms, in consequence of imitating antiquity in its character. This is similar to the truly divine and Pythian oracles being difficult to understand.


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