Part 3

Pythagoras' Reputation Spreads

April 27, 2022

During his travels in Italy and Sicily, he founded various cities subjected one to another, both of long standing, and recently.

By his disciples, some of whom were found in every city, he infused into them an aspiration for liberty.

Thus, restoring to freedom Crotona, Sybaris, Catana, Rhegium, Himera, Agrigentum, Tauromenium, and others, on whom he imposed laws through Charondas the Catanean, and Zaleucus the Locrian, which resulted in a long era of good government, emulated by all their neighbors.

Simichus the tyrant of the Centorupini, on hearing Pythagoras’s discourse, abdicated his rule and divided his property between his sister and the citizens.

According to Aristoxenus, some Lucanians, Messapians, Picentinians and Romans came to him.

He rooted out all dissensions, not only among his disciples and their successors, for many ages, but among all the cities of Italy and Sicily, both internally and externally. He was continuously harping on the maxim, “We ought, to the best of our ability avoid, and even with fire and sword extirpate from the body, sickness; from the soul, ignorance; from the belly, luxury; from a city, sedition; from a family, discord; and from all things excess.”

If we may credit what ancient and trustworthy writers have related of him, he exerted an influence even over irrational animals. The Daunian bear, who had committed extensive depredations in the neighborhood, he seized; and after having patted her for awhile, and given her barley and fruits, he made her swear never again to touch a living creature, and then released her. She immediately hid herself in the woods and the hills, and from that time on never attacked any irrational animal.

At Tarentum, he saw an ox reaping beans in a pasture. He went to the herdsman and advised him to tell the ox to abstain from beans.

The herdsman mocked him, proclaiming his ignorance of the ox-language.

So Pythagoras himself went and whispered in the ox’s ear.

Not only did the ox at once stop from his diet of beans, but would never touch any from then on. It survived many years to old age near Hera’s temple at Tarentum, called the sacred ox eating any food given him.

While at the Olympic games, he was discoursing with his friends about auguries, omens, and divine signs, and how men of true piety do receive messages from the Gods.

An eagle flew over his head, stopped, and came down to Pythagoras. After stroking her awhile, he released her.

Meeting with some fishermen who were drawing in their nets heavily laden with fishes from the deep, he predicted the exact number of fish they had caught.

  • The fishermen said that if his estimate was accurate they would do whatever he commanded.
  • They counted them accurately, and found the number correct.

He told them to return the fish alive into the sea. Not one of them died, although they had been out of the water a considerable time.

  • He paid them and left.

Many of his associates he reminded of the lives lived by their souls before it was bound to the body, and by irrefutable arguments demonstrated that he had bean Euphorbus, the son of Panthus.

He specially praised the following verses about himself, and sang them to the lyre most elegantly:

The shining circlets of his golden hair which even the Graces might be proud to wear, Instarred with gems and gold, bestrew the shore, With dust dishonored, and deformed with gore. As the young olive, in some sylvan scene, crowned by fresh fountains with celestial green, Lifts the gay head, in snowy flowerets fair, And plays and dances to the gentle air, When lo, a whirlwind from high heaven invades, The tender plant, and withers all its shades; It lies uprooted from its genial head, a lovely ruin now defaced and dead. Thus young, thus beautiful, Euphorbus lay, while the fierce Spartan tore his arms away. Pope, Homer's Iliad, Book 17

The stories about the shield of this Phrygian Euphorbus being at Mycenae dedicated to Argive Hera, along with other Trojan spoils, shall here be omitted as being of too popular a nature. It is said that the river Caicasus, while he with many of his associates was passing over it, spoke to him very clearly, “Hail, Pythagoras!” Almost unanimous is the report that on one and the same day he was present at Metapontum in Italy, and at Tauromenium in Sicily, in each place conversing with his friends, though the places are separated by many miles, both at sea and land, demanding many days’ journey.

  1. It is well known that he showed his golden thigh to Abaris the Hyperborean, to confirm him in the opinion that he was the Hyperborean Apollo, whose priest Abaris was. A ship was coming into the harbor, and his friends expressed the wish to own the goods it contained. “Then,” said Pythagoras, “you would own a corpse!” On the ship’s arrival, this was found to be the true state of affairs. Of Pythagoras many other more wonderful and divine things are persistently and unanimously related, so that we have no hesitation in saying never was more attributed to any man, nor was any more eminent.

  2. Verified predictions of earthquakes are handed down, also that he immediately chased a pestilence, suppressed violent winds and hail, calmed storms both on rivers and on seas, for the comfort and safe passage of his friends. As their poems attest, the like was often performed by Empedocles, Epimenides and Abaris, who had learned the art of doing these things from him.

Empedocles was surnamed Alexanemos, as the chaser of winds; Epimenides, Cathartes, the lustrator. Abaris was called Aethrobates, the walker in air; for he was carried in the air on an arrow of the Hyperborean Apollo, over rivers, seas and inaccessible places. It is believed that this was the method employed by Pythagoras when on the same day he discoursed with his friends at Metapontum and Tauromenium.

  1. He soothed the passions of the soul and body by rhythms, songs and incantations.

These he adapted and applied to his friends. He himself could hear the harmony of the Universe, and understood the universal music of the spheres, and of the stars which move in concert with them, and which we cannot hear because of the limitations of our weak nature. This is testified to by these characteristic verses of Empedocles:

    "Amongst these was one in things sublimest skilled,
    His mind with all the wealth of learning filled,
    Whatever sages did invent, he sought;
    And whilst his thoughts were on this work intent,
    All things existent, easily he viewed,
    Through ten or twenty ages making search."
  1. Indicating by sublimest things, and, he surveyed all existent things, and the wealth of the mind, and the like, Pythagoras ’s constitution of body, mind, seeing, hearing and understanding, which was exquisite, and surpassingly accurate, Pythagoras affirmed that the nine Muses were constituted by the sounds made by the seven planets, the sphere of the fixed stars, and that which is opposed to our earth, called “anti-earth.” He called Mnemosyne, or Memory, the composition, symphony and connexion of then all, which is eternal and unbegotten as being composed of all of them.

  2. Diogenes, setting forth his daily routine of living, relates that he advised all men to avoid ambition and vain-glory, which chiefly excite envy, and to shun the presences of crowds.

He himself held morning conferences at his residence, composing his soul with the music of the lute, and singing certain old paeans of Thales. He also sang verses of Homer and Hesiod, which seemed to soothe the mind. He danced certain dances which he conceived conferred on the body agility and health. Walks he took not promiscuously, but only in company of one or two companions, in temples or sacred groves, selecting the quietest and pleasantest places.

  1. His friends he loved exceedingly, being the first to declare that the goods of friends are common, and that a friend was another self. While they were in good health he always conversed with them; if they were sick, he nursed them; if they were afflicted in mind, he solaced them, some by incantations and magic charms, others by music. He had prepared songs for the diseases of the body, by the singing of which he cured the sick. He had also some that caused oblivion of sorrow, mitigation of anger and destruction of lust.

  2. His breakfast was chiefly of honey.

At dinner he used bread made of millet, barley or herbs, raw and boiled.

Only rarely did he eat meat nor did he take this from every part of the anatomy. When he intended to sojourn in the sanctuaries of the divinities, he would eat no more than was necessary to still hunger and thirst.

To quiet hunger, he made a mixture of poppy seed and sesame, the skin of a sea-onion, well washed, till entirely drained of the outward juice; of the flower of the daffodil, and the leaves of mallows, of paste of barley and pea; taking an equal weight of which, and chopping it small, with Hymettian honey he made it into mass.

Against thirst he took the seed of cucumbers, and the best dried raisins, extracting the seeds, and the flower of coriander, and the seeds of mallows, purselain, scraped cheese, meal and cream; these he made up with wild honey.

  1. He claimed that this diet had, by Demeter, been taught to Hercules, when he was sent into the Libyan deserts. This preserved his body in an unchanging condition; not at one time well, and at another time sick, nor at one time fat, and at another lean. Pythagoras’s countenance showed the same constancy was in his soul also. For he was neither more elated by pleasure, nor dejected by grief, and no one ever saw him either rejoicing or mourning.

  2. When Pythagoras sacrificed to the Gods, he did not use offensive profusion, but offered no more than barley bread, cakes and myrrh; least of all, animals, unless perhaps cocks and pigs. When he discovered the proposition that the square on the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle was equal to the squares on the sides containing the right angle, he is said to have sacrificed an ox, although the more accurate say that this ox was made of flour.