Part 4

The End of the Pythagoreans

April 24, 2022
  1. Pythagoras and his associates were long held in such admiration in Italy, that many cities invited them to undertake their administration.

In the end however, they incurred envy. Cylon was a wealthy Crotonian noble who was severe, violent and tyrannical. He wanted to be a Pythagorean so he went to Pythagoras himself, and desired his conversation. Pythagoras, however, told him to leave. Cylon became furious.

  1. He assembled his friends and began to accuse Pythagoras. He conspired against him and his disciples.

Pythagoras then went to Delos, to visit the Syrian Pherecydes, formerly his teacher, who was dangerously sick, to nurse him.

Pythagoras’s friends then gathered together in the house of Milo the wrestler. They were all stoned and burned when Cylo’s followers set the house on fire.

Only two escaped, Archippus and Lysis, according to the account of Neanthes. Lysis took refuge in Greece, with Epaminondas, whose teacher he had formerly been.

  1. But Dicaearchus and other more accurate historians relate that Pythagoras himself was present when this conspiracy bore fruit, for Pherecydes had died before he left Samos.

Forty of his friends gathered in a house and were attacked and slain. The others were gradually slain as they came to the city.

As his friends were taken, Pythagoras himself first escaped to the Caulonian haven. From there he visited the Locrians.

Hearing of his coming, the Locrians sent some old men to their frontiers to intercept him. They said, “Pythagoras, you are wise and of great worth; but as our laws retain nothing reprehensible, we will preserve them intact. Go to some other place, and we will furnish you with any needed necessaries of travel.”

Pythagoras turned back and sailed to Tarentum where he received the same treatment as at Crotona. And so he went to Metapontum. Everywhere arose great mobs against him as the Pythagorean riots.

  1. Pythagoras fled to the temple of the Muses, in Metapontum where stayed for forty days, starved and died.

Others however say that he died due to grief at the loss of all his friends who gathered in a house that was burned in order to make a way for their master, they threw themselves into the flames, to make a bridge of safety for him, whereby he escaped.

When the Pythagoreans died, with them also died their knowledge which they had kept secret except for a few obscure things commonly repeated by those who did not understand them.

Pythagoras himself left no book but some little sparks of his philosophy, obscure and difficult. These were preserved by the few who were preserved by being scattered, as were Lysis and Archippus.

  1. The Pythagoreans now avoided human society, being lonely, saddened and dispersed.

Fearing nevertheless that among men the name of philosophy would be entirely extinguished, and that therefore the Gods would be angry with them, they made abstracts and commentaries.

Each man made his own collection of written authorities and his own memories, leaving them wherever he happened to die, charging their wives, sons and daughters to preserve them within their families. This mandate of transmission within each family was obeyed for a long time.

  1. Nichomacus says that this was the reason why the Pythagoreans studiously avoided friendship with strangers, preserving a constant friendship among each other. Aristoxenus, in his book on the Life of Pythagoras, says he heard many things from Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, who, after his abdication, taught letters at Corinth. Among these were that they abstained from lamentations and grieving and tears; also from adulation, entreaty, supplication and the like.

  2. Dionysius wanted to test their mutual fidelity under imprisonment. He contrived this plan. Phintias was arrested, and taken before the tyrant, and charged with plotting against the tyrant, convicted, and condemned to death.

Phintias, accepting the situation, asked to be given the rest of the day to arrange his own affairs, and those of Damon, his friend and associate, who now would have to assume the management. He therefore asked for a temporary release, leaving Damon as security for his appearance. Dionysius granted the request, and they sent for Damon, who agreed to remain until Phintias should return.

  1. The novelty of this deed astonished Dionysius; but those who had first suggested the experiment, scoffed at Damon, saying he was in danger of losing his life.

But to the general surprise, near sunset Phintias came to die. Dionysius then expressed his admiration, embraced them both, and asked to be received as a third in their friendship. Though he earnestly besought this, they refused this, though assigning no reason therefore. Aristoxenus states he heard this from Dionysius himself. [Hippobotus] and Neanthes relate about Myllia and Timycha.