PYTHAGORIC LIFE by IAMBLICHUS (XI)


( BEING  CONTINUED FROM  8/10/16)

CHAP. XXVII.

MANY also of the political actions of his followers are [deservedly] praised. For it is reported that the Crotonians being once impelled to make sumptuous funerals and interments, some one of them said to the people, that he had heard Pythagoras when he was  discoursing about divine natures observe, that the 0lympian Gods attended to the dispositions of those that sacrificed, and not to the multitude of the sacrifices; but that; on the contrary, the terrestrial Gods, as being allotted the government of things less important, rejoiced in banquets and lamentations, and farther still, in continual libations, in delicacies, and in celebrating funerals with great expense. Whence, on account c$ his wish to receive, Pluto is called Hades. He suffers, therefore, those that slenderly honor him to remain for a longer time in the upper world; but he always draws down some one of those who are disposed to spend profusely in funeral solemnities, in order that he may obtain the honors which take place in commemoration of the dead.

In consequences of this advice, the Crotonians that heard it were of opinion, that if they conducted themselves moderately in misfortunes, they would preserve their own salvation; but that if they were immoderate in their expenses, they would all of them die prematurely. A certain person also having been made an arbitrator in an affair in which there was no witness, led each of the litigants to a certain monument, and said to one of them, the man who is buried in this monument was transcendently equitable; in consequence of which the other litigant prayed that the deal man might obtain much good; but the former said that the defunct was not at all better for the prayers of his opponent. Pythagoras, therefore, condemned what the former litigant said, but asserted that he who praised the dead man for his worth, had done that which would be of no small importance in his claim to belief. At another time, in a cause of great moment, he decided that one of the two who had agreed to settle the affair by arbitration, should pay four talents, but that the other should receive two. Afterwards,he condemned the defendant to pay three talents; and thus he appeared to have given a talent to each of them. Two persons also had fraudulently deposited a garment with a woman who belonged to a court of justice, and told her she was not to give it to either of them unless both were present. Some time after, for the purpose of circumvention, one of them received the common deposit, and said that it was with the consent of the other.

But the other, who had not been present [when the garment was returned], acted the part of a sycophant, and related the compact that was made at the beginning, to the magistrates. A certain Pythagorean, however, taking up the affair said, that the woman had acted conformably to the compact, as both parties had been present. Two other persons also appeared to have a strong friendship for each other, but had fallen into a silent suspicion through a flatterer of one of them, who told them that his wife had been corrupted by the other. It so happened, however, that a Pythagorean came into a brazier’s shop, where he who conceived himself to be injured, was showing to the artist a sword which he. had given him to sharpen, and was indignant with him because it was not sufficiently sharp. The Pythagorean, therefore, suspecting that the sword was intended to be used against him who was accused of adultery, said, This sword is sharper than all things except calumny. This being said, caused the man to consider with himself [what it was he intended to do], and not rashly to sin against his friend who was within, and who had been previously called [by him in order that he might kill him]. A zone also that had golden ornaments having fallen [at the feet] of a certain stranger in the temple of Esculapius, and the laws forbidding any one to take up that which had fallen on the ground, a Pythagorean advised the stranger, who was indignant at this prohibition, to take away the golden ornaments which had not fallen to the ground, but to leave the zone, because this was on the ground.1

That

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Pythagoreans, a woman of a wise and excellent soul, (and who was the author of that beautiful and admirable saying, “that it is lawful for a woman to sacrifice on the very day in which she has risen from the embraces of her husband.” which some ascribe to Theano the wife of Pythagoras)the Crotonian wives came therefore to her, ‘and entreated her to persuade Pythagoras to discourse to them on the continence which was due from them to their husbands. This she promised to do; and Pythagoras having accordingly made an oration to the Crotonians, which had the desired effect, the incontinence which then prevailed was entirely dystroyed.

It is further related likewise, that when ambassadors came to the city of the Crotonians from Sybaris, for the purpose of demanding the exiles, Pythagoras beholding one of the ambassadors, who with his own hand had sign one of his friends, made him no answer. But when the man interrogated him, and wished to converse with him, Pythagoras said, that it was not lawful to discourse with homicides. Whence also by certain persons he was thought to be Apollo. All these particulars, therefore, and such as we have a little before mentioned concerning the destruction of tyrants, and the liberation of the cities of Italy and Sicily, and many other circumstances, are indications of the benefits conferred on mankind by Pythagoras in political concerns.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

TRANSLATED FROM THE GREEK.
BY THOMAS TAYLOR.
Approach ye genuine philosophic few,The Pythagoric Life belongs to you :
But far, far off ye vulgar herd profane ;

For Wisdom’s voice is heard by you in vain :
And you, Mind’s lowest link, and darksome end,Good Rulers, Customs, Laws, alone can mend.

PUBLISHED 1818 IN LONDON

NOTES

page 67

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page 68

1.This history is copiously narrated in chap. 33.

2.See chap. 33.

page 70

1.These lines are as the numbers 4, 3, 2. For 4 to 3 is sesquitertian, 3 to 2 is sesquialter, and 2 is an arithmetical medium between 4 and 3.

2.For an explanation of this assertion of Plato in the Republic, see my Theoretic Arithmetic.

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