PYTHAGORAS TEACHES HIS PHILOSOPHY
 Here lived a man, by birth a Samian. He had fled from Samos and the ruling class, a voluntary exile, for his hate against all tyranny. He had the gift of holding mental converse with the gods, who live far distant in the highth of heaven; and all that Nature has denied to man and human vision, he reviewed with eyes of his enlightened soul. And, when he had examined all things in his careful mind with watchful study, he released his thoughts to knowledge of the public. He would speak to crowds of people, silent and amazed, while he revealed to them the origin of this vast universe, the cause of things, what is nature, what a god, whence came the snow, the cause of lightning—was it Jupiter or did the winds, that thundered when the cloud was rent asunder, cause the lightning flash? What shook the earth, what laws controlled the stars as they were moved—and every hidden thing he was the first man to forbid the use of any animal’s flesh as human food, he was the first to speak with learned lips, though not believed in this, exhorting them.—
 “No, mortals,” he would say, “Do not permit pollution of your bodies with such food, for there are grain and good fruits which bear down the branches by their weight, and ripened grapes upon the vines, and herbs—those sweet by nature and those which will grow tender and mellow with a fire, and flowing milk is not denied, nor honey, redolent of blossoming thyme. The lavish Earth yields rich and healthful food affording dainties without slaughter, death, and bloodshed. Dull beasts delight to satisfy their hunger with torn flesh; and yet not all: horses and sheep and cattle live on grass. But all the savage animals—the fierce Armenian tigers and ferocious lions, and bears, together with the roving wolves—delight in viands reeking with warm blood. Oh, ponder a moment such a monstrous crime—vitals in vitals gorged, one greedy body fattening with plunder of another’s flesh, a living being fed on another’s life! In that abundance, which our Earth, the best of mothers, will afford have you no joy, unless your savage teeth can gnaw the piteous flesh of some flayed animal to reenact the Cyclopean crime? And can you not appease the hungry void—the perverted craving of a stomach’s greed, unless you first destroy another life?
 “That age of old time which is given the name of ‘Golden,’ was so blest in fruit of trees, and in the good herbs which the earth produced that it never would pollute the mouth with blood. The birds then safely moved their wings in air, the timid hares would wander in the fields with no fear, and their own credulity had not suspended fishes from the hook. All life was safe from treacherous wiles, fearing no injury, a peaceful world. After that time some one of ill advice (it does not matter who it might have been) envied the ways of lions and gulped into his greedy paunch stuff from a carcass vile. He opened the foul paths of wickedness. It may be that in killing beasts of prey our steel was for the first time warmed with blood. And that could be defended, for I hold that predatory creatures which attempt destruction of mankind, are put to death without evasion of the sacred laws: but, though with justice they are put to death, that cannot be a cause for eating them.
 “This wickedness went further; and the sow was thought to have deserved death as the first of victims, for with her long turned-up snout she spoiled the good hope of a harvest year. The ravenous goat, that gnawed a sprouting vine, was led for slaughter to the altar fires of angry Bacchus. It was their own fault that surely caused the ruin of those two. But why have sheep deserved sad destiny, harmless and useful for the good of man with nectar in full udders? Their soft wool affords the warmest coverings for our use, their life and not their death would help us more. Why have the oxen of the field deserved a sad end—innocent, without deceit, and harmless, without guile, born to endure hard labor? Without gratitude is he, unworthy of the gift of harvest fields, who, after he relieved his worker from weight of the curving plow could butcher him, could sever with an axe that toil worn neck, by which so often with hard work the ground had been turned up, so many harvests reared. For some, even crimes like these are not enough, they have imputed to the gods themselves abomination—they believe a god in heaven above, rejoices at the death of a laborious ox. A victim free of blemish and most beautiful in form (perfection brings destruction) is adorned with garlands and with gilded horns before the altar. In his ignorance he hears one praying, and he sees the very grain he labored to produce, fixed on his head between the horns, and felled, he stains with blood the knife which just before he may have seen reflected in clear water. Instantly they snatch out entrails from his throbbing form, and seek in them intentions of the gods. Then, in your lust for a forbidden food you will presume to batten on his flesh, O race of mortals! Do not eat such food! Give your attention to my serious words; and, when you next present the slaughtered flesh of oxen to your palates, know and feel that you gnaw your fellow tillers of the soil.
 “And, since a god impels me to speak out, I will obey the god who urges me, and will disclose to you the heavens above, and I will even reveal the oracles of the Divine Will. I will sing to you of things most wonderful, which never were investigated by the intellects of ancient times and things which have been long concealed from man. In fancy I delight to float among the stars or take my stand on mighty Atlas’ shoulders, and to look afar down on men wandering here and there—afraid in life yet dreading unknown death, and in these words exhort them and reveal the sequence of events ordained by fate!
 “O sad humanity! Why do you fear alarms of icy death, afraid of Styx, fearful of moving shadows and empty names—of subjects harped on by the poets’ tales, the fabled perils of a fancied life? Whether the funeral pile consumes your flesh with hot flames, or old age dissolves it with a gradual wasting power, be well assured the body cannot meet with further ill. And souls are all exempt from power of death. When they have left their first corporeal home, they always find and live in newer homes. I can declare, for I remember well, that in the days of the great Trojan War, I was Euphorbus, son of Panthous. In my opposing breast was planted then the heavy spear-point of the younger son of Atreus. Not long past I recognised the shield, once burden of my left arm, where it hung in Juno’s temple at ancient Argos, the realm of Abas. Everything must change: but nothing perishes. The moving soul may wander, coming from that spot to this, from this to that—in changed possession live in any limbs whatever. It may pass from beasts to human bodies, and again to those of beasts. The soul will never die, in the long lapse of time. As pliant wax is moulded to new forms and does not stay as it has been nor keep the self same form yet is the selfsame wax, be well assured the soul is always the same spirit, though it passes into different forms. Therefore, that natural love may not be vanquished by unnatural craving of the appetite, I warn you, stop expelling kindred souls by deeds abhorrent as cold murder.—Let not blood be nourished with its kindred blood!
 “Since I am launched into the open sea and I have given my full sails to the wind, nothing in all the world remains unchanged. All things are in a state of flux, all shapes receive a changing nature. Time itself glides on with constant motion, ever as a flowing river. Neither river nor the fleeting hour can stop its constant course. But, as each wave drives on a wave, as each is pressed by that which follows, and must press on that before it, so the moments fly, and others follow, so they are renewed. The moment which moved on before is past, and that which was not, now exists in Time, and every one comes, goes, and is replaced.
 “You see how night glides by and then proceeds on to the dawn, then brilliant light of day succeeds the dark night. There is not the same appearance in the heavens,: when all things for weariness are resting in vast night, as when bright Lucifer rides his white steed. And only think of that most glorious change, when loved Aurora, Pallas’ daughter, comes before the day and tints the world, almost delivered to bright Phoebus. Even the disk of that god, rising from beneath the earth, is of a ruddy color in the dawn and ruddy when concealed beneath the world. When highest, it is a most brilliant white, for there the ether is quite purified, and far away avoids infection from impurities of earth. Diana’s form at night remains not equal nor the same! ‘Tis less today than it will be tomorrow, if she is waxing; greater, if she wanes.
 “Yes, do you not see how the year moves through four seasons, imitating human life: in early Spring it has a nursling’s ways resembling infancy, for at that time the blade is shooting and devoid of strength. Its flaccid substance swelling gives delight, to every watching husbandman, alive in expectation. Then all things are rich in blossom, and the genial meadow smiles with tints of blooming flowers; but not as yet is there a sign of vigor in the leaves. The year now waxing stronger, after Spring it passes into Summer, and its youth becomes robust. Indeed of all the year the Summer is most vigorous and most abounds with glowing and life-giving warmth. Autumn then follows, and, the vim of life removed, that ripe and mellow time succeeds between youth and old age, and a few white hairs are sprinkled here and there upon his brow. Then aged Winter with his tremulous step follows, repulsive, strips of graceful locks or white with those he has retained so long.
 “Our bodies also, always change unceasingly: we are not now what we were yesterday or we shall be tomorrow. And there was a time when we were only seeds of man, mere hopes that lived within a mother’s womb. But Nature changed us with her skilfull touch, determined that our bodies should not be held in such narrow room, below the entrails in our distended parent; and in time she brought us forth into the vacant air. Brought into light, the helpless infant lies. Then on all fours he lifts his body up, feeling his way, like any young wild beast, and then by slow degrees he stands upright, weak-kneed and trembling, steadied by support of some convenient prop. And soon more strong and swift he passes through the hours of youth, and, when the years of middle age are past, slides down the steep path of declining age. This undermines him and destroys the strength of former years: and Milon, now grown old, weeps, when he sees his arms, which once were firm with muscles big as those of Hercules, hang flabby at his side: and Helen weeps, when in the glass she sees her wrinkled face, and wonders why two heroes fell in love and carried her away.—O Time, devourer of all things, and envious Age, together you destroy all that exists and, slowly gnawing, bring on lingering death.
 “Yes, even things which we call elements, do not endure. Now listen well to me, and I will show the ways in which they change. The everlasting universe contains four elemental parts. And two of these are heavy—earth and water—and are borne downwards by weight. The other two devoid of weight, are air and—even lighter—fire: and, if these two are not constrained, they seek the higher regions. These four elements, though far apart in space, are all derived from one another. Earth dissolves as flowing water! Water, thinned still more, departs as wind and air; and the light air, still losing weight, sparkles on high as fire. But they return, along their former way: the fire, assuming weight, is changed to air; and then, more dense, that air is changed again to water; and that water, still more dense, compacts itself again as primal earth.
 “Nothing retains the form that seems its own, and Nature, the renewer of all things, continually changes every form into some other shape. Believe my word, in all this universe of vast extent, not one thing ever perished. All have changed appearance. Men say a certain thing is born, if it takes a different form from what it had; and yet they say, that certain thing has died, if it no longer keeps the self same shape. Though distant things move near, and near things far, always the sum of all things is unchanged.
 “For my part, I cannot believe a thing remains long under the same form unchanged. Look at the change of times from gold to iron,: look at the change in places. I have seen what had been solid earth become salt waves, and I have seen dry land made from the deep; and, far away from ocean, sea-shells strewn, and on the mountain-tops old anchors found. Water has made that which was once a plain into a valley, and the mountain has been levelled by the floods down to a plain. A former marshland is now parched dry sand, and places which endured severest drought are wet with standing pools. Here Nature has opened fresh springs, but there has shut them up; rivers aroused by ancient earthquakes have rushed out or vanished, as they lost their depth.
 “So, when the Lycus has been swallowed by a chasm in the earth, it rushes forth at a distance and is reborn a different stream. The Erasinus now flows down into a cave, now runs beneath the ground a darkened course, then rises lordly in the Argolic fields. They say the Mysus, wearied of his spring and of his former banks, appears elsewhere and takes another name, the Caicus. The Amenanus in Sicilian sands now smoothly rolling, at another time is quenched, because its fountain springs are dry. The water of the Anigros formerly was used for drinking, but it pours out now foul water which you would decline to touch, because (unless all credit is denied to poets) long ago the Centaurs, those strange mortals double-limbed, bathed in the stream wounds which club-bearing Hercules had made with his strong bow.—Yes, does not Hypanis descending fresh from mountains of Sarmatia, become embittered with the taste of salt?
 “Antissa, Pharos, and Phoenician Tyre, were once surrounded by the wavy sea: they are not islands now. Long years ago Leucas was mainland, if we can believe what the old timers there will tell, but now the waves sweep round it. Zancle was a part of Italy, until the sea cut off the neighboring land with strong waves in between. Should you seek Helice and Buris, those two cities of Achaea, you will find them underneath the waves, where sailors point to sloping roofs and streets in the clear deep. Near Pittheaan Troezen a steep, high hill, quite bare of trees, was once a level plain, but now is a hill, for (dreadful even to tell) the raging power of winds, long pent in deep, dark caverns, tried to find a proper vent, long struggling to attain free sky. Finding no opening from the prison-caves, imperious to their force, they raised the earth, exactly as pent air breathed from the mouth inflates a bladder, or the bottle-hides stripped off the two-horned goats. The swollen earth remained on that spot and has ever since appearance of a high hill hardened by the flight of time.
 “Of many strange events that I have heard and known, I will add a few. Why, does not water give and take strange forms? Your wave, O horned Ammon, will turn cold at mid-day, but is always mild and warm at sun-rise and at sun-set. I have heard that Athamanians kindle wood, if they pour water on it, when the waning moon has shrunk away into her smallest orb. The people of Ciconia have a stream which turns the drinker’s entrails into stone, which changes into marble all it raves. The Achaean Crathis and the Sybaris, which flow not far from here, will turn the hair to something like clear amber or bright gold. What is more wonderful, there are some waters which change not only bodies but the minds: who has no knowledge of the Salmacis and of its ill famed waves? Who has not heard of the lakes of Aethiopia: how those who drink of them go raving mad or fall in a deep sleep, most wonderful in heaviness. Whoever quenches thirst from the Clitorian spring will hate all wine, and soberly secure great pleasure from pure water. Either that spring has a power the opposite of wine-heat, or perhaps as natives tell us, after the famed son of Amythaon by his charms and herbs, delivered from their base insanity the stricken Proetides, he threw the rest of his mind healing herbs into the spring, where hatred of all wine has since remained. Unlike in nature flows another stream of the country, called Lyncestius: everyone who drinks of it, even with most temperate care, will reel, as if he had drunk unmixed wine. In Arcadia is a place, called Pheneos by men of old, which is mistrusted for the twofold nature of its waters. Stand in dread of them at night; if drunk at night, they harm you, but in daytime they will do no harm at all. So lakes and rivers have now this, now that effect.
 “Ortygia once moved like a ship that drifts among the waves. Now it is fixed. The Argo was in dread of the Symplegades, which moved apart with waves in-rushing. Now immovable they stand, resisting the attack of winds. Aetna, which burns with sulphur furnaces, will not be always concentrated fire, nor was it always fiery. If the earth is like an animal and is alive and breathes out flame at many openings, then it can change these many passages used for its breathing and, when it is moved, may close these caverns as it opens up some others. Or if rushing winds are penned in deepest caverns, and they drive great stones against the rock, and substances which have the properties of flame and fire are made by those concussions; when the winds are calmed the caverns will, of course, be cool again. Or if some black bitumen catches fire or yellow sulphur burns with little smoke, then surely, when the ground no longer gives such food and oily nutriment for flames and they in time have ravined all their store, their greedy nature soon will pine with death—it will not bear such famine but depart and, when deserted, will desert the place.
 “‘Tis said that Hyperboreans of Pallene can cover all their bodies with light plumes by plunging nine times in Minerva’s marsh. But I cannot believe another tale: that Scythian women get a like result by having poison sprinkled on their limbs.
 “If we give any credit to the things proved by experience, we can surely know whatever bodies are decayed by time or by dissolving heat are by such means changed into tiny animals—Come now, bury choice bullocks killed for sacrifice, and it is well known by experience that the flower-gathering bees are so produced, miraculous, from entrails putrefied. These, like the faithful animals from which they were produced, inhabit the green fields, delight in toil, and labor for reward. The warlike steed, when buried in the ground, is a known source of hornets. If you cut the bending claws off from the sea-shore crab and bury the remainder in the earth, a scorpion will come forth from the dead crab buried there, threatening with its crooked tail.
 “The worms which cover leaves with their white threads, a thing observable by husbandmen, will change themselves to funeral butterflies. Mud holds the seeds that generate green frogs, at first producing tadpoles with no feet, and soon it gives them legs adapted for their swimming, and, so they may be as well adapted to good leaping, their hind legs are longer than the fore-legs. The mother bear does not bring forth a cub but a limp mass of flesh that hardly can be called alive. By licking it the mother forms the limbs, and brings it to a shape just like her own. Do not the offspring of the honey bees, concealed in cells hexagonal, at first get life with no limbs, and assume in time both feet and wings? Unless the fact were known, could anyone suppose it possible that Juno’s bird, whose tail is bright with stars; the eagle, armor-bearer of high Jove; the doves of Cytherea; and all birds emerge from the middle part of eggs? And some believe the human marrow turns into a serpent when the spine at length has putrefied in the closed sepulchre.
 “Now these I named derive their origin from other living forms. There is one bird which reproduces and renews itself: the Assyrians gave this bird his name—the Phoenix. He does not live either on grain or herbs, but only on small drops of frankincense and juices of amomum. When this bird completes a full five centuries of life straightway with talons and with shining beak he builds a nest among palm branches, where they join to form the palm tree’s waving top. As soon as he has strewn in this new nest the cassia bark and ears of sweet spikenard, and some bruised cinnamon with yellow myrrh, he lies down on it and refuses life among those dreamful odors.—And they say that from the body of the dying bird is reproduced a little Phoenix which is destined to live just as many years. When time has given to him sufficient strength and he is able to sustain the weight, he lifts the nest up from the lofty tree and dutifully carries from that place his cradle and the parent’s sepulchre. As soon as he has reached through yielding air the city of Hyperion, he will lay the burden just before the sacred doors within the temple of Hyperion.
 “But, if we wonder at strange things like these, we ought to wonder also, when we learn that a hyena has a change of sex: the female, quitting her embracing male, herself becomes a male.—That animal which feeds upon the winds and air, at once assumes with contact any color touched. Conquered India gave to the vine crowned Bacchus lynxes, whose urine turns, they say to stones, hardening in air. So coral, too, as soon as it has risen above the sea, turns hard. Below the waves it was a tender plant.
 “The day will fail me; Phoebus will have bathed his panting horses in the deep sea waves, before I can include in my discourse the myriad things transforming to new shapes. In lapse of time we see the nations change; some grow in power, some wane. Troy was once great in riches and in men—so great she could for ten unequalled years afford much blood; now she lies low and offers to our gaze but ancient ruins and, instead of wealth, ancestral tombs. Sparta was famous once and great Mycenae was most flourishing. And Cecrops’ citadel and Amphion’s shone in ancient power. Sparta is nothing now save barren ground, the proud Mycenae fell, what is the Thebes of storied Oedipus except a name? And of Pandion’s Athens what now remains beyond the name?
 “Reports come to me that Dardanian Rome is rising, and beside the Tiber’s waves, whose springs are high in the Apennines, is laying her deep foundations. So in her growth her form is changing, and one day she will be the sole mistress of the boundless world. They say that soothsayers and that oracles, revealers of our destiny, declare this fate, and, if I recollect it right, Helenus, son of Priam, prophesied unto Aeneas, when he was in doubt of safety and lamenting for the state of Troy, about to fall, `O, son of a goddess, if you yourself, will fully understand this prophecy now surging in my mind Troy shall not, while you are preserved to life fall utterly. Flames and the sword shall give you passage. You shall go and bear away Pergama, ruined; till a foreign soil, more friendly to you than your native land, shall be the lot of Troy and of yourself. Even now I know it is decreed by Fate that our posterity, born far from Troy, will build a city greater than exists, or ever will exist, or ever has been seen in former times. Through a long lapse of ages other noted men shall make it strong, but one of the race of Iulus; shall make it the great mistress of the world. After the earth has thoroughly enjoyed his glorious life, aetherial abodes shall gain him, and immortal heaven shall be his destiny.’ Such was the prophesy of Helenus, when great Aeneas took away his guardian deities, and I rejoice to see my kindred walls rise high and realize how much the Trojans won by that resounding victory of the Greeks!
 “But, that we may not range afar with steeds forgetful of the goal, the heavens and all beneath them and the earth and everything upon it change in form. We likewise change, who are a portion of the universe, and, since we are not only things of flesh but winged souls as well, we may be doomed to enter into beasts as our abode; and even to be hidden in the breasts of cattle. Therefore, should we not allow these bodies to be safe which may contain the souls of parents, brothers, or of those allied to us by kinship or of men at least, who should be saved from every harm? Let us not gorge down a Thyestean feast! How greatly does a man disgrace himself, how impiously does he prepare himself for shedding human blood, who with the knife cuts the calf’s throat and offers a deaf ear to its death-longings! who can kill the kid while it is sending forth heart rending cries like those of a dear child; or who can feed upon the bird which he has given food. How little do such deeds as these fall short of actual murder? Yes, where will they lead? Let the ox plough, or let him owe his death to weight of years; and let the sheep give us defence against the cold of Boreas; and let the well-fed she-goats give to man their udders for the pressure of kind hands. Away with cruel nets and springs and snares and fraudulent contrivances: deceive not birds with bird-limed twigs: do not deceive the trusting deer with dreaded feather foils: do not conceal barbed hooks with treacherous bait: if any beast is harmful, take his life, but, even so, let killing be enough. Taste not his flesh, but look for harmless food!”
see also …
Aug 10, 2004 … Pythagoreanism was closely connected to the Orphic Mysteries, and some of the Orphic scriptures are even attributed to Pythagoras.…www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/ETP/I.html – Cached – Similar