The Ancient Library

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Judaea, Babyloa and even India, for the purpose of collecting all the scientific knowledge that was attainable, and especially of deriving from the foun­tain-heads instruction respecting the less public or mystic cultus of the gods. (Diog. Laert. viii. 2 ; Porph. I.e. 11, 12 ; Iambi. I.e. 14, &c.) The jour­ney to Babylon is possible, and not very unlikely. That Pythagoras visited Egypt, may be regarded as more than probable. Enough of Egypt was known to attract the curiosity of an inquiring Greek, and the intercourse of Samos as well as other parts of Greece with that country is men­tioned. (Herod, ii. 134, 135, iii. 39.) The autho­rities also on the point are numerous (Antiphon. ap. Porph. 7 ; Isocr. Busir. p. 227 ; Cic. de Fin. v. 27 ; Strabo, xiv. p. 638.) The passages in Herodotus, ii. 81, 123, which have been thought to assert or imply the visit of Pythagoras to Egypt, do not, on a more accurate examination, appear to involve any such inference. (Krische, 1. c. p. 6 ; Hitter, Gesch. der Pythagorischen Philosophic, p. 27.) According to one account, of no great authority, and mixed up with much that is absurd and incredible, Polycrates gave Pythagoras a letter of introduction to Amasis* (Diog. Laert. viii. 3.) Still it is not easy to determine how far Pythagoras was indebted to the Egyptian priests, or, indeed, whether he learnt any tiling at all from them. That he was initiated into their profoundest mysteries is in the highest degree improbable. Geometry in Egypt seems to have been chiefly of a practical kind, and the propositions which Pythagoras is said to have discovered are such as to show that the science of geometry was still in its infancy. There was nothing in the symbolical mode of representation which the Py­thagoreans adopted, which bore the distinct traces of an Egyptian origin. The secret religious usages of the Pythagoreans exhibited nothing (so far as can be traced with any degree of probability) but what might have been adopted, quite in the spirit of the Greek religion, by those who knew nothing of Egyptian mysteries; and what was peculiar to Pytha­goras in this respect admits of being referred with greater likelihood to the cultus of the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians, with whom Pythagoras is said to have been connected. (Hitter, Gesch. der Philos. vol. i. p. 363.) Even the doctrine of metempsychosis in­volves nothing which compels us to look to Egypt or the East for its origin. It is rather one of the most obvious sensualistic modes in which the con­tinued existence of the soul could be conceived. Pythagoras might have derived it quite as easily from Pherecydes as from the Egyptians. Greater stress might be laid upon some external observances, such as the refraining from eating beans and fish, were it not that doubt exists even with regard to these. (Aristoxenus denied the fact of the in­terdiction of beans ; see Gellius, N. A. iv. 11.) Nor, in any case, would initiation by the Egyptian priests be necessary to account for it. In short, no foreign influence can be traced, which in any way illustrates or accounts for either the philosophy or the institutions of Pythagoras. These exhibit only what might easily have been developed by a Greek mind exposed to the ordinary influences of the age. Even the ancient authorities point to a similar result in connecting the religious and ascetic pecu­liarities of Pythagoras with the Orphic or Cretan mysteries (Iambi, c. 25 ; Porph. c. 17; Diog. Laert. viii. 3), or the Delphic oracle (Ariston. ap. Diog. Laert. viii. 8, 21; Porph. 41).



Neither as to the kind and amount of knowledge which Pythagoras acquired, nor as to his definite philosophical views, have we much trustworthy direct evidence. Every thing of the kind men­tioned by Plato and Aristotle is attributed not to Pythagoras, but to the Pythagoreans. We have, however, the testimony of Heracleitus (Diog. Laert. viii. 6, ix. 1, comp. Herod, i. 29, ii. 49, iv. 95), that he was a man of extensive acquirements ; and that of Xenophanes, that he believed in the trans­migration of souls. (Diog. Laert. viii. 36, comp. Arist. de Anima^ i. 3 ; Herod, ii. 123. Xenophanes mentions the story of his interceding on behalf of a dog that was being beaten, professing to recog­nise in its cries the voice of a departed friend, comp. Grote, I.e. vol. iv. p. 528, note.) Pythagoras is said to have pretended that he had been Euphor-bus, the son of Panthus, in the Trojan war, as well as various other characters, a tradesman, a courte­zan, &c. (Porph. 26 ; Pans. ii. 17 ; Diog. Laert. viii. 5; Horace, Od. i. 28,1. 10). He is said to have dis­covered the propositions that the triangle inscribed in a semi-circle is right-angled (Diog. Laert. i. 25), that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the sides (Diog. Laert. viii. 12 ; Plut. Non posse suav. mm sec. Ep. p. 1094). There is a celebrated story of his having discovered the arithmetical relations of the musical scale by observing accidentally the various sounds produced by hammers of different weights striking upon an anvil, and suspending by strings weights equal to those of the different hammers (Porph. in Ptol. Harm. p. 213; Diog. Laert. viii. 12; Nicom. Harm. i. 2, p. 10, Meib.). The retailers of the story of course never took the trouble to verify the experiment, or they would have discovered that different hammers do not produce different sounds from the same anvil, any more than different clappers do from the same bell. Discoveries in astronomy are also attributed to Pythagoras (Diog. Laert. viii. 14 ; Plin. H. N. ii. 8). There can be little doubt that he paid great attention to arithmetic, and its application to weights, measures, and the theory of music ; medi­cine also is mentioned as included in the range of his studies (Diog. Laert. viii. 12, 14, 32). Apart from all direct testimony, however, it might safely have been affirmed, that the very remarkable influ­ence exerted by Pythagoras, and even the fact that he was made the hero of so many marvellous stories, prove him to have been a man both of singular capabilities and of great acquirements. The general tendency of the speculations of the Pythagorean school is evidence that the statements with regard to his mathematical researches are well founded. But whatever weight there may be in the conjecture of Ritter, that through his descent from the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians Pythagoras de­rived by tradition a peculiar and secret cultus, which he needed not so much to alter, as to develop so as to suit his peculiar aims, there can be little doubt that the above-named author is correct in viewing the religious element as the predominant one in his character, and a religious ascendancy in connection with a certain mystic religious system as that which it was his immediate and chief ob­ject to secure. And it was this religious element which made the profoundest impression upon his contemporaries. That they regarded him as stand­ing in a peculiarly close connection with the gods is certain*. The Gk'otoiiiates even identified him

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