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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



6038
Gellius, Attic Nights, 4.11


nanThe nature of the information which Aristoxenus has handed down about Pythagoras on the ground that it was more authoritative; and also what Plutarch wrote in the same vein about that same Pythagoras. An erroneous belief of long standing has established itself and become current, that the philosopher Pythagoras did not eat of animals: also that he abstained from the bean, which the Greeks call κύαμος. In accordance with that belief the poet Callimachus wrote: I tell you too, as did Pythagoras, Withhold your hands from beans, a hurtful food. Also, as the result of the same belief, Marcus Cicero wrote these words in the first book of his work On Divination: "Plato therefore bids us go to our sleep in such bodily condition that there may be nothing to cause delusion and disturbance in our minds. It is thought to be for that reason too that the Pythagoreans were forbidden to eat beans, a food that produces great flatulency, which is disturbing to those who seek mental calm." So then Cicero. But Aristoxenus the musician, a man thoroughly versed in early literature, a pupil of the philosopher Aristotle, in the book On Pythagoras which he has left us, says that Pythagoras used no vegetable more often than beans, since that food gently loosened the bowels and relieved them. I add Aristoxenus' own words: "Pythagoras among vegetables especially recommended the bean, saying that it was both digestible and loosening; and therefore he most frequently made use of it." Aristoxenus also relates that Pythagoras ate very young pigs and tender kids. This fact he seems to have learned from his intimate friend Xenophilus the Pythagorean and from some other older men, who lived not long after the time of Pythagoras. And the same information about animal food is given by the poet Alexis, in the comedy entitled "The Pythagorean Bluestocking." Furthermore, the reason for the mistaken idea about abstaining from beans seems to be, that in a poem of Empedocles, who was a follower of Pythagoras, this line is found: O wretches, utter wretches, from beans withhold your hands. For most men thought that κυάμους meant the vegetable, according to the common use of the word. But those who have studied the poems of Empedocles with greater care and knowledge say that here κυάμους refers to the testicles, and that after the Pythagorean manner they were called in a covert and symbolic way κύαμοι, because they are the cause of pregnancy and furnish the power for human generation: and that therefore Empedocles in that verse desired to keep men, not from eating beans, but from excess in venery. Plutarch too, a man of weight in scientific matters, in the first book of his work On Homer wrote that Aristotle gave the same account of the Pythagoreans: namely, that except for a few parts of the flesh they did not abstain from eating animals. Since the statement is contrary to the general belief, I have appended Plutarch's own words: "Aristotle says that the Pythagoreans abstained from the matrix, the heart, the ἀκαλήφη and some other such things, but used all other animal food." Now the ἀκαλήφη is a marine creature which is called the sea-nettle. But Plutarch in his Table Talk says that the Pythagoreans also abstained from mullets. But as to Pythagoras himself, while it is well known that he declared that he had come into the world as Euphorbus, what Cleanthes and Dicaearchus have recorded is less familiar — that he was afterwards Pyrrhus Pyranthius, then Aethalides, and then a beautiful courtesan, whose name was Alco.


Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

2 results
1. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of The Philosophers, 1.118, 8.12 (3rd cent. CE - 3rd cent. CE)

1.118. The man gave the message; a day later the Ephesians attacked and defeated the Magnesians; they found Pherecydes dead and buried him on the spot with great honours. Another version is that he came to Delphi and hurled himself down from Mount Corycus. But Aristoxenus in his work On Pythagoras and his School affirms that he died a natural death and was buried by Pythagoras in Delos; another account again is that he died of a verminous disease, that Pythagoras was also present and inquired how he was, that he thrust his finger through the doorway and exclaimed, My skin tells its own tale, a phrase subsequently applied by the grammarians as equivalent to getting worse, although some wrongly understand it to mean all is going well. 8.12. and further that Pythagoras spent most of his time upon the arithmetical aspect of geometry; he also discovered the musical intervals on the monochord. Nor did he neglect even medicine. We are told by Apollodorus the calculator that he offered a sacrifice of oxen on finding that in a right-angled triangle the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the squares on the sides containing the right angle. And there is an epigram running as follows:What time Pythagoras that famed figure found,For which the noble offering he brought.He is also said to have been the first to diet athletes on meat, trying first with Eurymenes – so we learn from Favorinus in the third book of his Memorabilia – whereas in former times they had trained on dried figs, on butter, and even on wheatmeal, as we are told by the same Favorinus in the eighth book of his Miscellaneous History.
2. Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, 97-98, 107 (3rd cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)



Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
aristotle Howley, The Single Life in the Roman and Later Roman World (2018) 193
aristoxenus, as a peripatetic Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 85
aristoxenus, biography of Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 85
aristoxenus, life of archytas Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 39
aristoxenus, life of pythagoras Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 39
aristoxenus, on pythagoras and his associates Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 39
aristoxenus, on the pythagorean way of life Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 39
aristoxenus, reliability as a source Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 80, 85
athenaeus, deipnosophists König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 16
beans Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 80
caecilius, archaic comic poet Howley, The Single Life in the Roman and Later Roman World (2018) 193
echecrates Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 85
gellius, aulus, imitation of plutarch König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 16
herodes atticus König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 16
hymns in the symposium König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 16
macrobius, relationship with plutarch's sympotic questions" König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 16
meat, avoidance/prohibition McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (1999) 70
meat Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 80
philosophy, graeco-roman McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (1999) 70
plato, as presented by aristoxenus Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 80
plutarch, literary ancestry König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 16
pythagoras McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (1999) 70
pythagoreans McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (1999) 70
sacrifice, criticism/avoidance of McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (1999) 70
sacrifice McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (1999) 70
transmigration of souls McGowan, Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (1999) 70
wine' König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 16
xenophilus Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 85
zhmud, l. Huffman, A History of Pythagoreanism (2019) 80