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39. In order to parry the charge of falsehood, it is your humour to become quite exacting. You are not to be called to produce the six thousand books of Origen, of which you speak; but you expect me to be acquainted with all the records of Pythagoras. What truth is there in all the boastful language, which you blurted out from your inflated cheeks, declaring that you had corrected the Περὶ ᾽Αρχῶν by introducing words which you had read in other books of Origen, and thus had not put in other men’s words but restored his own? Out of all this forest of his works you cannot produce a single bush or sucker. You accuse me of raising up smoke and mist. Here you have smoke and mist indeed. You know that I have dissipated and done away with them; but, though your neck is broken, you do not bow it down, but, with an impudence which exceeds even your ignorance, you say that I am denying what is quite evident, so as to excuse yourself, after promising mountains of gold, for not producing even a leatherlike farthing from your treasury. I acknowledge 538that your animosity against me rests on good grounds, and that your rage and passion is genuine; for, unless I made persistent demands for what does not exist, you would be thought to have what you have not. You ask me for the books of Pythagoras. But who has informed you that any books of his are extant? It is true that in my letter which you criticize these words occur: “Suppose that I erred in youth, and that, having been trained in profane literature, I at the beginning of my Christian course had no sufficient doctrinal knowledge, and that I attributed to the Apostles things which I had read in Pythagoras or Plato or Empedocles;” but I was speaking not of their books but of their tenets, with which I was able to acquaint myself through Cicero, Brutus, and Seneca. Read the short oration for32023202    In the oration against Vatinius mention is made of his boasting himself to be a Pythagorean. Vatinius, and others in which mention is made of secret societies. Turn over Cicero’s dialogues. Search through the coast of Italy which used to be called Magna Græcia, and you will find there various doctrines of Pythagoras inscribed on brass on their public monuments. Whose are those Golden Rules? They are Pythagoras’s; and in these all his principles are contained in a summary form. Iamblicus32033203    Neo-Platonist of Alexandria, 4th century. wrote a commentary upon them, following in this, at least partly, Moderatus a man of great eloquence, and Archippus and Lysides who were disciples of Pythagoras. Of these, Archippus and Lysides held schools in Greece, that is, in Thebes; they retained so fully the precepts of their teacher, that they made use of their memory instead of books. One of these precepts is: “We must cast away by any contrivance, and cut out by fire and sword and contrivances of all kinds, disease from the body, ignorance from the soul, luxury from the belly, sedition from the state, discord from the family, excess from all things alike.”32043204    This is given by Jerome both in Greek and Latin. There are other precepts of Pythagoras, such as these. “Friends have all things in common.” “A friend is a second self.” “Two moments are specially to be observed, morning and evening: that is, things which we are going to do, and things which we have done.” “Next to God we must worship truth, for this alone makes men akin to God.” There are also enigmas which Aristotle has collated with much diligence in his works: “Never go beyond the Stater,” that is, “Do not transgress the rule of justice;” “Never stir the fire with the sword,” that is, “Do not provoke a man when he is angry and excited with hard words.” “We must not touch the crown,” that is “We must maintain the laws of the state.” “Do not eat out your heart,” that is, “Cast away sorrow from your mind.” “When you have started, do not return,” that is, “After death do not regret this life.” “Do not walk on the public road,” that is, “Do not follow the errors of the multitude.” “Never admit a swallow into the family,” that is, “Do not admit chatterers and talkative persons under the same roof with you.” “Put fresh burdens on the burdened; put none on those who lay them down;” that is, “When men are on the road to virtue, ply them with fresh precepts; when they abandon themselves to idleness, leave them alone.” I said I had read the doctrines of the Pythagoreans. Let me tell you that Pythagoras was the first to discover the immortality of the soul and its transmigration from one body to another. To this view Virgil gives his adherence in the sixth book of the Æneid in these words:32053205    Virg. Æn. 748–51.

These, when the wheel full thousand years has turned,

God calls, a long sad line, in Lethe’s stream

To drown the past, and long once more to see

The skies above, and to the flesh return.


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