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passed to Phlius, the ancient country of his family, and at Phlius, Cicero informs us he expounded several points of his new philosophy to the tyrant Leo, who being struck with his doctrine, demanded of him what branch of science he principally professed: Pythagoras replied, that he professed none, but was a philosopher : the name was new to Leo, and he desired to be informed of its signification, and wherein philosophers differed from other professors of the learned sciences : Pythagoras answered, that it appeared to him men were drawn to different objects and pursuits in life, as the Greeks were to their Olympic Games, some for glory, some for gain; at the same time,' says he, you must have observed that others attend without any view to either, for curiosity and amusement only; so we, who are travellers and adventurers, as it were, from another life and another nature, come amongst mankind, indifferent to the ordinary allurements of avarice and ambition, and studious of nothing but the truth and essence of things : such may be called Lovers of Wisdom, or in one word Philosophers; and, like the unconcerned spectators above described, have no others to pursue, but the acquisition of knowledge and the rational enjoyments of a contemplative mind.'— In this reply he glances at his doctrine of the Metempsychosis.
In his progress towards Italy, Pythagoras went to Delphi, that he might give the more authority to his precepts, upon the pretence of his having received them from the priestess Theoclea.
In Italy he established himself for the remainder of his life, and taught there forty years, wanting one, in his colleges at Metapontum, Heraclea, and Croton. He stayed twenty years at Croton before he went to Metapontum; Milo, the famous Olympic victor, was one of his scholars at the former of these places. The
fame of his doctrines drew a prodigious resort to his college; no less than six hundred disciples at one time attended his lectures nightly: he imposed rules of preparation and a system of discipline for his students, admirably contrived to inspire them with veneration for his person, and to train their minds to the exercises of patience and respect: he prescribed a probationary silence of five years, during which initiation they were not once admitted to the sight of their master, who, in the mean time, like an invisible and superior spirit, governed them after the most absolute manner by mandates, which they never heard but through the channel of his subordinate agents : at length they were ushered with much ceremony into the awful presence.
Such a course of discipline could not fail to prepare every mind, capable of undergoing it, for the marvellous stories, which at certain times he introduced into his lectures, touching the doctrine of the Metempsychosis, and the revelation of his own divinity: he scrupled not to tell them that he was the Apollo of the Hyperboreans, and he corroborated his assertion, by exposing to view his thigh composed of solid gold; his food, which was of the simplest sort, was conveyed to him in his recess in a manner so secret, that he was not discovered to be subject to the common appetites and necessities of human nature ; his person was most comely and commanding, and his dress of studied cleanliness and simplicity; he was always clad in milk-white garments of the purest wool; he told them his soul had passed through several antecedent forms, and that it had originally received from Mercury, when it inhabited the body of Æthalides (son of that god) the privilege of migrating after the death of one body into that of another, with the faculty of remembering all the actions of its præterient states ; that these transmigrations were not immediate, but after inter
vals, in which his soul visited the regions of the other world, and was admitted to the society of departed spirits : that in virtue of this prerogative, it passed after some time from the body of Æthalides into that of Euphorbus, who was wounded by Menelaus at the siege of Troy, and in his person was conscious of what had occurred in that of its predecessor; that it next appeared on earth in the person of Hermotimus, who gave proofs of his reminiscence by appealing to the shield suspended in the temple of Apollo by the hands of Menelaus: from Hermotimus it passed into one Pyrrhus a fisherman, retaining the like consciousness; and lastly, it had lodged itself where it now was, possessing all the accumulated recollection of its past transmigrations.
Daring as those fictions were, still they were credited; for the powers of his mind were wonderful, and the authority he had established over his hearers by superior wisdom and ingenious device was unbounded; the curious researches of his study in the East, and the passion he had there contracted for the marvellous and supernatural, inspired him with the ambition of passing himself upon the world for something above human; he had trained on the credulity of his disciples with such art, that he found it would bear whatever he thought proper to impose; he was sensible he transcended all men living in wisdom, and he resolved to assume a superiority of nature also. The idea of transmigration was not started by Pythagoras; it was of eastern origin, but too far out of sight for any then alive to trace it to its source: he told his scholars he should revisit the earth in two hundred and six years after his death.
Doctrines like these were hard to be received, but he so well balanced fiction with truth, that they could not be separated at the time : the strong fortified the weak so effectually, that both took place together; in
mathematics, astronomy, and moral philosophy, he was an unrivalled master; his golden verses deserved the name: his principles were temperate, moral, humane, and above all things pacifying and conciliatory; when he admitted a disciple into his presence, he took him ever after into his most cordial friendship and confidence, and men esteemed it the highest honour of their lives to have passed their probation in the school of Pythagoras, and to be allowed access to his person.
After he had stayed twenty years at Croton, he removed to Metapontum, where he had a magnificent house, which was afterward converted into a temple to Ceres, and a school which was called the Museum; here he was visited by the famous Abaris, priest of the Hyperborean Apollo; and his fabulous historians give out, that having taken Abaris's arrow, he rode upon it through the air to Taurominium in one day, though distant from Metapontum some days' sailing. Hearing that his aged master Pherecydes was dying of a loathsome disease in Delos, he went thither, and exerted all his art to recover him; and, when he was dead, having buried him with all the ceremonies due to a father, he returned to Italy. This instance of friendship is the last public action I find recorded in his life: the manner of his death is variously reported, as well as the age at which he died; the most probable account fixes it at eighty years; as to the catastrophe of his death, the relation most to be credited informs us, that one Cylon of Croton, a rich, ambitious, and disorderly man, having offered himself to the college and been rejected by Pythagoras, was so enraged thereby, that having collected a hired mob, he assaulted the house of Milo, when Pythagoras and his disciples were there assembled, and burnt the house with every body in it, two or three excepted, who narrowly escaped. Pythagoras, to
whom his disciples, even in the last extremity, paid a filial reverence and attention, was solicited to make his escape ; but not being willing to expose himself to the people, as a fugitive anxious to preserve life, when his friends were on the point of perishing, he resisted their entreaties, and was burnt to death. To this account I incline; but others contend, that he escaped from the flames, and was killed in pursuit ; some relate that he took refuge in the Muses' Temple at Metapontum, where being kept from victuals forty days, he was starved; and other historians, with as little probability on their side, say, that being pursued into a bean-plot, he there stopped, because he would not pass over prohibited ground, and yielded his throat to the pursuers. After his death, his surviving disciples were dispersed into Greece and the neighbouring countries.
Thus perished Pythagoras, the Samian philosopher, founder of the Italian school, and the great luminary of the heathen world.
HAVING, in my two preceding papers, been at some pains in collecting an account of the life of Pythagoras, from the many various unconnected particulars scattered up and down in the works of the sophists and biographers touching that extraordinary man, I now come to my main object, in which I desire the reader's attention, whilst I attempt to shew in what manner the heathen writers have applied these particulars in opposition to the life and actions of Christ; this will be the subject of the present pa