On Pythagoras

This is the 4th in a series of posts related to food and consumption in historical Armenia.

Here is what the Armenian author Yeznik Koghbatsi had to say about Pythagoras in his 5th century treatise, Against the Sects (translated by Monica Blanchard and Robin Darling Young):

And it is not, as the head of their philosophers, Pythagoras and the Peripatetics say, that one monad is the cause of everything, and that oikonomia, they say, is not from that one, rather that specific economy is a sort of power. If he posited the cause of everything from a monad and he posited that economy from the same one, he would reckon in a manner worthy of beauty and of honor. But, because he reckons the ones and that economy caused by someone else, he is worthy of criticism and not of respect.

He is praiseworthy and even more praiseworthy that by self-denial he was also able to overcome passions and carnivorous appetites.

But because he posited migrations of souls <from> body to body; for this he is very reprehensible. As if the souls of the just, once dead, are transported into other pure bodies, either human or pure creatures, and as recompense for good deeds there they become established; and that souls of sinners are transported into bodies, whether of vile men or beasts, vermin and reptiles and in recompense for evil deeds they are established there.

And not to eat meat: if he commanded this to hinder the passion of the flesh, he acted well and rightly. So was he acting if likewise he commanded to abstain from impure creatures.

But the reasons are clear why he did not command to eat the meat of breathing things, as if there were a divine spirit in the fleshly ones, and this is why one ought not to eat the meat of living beings…

It was a very unworthy deed also to reckon every sort of thing from the moon on down immortal. He was making clear that he believed all to be gods. 

And as for that silence of five years which he decreed for those newly come to discipleship: although it was an example of great patience because they had no authority to ask anything, but only to listen; however, it was not something of very much profit. Because before the five-year period had ended, not one of them, even though he had become wise from listening very well, enjoyed that wisdom because he had no authority to speak. Nor did anyone else, because he did not hear the wisdom of that one.


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