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The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, [1917], at

20. Too much attention or too little shun; for envy
Thus, to either excess is alike attached.

The philosopher, firm in his principle of juste milieu, wished that his disciples should avoid excess in all things, and that they should not draw attention to themselves by an unusual way of living. It was a widespread opinion among the ancients, that envy, shameful for the one who felt it and dangerous for the one who inspired it, had fatal consequences for both. b For envy is attached to all that tends to distinguish men too ostensibly. Thus, notwithstanding all that have been published of the extraordinary rules and severe abstinences that Pythagoras imposed upon his disciples and that he made them observe, it appears indubitable that they were only established after his death, and that his interpreters, being deceived regarding the mysterious meaning of these symbols, take in the literal sense, what he had said in the figurative. The philosopher blamed only the excess, and permitted besides, a moderate usage of all the foods to which men were accustomed. Even the beans, for which his disciples later conceived so much abhorrence, were eaten frequently. c He did not forbid absolutely either wine, or meat, or even fish, whatever may have been asserted at different times d; though, indeed, those of his disciples who aspired to the highest perfection abstained from them e; he represented drunkenness and intemperance

p. 196

only as odious vices that should be avoided. a He had no scruples about drinking a little wine himself, and of tasting the meats set before him at table, b in order to show that he did not regard them as impure, notwithstanding he preferred the vegetable régime to all others and that, for the most part, he restricted himself to it from choice. c Further on I will return to the mystic meaning of the symbols, by which he had the appearance of forbidding the use of certain foods and above all beans.


195:b Bacon assures, following the ancients, that the envious eye is dangerous and that it has been observed that after great triumphs, illustrious personages having been the object of an envious eye have found themselves ill-disposed for some days following (Sylva Sylvarum, § 944).

195:c Aul. Gell., l. iv., c. 11.

195:d Athen., l. vii., c. 16; Jambl., Vitâ Pythag., c. 30.

195:e Jambl., ibid., c. 24.

196:a Diog. Laërt., l. viii., §9; Clem. Alex., Pæd., l. ii., p. 170.

196:b Jambl., ibid., c. 21; Porphyre, Vitâ Pythag., p. 37; Athen., l. x., p. 418; Aul. Gell., l. iv., c. 11.

196:c Diog. Laërt., l. viii., § 19.

Next: 21. Luxury and avarice have similar results. One must choose in all things a mean just and good.