previous next

Pythagoras believed in the transmigration of souls and considered the eating of flesh as an abominable thing, saying that the souls of all living creatures pass after death into other living creatures. And as for himself, he used to declare that he remembered having been in Trojan times Euphorbus, the son of Panthus, who was slain by Menelaus.1 [2]

We are told that once, when Pythagoras was sojourning in Argos, he saw a shield from the spoils of Troy fastened by nails to the wall and wept. And when the Argives inquired of him the cause of his grief, he replied that he himself had carried this shield in the land of Troy when he was Euphorbus. [3] And when all were incredulous and judged him to be mad, he replied that he would give them convincing evidence that what he had said was so; for on the inner side of the shield there had been inscribed in ancient characters "of Euphorbus." At this surprising answer all said to take down the shield, and on the inner side in fact was found the inscription. [4]

Callimachus once said about Pythagoras that of the problems of geometry some he discovered and certain others he was the first to introduce from Egypt to the Greeks, in the passage where he writes:“ This Phrygian Euphorbus2 first for men
Found out, who taught about triangle shapes
And scalenes, aye and a circle in seven lengths,3
And taught full abstinence from tasting flesh
Of living things; but all would not to this
Give heed.
Call. Iambi 124ff.

1 Cp. Hom. Il. 17.1 ff..

2 A name given to Pythagoras because he claimed to be reincarnation of Euphorbus (cp. the preceding paragraph).

3 T. Heath (A History of Greek Mathematics, 1, p. 142) thinks these words "unintelligible . . . unless the 'seven-lengthed circle' can be taken as meaning the 'lengths of seven circles' (in the sense of the seven independent orbits of the sun, moon and planets) or the circle (the zodiac) comprehending them all." Mair discusses the meaning of the passage at considerable length; see also further in Heath and Hunt.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1989)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Troy (Turkey) (2)
Egypt (Egypt) (1)
Argos (Greece) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (3 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: