Pythagoras urged his followers to cultivate the simple life, since extravagance, he
maintained, ruins not only the fortunes of men but their bodies as well. For most diseases, he
held, come from indigestion, and indigestion, in turn, from extravagance.
Many men were also persuaded by him to eat uncooked food and to drink
only water all their life long, in order to pursue what is in truth the good. And yet, as for
the men of our day, were one to suggest that they refrain for but a few days from one or two of
the things which men consider to be pleasant, they would renounce philosophy, asserting that it
would be silly, while seeking for the good which is unseen, to let go that which is seen.
And whenever it becomes necessary to court the mob or to
meddle in affairs which are none of their business, they have the time for it and will let
nothing stand in their way; whereas, whenever it becomes necessary to bestir themselves about
education and the repairing of character, they reply that the matter is not opportune for them,
the result of it all being that they busy themselves when they have no business and show no
concern when they are concerned.
We are told that Archytas1
of Tarentum, who was a
follower of Pythagoras, once became angry with his slaves because of some serious offences; but
when he recovered from his rage, he said to them, "You would not have got off without
punishment after such misconduct, had I not lost my temper."2