Pythagoras, in addition to his other injunctions, commanded
his pupils rarely to take an oath, and, when they did swear an oath, to abide by it under any
circumstances and to bring to fulfilment whatever they have sworn to do; and that they should
never reply as did Lysander the Laconian and Demades the Athenian,1
the former of whom once declared that boys should be cheated with dice and
men with oaths, and Demades affirmed that in the case of oaths, as in all other affairs, the
most profitable course is the one to choose, and that it was his observation that the perjurer
forthwith continued to possess the things regarding which he had taken the oath, whereas the
man who had kept his oath had manifestly lost what had been his own. For neither of these men
looked upon the oath, as did Pythagoras, as a firm pledge of faith, but as a bait to use for
ill-gotten gain and deception.Const. Exc. 4, pp. 293-295.
Pythagoras commanded his pupils rarely to take an oath, and when they did
swear an oath, to abide by it under every circumstance.
The same Pythagoras, in his reflections upon the pleasures of
love, taught that it was better to approach women in the summer not at all, and in the winter
only sparingly. For in general he considered every kind of pleasure of love to be harmful, and
believed that the uninterrupted indulgence in them is altogether weakening and
destructive.Const. Exc. 2 (1), p. 423.
It is told of Pythagoras that once, when he was asked by someone when he
should indulge in the pleasures of love, he replied, "When you wish not to be master of
The Pythagoreans divided the
life of mankind into four ages, that of a child, a lad, a young man, and an old man; and they
said that each one of these had its parallel in the changes which take place in the seasons in
the year's course, assigning the spring to the child, the autumn to the man, the winter to the
old man, and the summer to the lad.Const. Exc. 4, p. 295.
The same Pythagoras taught that when men approach the gods to sacrifice,
the garments they wear should be not costly, but only white and clean, and that likewise they
should appear before the gods with not only a body clean of every unjust deed but also a soul
that is undefiled.Const. Exc. 2 (1), p. 223.
Pythagoras declared that prudent men should pray to the gods for good
things on behalf of imprudent men; for the foolish are ignorant of what in life is in very
truth the good.
to assert that in their supplications men should pray simply for "all good things," and not
name them singly, as, for example, power, strength, beauty, wealth, and the like; for it
frequently happens that any one of these works to the utter ruin of those who receive them in
reply to their desire. And this may be recognized by any man who has reflected upon the lines
in The Phoenician Maidens
of Euripides which give the prayer of Polyneices to
the gods, beginning“
Then, gazing Argos-ward,
Yea, from this arm, may smite my brother's breast.
”Eur. Phoen. 1364-1375
For Polyneices and Eteocles
thought that they were praying for the best things for themselves, whereas in truth they were
calling down curses upon their own heads.Const. Exc. 4, p. 295.
During the time that Pythagoras was delivering many other discourses
designed to inculcate the emulation of a sober life and manliness and perseverance and the
other virtues, he received at the hands of the inhabitants of Croton
honours the equal of those accorded to the gods.3Const. Exc. 2 (1), p. 223.