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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. [2]

Pythagoras commanded his pupils rarely to take an oath, and when they did swear an oath, to abide by it under every circumstance. [3]

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. [4]

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 yourself."2 [5]

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. [6]

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. [7]

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. [8]

Pythagoras used 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,
”and ending“ Yea, from this arm, may smite my brother's breast.
Eur. Phoen. 1364-1375For 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. [9]

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.

1 Lysander, a Spartan admiral, died in 395 B.C.; Demades, the orator, in 319 B.C. Antipater once remarked of Demades, when he was an old man, that "he was like a victim when the sacrifice was over—nothing left but tongue and guts" (Plut. Phocion, 1).

2 Cp. Plat. Rep. 430e.

3 c. 530 B.C.

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