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Cleinias of Tarentum, who was a member of the order1 of which we have spoken, learning that Prorus of Cyrene had lost his fortune because of a political upheaval and was completely impoverished, went over from Italy to Cyrene with sufficient funds and restored to Prorus his fortune, although he had never seen the man before and knew no more of him than that he was a Pythagorean. [2] Of many others also it is recorded that they have done something of this kind. And it was not only in the giving away of money that they showed themselves so devoted to their friends, but they also shared each other's dangers on occasions of greatest peril. [3] So, for example, while Dionysius was tyrant2 and a certain Phintias, a Pythagorean, who had formed a plot against the tyrant, was about to suffer the penalty for it, he asked Dionysius for time in which to make such disposition as he wished of his private affairs; and he said that he would give one of his friends as surety for his death. [4] And when the ruler expressed his wonder whether such a friend was to be found as would take his place in prison, Phintias called upon one of his acquaintances, a Pythagorean philosopher named Damon, who without hesitation came forward at once as surety for his death. [5]

Now there were some who expressed approval of so great a love for one's friends, whereas some charged the surety with rashness and folly. And at the appointed hour all the people ran together, anxious to learn whether the man who had provided a surety for himself would keep faith. [6] When the hour drew close and all were giving up hope, Phintias unexpectedly arrived on the run at the last moment, just as Damon was being led off to his fate. Such a friendship was in the eyes of all men a thing of wonder, and Dionysius remitted the punishment of the condemned man, urging the two men to include himself as a third in their friendship.3

1 The Pythagoreans.

2 The Elder, in Syracuse, 405-367 B.C.

3 The story of the friendship between Damon and Phintias (Pythias is incorrect) was widely known in the ancient world, and in many forms. Diodorus and Cicero De Off. 3.45; Cicero Tusc. Disp. 5.22 (quoting the tyrant: "Utinam ego tertius vobis adscriberer!") give the oldest version, the latter clearly connecting the event with the Elder Dionysius. The fullest account we possess, as given by Iamblichus Vita Pythag. 233 on the authority, as he claims, of Aristoxenus, who is described as receiving the tale directly from the mouth of the tyrant himself at Corinth, makes the occasion of the event a scheme of the court of the Younger Dionysius to put the Pythagorean reputation of friendship to the test. The account by Hyginus Fab. 257 was the source of Schiller's famous Ballade, "Die Burgschaft."

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    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 5.22
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