Wednesday, July 27, 2022


Riddles of Pythagoras

Athenaeus 10.452d-e (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
The riddles of Pythagoras, again, are of such a kind as the following, as Demetrius of Byzantium says in the fourth book On Poetry: 'Eat not thy heart,' instead of 'Cultivate apathy to pain.' 'Poke not the fire with a knife,' instead of 'Wrangle not with an angry man'; for anger is fire, and wrangling is a knife. 'Step not over the beam of the balance,' instead of 'Avoid and hate all mean advantage, and seek for equality.' 'Walk not on the main-travelled roads' instead of 'Follow not the opinion of the many'; for every man answers too rashly, as it happens to please him; but one should go the straight road, using reason as his guide. 'Sit not over a quart-measure,' instead of 'Consider not merely the things of to-day, but be ready for the day to come.' 'When on a journey turn not back at the boundaries'; for the bounds and limit of life is death; death, then, he forbids us to approach with pain and worry.

καὶ τὰ Πυθαγόρου δὲ αἰνίγματα τοιαῦτά ἐστιν, ὥς φησι Δημήτριος ὁ Βυζάντιος ἐν τετάρτῳ περὶ ποιημάτων· 'καρδίαν μὴ ἐσθίειν' ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀλυπίαν ἀσκεῖν. 'πῦρ μαχαίρᾳ μὴ σκαλεύειν' ἀντὶ τοῦ τεθυμωμένον ἄνδρα μὴ ἐριδαίνειν· πῦρ γὰρ ὁ θυμός, ἡ δὲ ἔρις μάχαιρα. 'ζυγὸν μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν' ἀντὶ τοῦ πᾶσαν πλεονεξίαν φεύγειν καὶ στυγεῖν, ζητεῖν δὲ τὸ ἴσον. 'λεωφόρους ὁδοὺς μὴ στείχειν' ἀντὶ τοῦ γνώμῃ τῶν πολλῶν μὴ ἀκολουθεῖν· εἰκῇ γὰρ ἕκαστος ὅ τι ἂν δόξῃ ἀποκρίνεται· τὴν δ᾽ εὐθεῖαν ἄγειν ἡγεμόνι χρώμενον τῷ νῷ. 'μὴ καθῆσθαι ἐπὶ χοίνικα' ἀντὶ τοῦ μὴ σκοπεῖν τὰ ἐφ' ἡμέραν, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἐπιοῦσαν ἀεὶ προσδέχεσθαι. 'ἀποδημοῦντα ἐπὶ τοῖς ὅροις μὴ ἐπιστρέφεσθαι'· ὅρια γὰρ καὶ πέρας ζωῆς ὁ θάνατος· τοῦτον οὖν οὐκ ἐᾷ μετὰ λύπης καὶ φροντίδος προσίεσθαι.

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