From “The Life of Pythagoras” by Iamblichus

Exercise your erudition, just as you do your body.

To the young men at the Gymnasium, he spoke of the duty of paying attention to their elders ; evincing that in the world, in life, in cities, and in nature, that which has a precedency is more honorable than that which is consequent in time. As, for instance, that the east is more honorable than the west; the morning than the evening ; the beginning than the end ; and generation than corruption ; and, universally, gods than daemons ; daemons than demigods ; and heroes than men. He asserted that children owe as many thanks to their parents as a dead man would owe to him who should be able to bring him back to life. He showed them that they should never be hostile to friends, but rapidly become friends with their enemies ; and that they should exhibit in modesty of behavior to their elders, the benevolent disposition of children towards their parents, but in their philanthropy to others, fraternal love and regard.

The cultivation of learning was also inculcated, Pythagoras calling on them to observe how absurd it would be that they should judge the reasoning power to be the most laudable of all things and should consult about other things through this, and yet bestow no time nor labor in the exercise of it; though the attention which is paid to the body, resembles depraved friends and rapidly fails, but erudition, like worthy and good men, endures till death, and, for some persons procures immortal renown after death. Erudition, he showed, to be a natural excellence of disposition common to those in each genus, who rank in the first class of human nature, for the discoveries of these, become erudition to others. It is possible for erudition to be imparted to another without in the least diminishing that which the giver possesses; while, regarding other objects of attainment, such as strength, beauty, health and fortitude, it is not possible to impart them to others, and still others as wealth, dominion, etc., are no longer possessed by him who imparts them. Some goods cannot be possessed by all men, but we are capable of being instructed, according to our own proper and deliberate choice. By education men differ from wild beasts, the free from the slaves, and philosophers from the vulgar.

Seven men have been found in one city even during one Olympiad, that were swifter than others in the course ; while, in the whole of the habitable part of the globe, those that excelled in wisdom were also seven in number.

Translated by Thomas Taylor

1 thought on “From “The Life of Pythagoras” by Iamblichus”

  1. I love this quote. Train your body, exercise logic, use it, teach it to others. Treat others with respect.
    The tangent about children being respectful has subtext that I think is meaningful to point out. By exhibiting the behaviors mentioned above, and treating children with respect, they will have a natural inclination to be more respectful. By being a person worthy of respect, children will ingrain those behaviors in themselves.
    Teaching does not diminish the teacher, it enhances. This is true, as one learns a subject more thoroughly through teaching and fills in their own gaps. It also creates an environment that builds others up, which will in turn, build the originator up.
    I will have to read this book in the near future.

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