Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview
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Introduction: Iamblichos’ Life of Pythagoras, in addition to a collection of his teachings also employs a traditional collection of miracles said to have been performed by Pythagoras. We here present a few of them to illustrate how this kind of story was used to honor this kind of “divine man.”

lamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, 36, 60–61, 134–36

36. At that time (Pythagoras) was going from Sybaris to Krotona. At the shore, he stood with men who were fishing with nets; they were hauling the nets weighed down with fish from the depths. He said that he knew the number of fish they hauled in. The men agreed to do what he ordered if the number of fish was as he said. He ordered the fish to be set free alive after they were indeed counted accurately. What is more astonishing, in the time that they were out of the water being counted, none of the fish died while he stood there. He paid (the fishers) the price of the fish and went to Krotona. (The fishermen) told the deed everywhere; they had learned his name from some children.

60. If we can believe so many ancient and worthy historians, Pythagoras had in (his) logos something analytical and admonishing which (affected) even arational animals; through this it is shown that, in learning, all are overcome by those who have intellect (nous); even wild animals and those thought to be without logos (are overcome).

It is said that he mastered the Daunian bear, which had severely harmed the inhabitants. He stroked it with his hand for a long time; he fed it with maize and acorns; then he compelled it by an oath not to touch any living thing, and he sent it away. The bear went straight to the mountain and into the woods, into hiding, and from that time was never seen to attack an arational creature. 61. Seeing an ox in Tarantum eating green beans in a field, he approached the ox keeper and told him to tell the ox to stop eating the beans. The ox keeper laughed at him because Pythagoras said, “Tell (the ox),” and he said that he did not know how to speak “ox language,” but, if Pythagoras knew, it was in vain to order the ox keeper to do the talking but fitting for Pythagoras to advise the ox. Pythagoras approached the ox and whispered in its ear for a long time. The ox then not only refrained from beans, but never again, it is said, tasted them.

This ox lived for a long time in Tarantum by the temple of Hera, remaining there when it was old. The sacred ox was called “Pythagoras’ Ox,” and it was fed human food by those who came to it.


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