Pythagoras’ Golden Verses – For a Good Life


There has been a lot of negativity in the news these past weeks, mostly directed at Greece and Greek people. Many comments, including from high-profile public personages, have been outright prejudiced.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to get into politics, who’s right, and who’s wrong, and how only the bankers seem to be winning anything.

Ok, I slipped there. Sorry.

With all the hatred and vitriol floating around the Web, I needed to go back to something uplifting, something ancient.

I went back to a bit of research I had done on Pythagoras and the Golden Verses. These are a series of seventy-one rules for living that were popular from antiquity and into the middle ages. It is presumed that these verses were what dictated the way of life for Pythagoras and his followers, known as Pythagoreans.

Most people today think of mathematics when they hear the name of Pythagoras, the Pythagorean Theorum having haunted many a youth in their school days, especially those not inclined to enjoy arithmetic. Myself included. I still shudder to think of it.

Pythagoreans' Hymn to the Rising Sun - 1869 Fyodor Bronnikov

Pythagoreans’ Hymn to the Rising Sun – 1869 Fyodor Bronnikov

What many may not know is that Pythagoras was also a philosopher and mystic who influenced later philosophers, including Socrates and Plato.

Pythagoras was from the island of Samos which he left in c.531 B.C. to settle in Croton, southern Italy (then, Magna Graecia), where many ancient Olympic champions hailed from. In Croton, Pythagoras established a religious community. They believed in reincarnation and refused to offer sacrifices to the Gods, though they believed in and worshiped the Gods. If you think about that for a moment, that last point was pretty revolutionary for the time.

Pythagoras died in Metapontum (in modern Apulia, Italy) in c.497 B.C., and from then the Pythagoreans spread throughout the Greek world to spread his teachings, the Golden Verses among them.

The list of Golden Verses is quite long so I won’t list them all here. To read the entire list, check out this Wikipedia link.

To offset the negativity that seems to plague the world of late, I thought I would share a few of Pythagoras’ Golden Verses that stand out to me.

1 – First worship the Immortal Gods, as they are established and ordained by the Law.

5 – Of all the rest of mankind, make him your friend who distinguishes himself by his virtues.

7 – Avoid as much as possible hating your friends for a slight fault.

11 – Do nothing evil, neither in the presence of others, nor privately;

12 – But above all things respect yourself.

13 – In the next place, observe justice in your actions and in your words.

18 – Support your lot with patience, it is what it may be, and never complain at it.

19 – But endeavour what you can to remedy it.

20 – And consider that fate does not send the greatest portion of these misfortunes to good men.

27 – Consult and deliberate before you act, that you may not commit foolish actions.

32 – In no way neglect the health of your body;

33 – But give it drink and meat in due measure, and also the exercise of which it needs.

35 – Accustom yourself to a way of living that is neat and decent without luxury.

40 – Never allow sleep to close your eyelids, after you went to bed,

41 – Until you have examined all your actions of the day by your reason.

42 – In what have I done wrong? What have I done? What have I omitted that I ought to have done?

43 – If in this examination you find that you have done wrong, reprove yourself severely for it;

44 – And if you have done any good, rejoice.

66 – And by the healing of your soul, you will deliver it from all evils, from all afflictions.

69 – Leave yourself always to be guided and directed by the understanding that comes from above, and that ought to hold the reins.

Pythagoras of Samos

Pythagoras of Samos

There you have it. A bit of wisdom whispered to us across the ages. Whatever we glean from Pythagoras’ words, we can be sure that a life lived with kindness, charity, introspection and honesty is indeed a good life, and something to be grateful for.

Thank you for reading.


2 thoughts on “Pythagoras’ Golden Verses – For a Good Life

  1. Those Golden Verses are still valid today. If people lived by them, the world, society and individuals would be in harmony.
    This is great, Adam. I will go to Wikipedia and print them out so I have them nearby to read whenever I feel despondent.
    An enjoyable read.

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