That the Pythagoreans were closely bound up with inter-civic and international reaction hardly needs demonstrating. This tradition goes back to Pythagoras himself. According to Diogenes Laertius he left Samos because of the "tyranny" 13 of Polycrates and migrated to Croton in Italy, where he established a constitution for the city and was esteemed along with his followers who were closely linked to the Three Hundred; they governed the city so well that it was almost an aristocracy." 14 Polybius describes a universal democratic revolt against the Pythagoreans throughout Magna Graecia. 15 Ritter and Preller comment on this passage, / 61 / 'Causa erat quod Pythagorei cum optimatibus sentiebant eamque factionem sodaliciis suis maximopere firmabant. ["The reason was that the Pythagoreans sympathized with the oligarchs and assisted this faction very markedly by their secret clubs." Translation at the bottom of page 61 in the original] 16
A similar picture is given by Iamblichus in his life of Pythagoras. In fact, the whole of Chapter XXXV is worth reading in this connection. The author, though he is a devout Pythagorean, makes no effort to conceal the fact of a bitter popular resentment against the Pythagoreans, and makes it perfectly clear that the struggle in Croton was a social and political uprising on the part of the democracy against an oligarchic clique. After the dispersal at Croton the Pythagoreans were scattered throughout the Greek world and took up residence wherever social conditions were such that they could expect a welcome for their doctrines. In the Pythagorean Catalogue 17 we read of cult members who settled at Metapontum, Elea (Parmenides, significantly enough, is mentioned as a Pythagorean), Tarentum, Leontini, Sybaris, Lochri, Rhezium, Selinus, Syracuse, Samos, Phlius, Catana, Corinth and Pontus. Iamblichus refers vaguely to greater numbers of Pythagoreans than the few he has mentioned. We know, too, that at Thebes and Megara there were strong outposts of the sect. Oddly enough there is only one name mentioned for Athens. This, however, is not so surprising even though it is extremely interesting. Iamblichus does not here mention the strong association made by the later philosophers between Platonism and the teachings of Pythagoras. Perhaps the connection was most closely perceived by Aristotle. Taylor has summarized Aristotle's comments quite adequately. "In the well-known chapter A6 of the Metaphysics Aristotle expressly begins his account of Platonism with the remark that it was much the same thing as Pythagoreanism with a few minor changes." It seems certain that Aristotle must have had in mind the development of Platonic idealism from Pythagorean speculation through the Socratic dialectic and system. In any case it is clear that our understanding of Aristotles comparison depends on the recognition that Socrates supplied a link between Pythag- / 62 / oras and Plato. It would be beyond the scope of this book to discuss exhaustively the debt of Plato to the philosophy of Pythagoras, but surely this association does not have to be proved! " 18
We could go on in great detail showing the philosophical connection between Pythagorean and Platonic thought. For our purposes four or five points are worth cursory mention. There is the notion of harmony (or as we should say integration) as the ethical ideal. As Plato puts it, "to become one out of many." There is the parallel notion of harmony as the political ideal -- the subordination of all elements in the state to the ruling principle or class. There is the metaphysical concept of harmony and number as embodying the essence of things. And lastly there is the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and its imprisonment in the body, with all the ascetic implications of that assumption. For the purposes of this work it is enough to emphasize the direct connection. Socrates at the end of his life was a more or less orthodox Pythagorean. Members of the sect visited him in prison and offered to pay his ransom. It is to Thebes and Megara, strongholds politically and philosophically of the Pythagorean brotherhood, that he would have escaped, had he made the decision to escape and not faced death with resignation.
This very matter of resignation is important in this context. It ties in very well with the doctrine of the "soma-sema," the view that the life of the body is a hindrance to the pure and unsullied activity of the soul. lamblichus (Chapter XXII, V. P.) says of Pythagoras, "If also, when he expected according to appearances [italics ours] to be put to death, he entirely despised this, and was not moved by the expectation of it, it is evident that he was perfectly free from the dread of death." The resemblance between this passage and the mood of the Phaedo and the Apology is so striking that it calls for no further comment. We might merely mention that all the Pythagoreans subscribed to this doctrine.
Now if we think back we are once again struck by the amazing contrast between this almost morbid welcome of death as a liberation, and the rugged self-assertiveness of the earlier materialistic Socrates, struggling to keep his school together and inves- / 63 / tigate the material causes of the things of this world. The Socrates of the Clouds does not regard the gnat's noise or the flea's jump as belonging to the dim world of appearance, or the vortex which banishes Zeus the king, or the Clouds, the sovereign mistresses that bring rain, die very essence of all that is. Again we may recall Xenophon's naive admission that Socrates' early interest in mathematics had been directed to grossly practical ends. This interest bears no relation whatsoever to the number mysticism of the Pythagoreans. It was an interest in functional mathematics, designed for surveying fields and contributing to the practical conduct of a life which to a Pythagorean was sick with the palsy of unreality.
Summarizing the results so far obtained we can begin to perceive the outlines of this particular pilgrim's progress. He appears to us first as a poor man reared under the aegis of Athens' greatest period. He launched his career as a thinker at a time when an artisan would not be despised by the leaders of the emergent democratic party. His early thought was closely related both intellectually and politically with the more vigorous and creative offshoots of this democratic movement, concretely with materialistic and skeptical sophism. Before he was 40, he had undoubtedly been recognized by the intellectual leaders of the age. We may remember the comment of Protagoras and his connection with Anaxagoras. This association with the intellectual and political leaders of the day brought with it attractive social opportunities, and in this period he seems to have held to the centrist position, wavering between the materialism of Archelaus and the nascent idealism that is already implicit in the philosophy of Anaxagoras -- a range of thinking which corresponds to the shades of political opinion comprised within the Periclean democracy. As we follow him through the years of the Peloponnesian War we may observe the marked improvement in his material and social position. It is definite that by 424 he is a close friend of Alcibiades and is enrolled along with his friend in the hoplite census. Sometime between 423 (the production of the Clouds) and 415 (the Symposium) he finally resolves the conflict which has for a decade perplexed / 64 / his mind -- whether he shall continue with Archelaus along the lines of scientific research or follow the dissolving Periclean circle as its most outstanding members are swept slowly but surely to an alliance with the most unbending conservatives. As this conflict resolves itself, Socrates appears as a political conservative, a friend of Alcibiades, Critias, and the other leaders of the discontented nobility, and as a philosophical idealist, closely tied to the Pythagorean school.
Socrates' later life is clouded by the growing suspicion of the demos that he has been too closely implicated in the activities of Alcibiades and his friends, activities which were highly treasonable to the democracy, and which at this time foreshadowed the conspiracies of 411 and 404. The notorious intimacy that had bound Socrates and Alcibiades together since 424, or even earlier, made it quite natural for Athenian citizens to suppose that Socrates might have had something to do with the peculiar behavior of Alcibiades both before and during the Sicilian expedition. The episode of the mutilation of the Hermes seems to have been an incident fraught with historical meaning. It is too often interpreted as the drunken prank of a number of young and fashionable intellectuals, released from every kind of religious allegiance or superstitious belief or from the simple faith of the vulgar; as a thoroughly irresponsible and playful deed. The known facts can be just as well interpreted as a phase of the conflict between religions. The known affinity of Socrates and his circle with the Pythagorean sect makes the latter interpretation seem distinctly possible. Incidentally the current interpretation of such incidents as this is still too much under the influence of the nineteenth century, a period in which the attacks of materialistic science caused all religions to huddle together and treat each other with respect. A writer of the Renaissance would have better understood that a conflict between religions was a conflict between two ways of life, secular as well as transcendent. The furious reaction of the democracy should make us pause before we write the episode off as a capricious and harmless schoolboy prank.
The years that succeeded the Sicilian expedition and its disas- / 65 / trous aftermath were marked by bitter political and social struggle in Athens. More than ever the oligarchical faction revealed its old and traditional willingness to compromise with Sparta as a way of fighting the democrats within. When the popular party endeavored to find a counterbalance by appealing to Persian satraps for assistance, the oligarchs felt strong enough to launch an anti-democratic counterattack. The failure of the Sicilian expedition had had the effect of alienating many followers of the democratic leaders, for there was a widespread feeling that democratic imperialism had overreached itself. The moderate party led by Theramenes put forward the watchword of the "ancestral constitution," the moderate democratic arrangements of Cleisthenes. Such an attempt to put back the historical clock of course could not succeed under the existing conditions of democratic imperialism. The more extreme faction of the right wanted to go even farther and undermine completely the position of the democracy. They were frustrated in this hope by a coalition between the party of Theramenes; and the extreme democrats, the latter group rallying to the standard of the moderate party as the lesser evil. The period from 411 to 404 is one of sharp conflict. The net effect of the year 411 had been a modification of the democratic constitution, but the war still went on and the imperialists of the democratic party still hoped to recoup their losses. We hear little of Socrates during these exciting years but he must have followed the breathless career of his favorite, Alcibiades, with close attention. It was during this stormy period of reactionary conspiracy that the famous military trial of 406 took place, when, following the naval battle of Arginusae, ten generals of the Athenian fleet were accused of abandoning hundreds of their shipwrecked sailors without making any effort to rescue them. By an odd and lucky coincidence we find recorded in this instance the only directly political activity in which Socrates is known to have engaged; for just at this time he was serving his term as one of the prytanes (or board of chairmen).
The affair of the ten generals developed into a very serious issue when it became evident that popular feeling and indignation had risen to a high pitch. The demos thoroughly resented the undem- / 66 / ocratic behavior of the generals, especially their indifference and disregard for the lives of hundreds of citizens. But more than that they must have seen in this event a dangerous kind of sabotage to the strength of the Athenian fleet. Athens, as is obvious, relied for her defense and the protection of her possessions on a large and well-equipped naval armament. Moreover, the sailors on the fleets (the "sea-going, mob," the oligarchs called them) were the strongest element in the democratic force at Athens, and the fleet itself was the strongest defense of Athenian democratic institutions. This comes out most clearly in the account given by Thucydides (VIII 73 ff.) of the part played by the fleet at Samos during the counterrevolution of the "Four Hundred." The classic expression of their situation is given in the pseudo-Xenophontic Constitution of the Athenians. "First then I shall say this, that at Athens it is regarded as just for the poor and the people to have more [power] than the noble and the wealthy; and for this reason that it is the demos which mans the ships and gives power to the city. For the pilots and captains, the lieutenants, the lookout sailors and the ship-builders -- these are the ones who guarantee power to the city; a great deal more so than the hoplites, the nobles and the aristocrats." 19
Thus the unnecessary loss of hundreds of fighting men would be looked upon as a serious blow to Athenian defenses which had already been considerably weakened by the exhausting wars with Sicily and with her own Greek neighbors. It was also an extremely serious blow to Athenian democratic institutions and might be looked upon by the democrats as an ominous precedent if generals who too often betrayed the democracy were allowed to go unpunished after an act which was at best dangerous negligence and might be regarded as criminal sabotage. The anger and alarm of the demos undoubtedly arose as much from the realization that imperial and democratic Athens had lost some essential man power as from the personal tragedy of losing friends and relatives. We, know that Theramenes personally conducted the prosecution and that Callixenus brought in a decree that the generals should be" condemned by the assembly and put to death by a vote of the / 67 / legislative body. It was this proposal that Socrates opposed, appealing to the psephism of Cannonus which provided a separate trial before the dicasteria (law court) in such cases. 20 This incident is usually interpreted as a proof of Socrates' high-mindedness and courage in opposing the irrational frenzy of the democratic mob. It can perhaps be better interpreted as a move in the incredibly complicated political game that was being played by both sides in this hectic period. It was clearly to the interest of the democracy to have the generals tried before a wider and more representative body. It was equally to the interest of the oligarchy to bring them before a smaller jury which would less definitely reflect the conscious democratic policy to arraign the generals in one block and fix them with a collective responsibility. The oligarchs would naturally oppose this on the sound political principle that it would be far less serious and incriminating for individuals to be condemned than for a group to be judged guilty of anti-democratic procedure; for a decision handed down against a clicque had unpleasant implications as far as the aristocratic hetairiai or conspiratorial clubs were concerned. The precedent to them might be highly dangerous. Viewed in this light it seems distinctly probable that Socrates was serving an essential oligarchic interest when he attempted to block the path of the democratic proposals. There is, perhaps, less a devotion to law and order or constitutionality in his action than a loyal piece of factional work.
The final years of Socrates' life witnessed several drastic changes in the internal and foreign situation of Athens. In 405 the Spartan fleet, under the efficient command of Lysander, succeeded in wiping out the Athenian naval force at the battle of Aegospotami. The results of this defeat were absolutely disastrous not only to Athens' imperial position, but to the actual independence and integrity of the city itself. Lysander proceeded to blockade the city and to cut off any possible assistance from the nearby islands which were friendly to the democracy. In Athens the political picture was turbulent and confusing. It was charged by the democratic leaders, and probably with some truth, that the fleet had been sold out by its admirals; that some of those in command had been / 68 / acting in concert with Spartan policy. This accusation, for which there is abundant evidence, 21 sheds great light on the episode of the ten generals which had taken place only a year before. There must have been a deep-seated and not altogether unjustified suspicion on the part of the democracy that men elected to high office, at such a crisis as this, when divisions tended to follow class rather than civic lines, were not altogether to be trusted.
Now on the question of surrender to Sparta a very clear-cut division appeared in Athens. The traditionally pro-Spartan group, mainly oligarchical, favored surrender, and were able to convince many moderates that the position of Athens was hopeless. Against them the loyal, democratic and patriotic group held out for resistance to the end. At this critical juncture Theramenes executed a remarkable piece of political maneuvering. He offered to make a trip to Sparta, evidently posing as a more or less neutral figure, to determine the frame of mind of the Spartan ephors; to find out, as he affirmed, the best possible conditions for an Athenian capitulation. He remained at Sparta "as a companion of Lysander" for three whole months. "It seems to have been the object of Theramenes," says Grote, "by this long delay to wear out the patience of the Athenians, and to bring them into such a state of intolerable suffering that they would submit to any terms of peace which would only bring provisions into the town." 22 Theramenes accomplished his objective. After his return he was almost immediately sent back again to Sparta with instructions to negotiate with the ephors. The terms laid down by Sparta were uncompromising. Not only were the Athenian fortifications of the Piraeus to be destroyed, but arrangements were made by Lysander for the establishment of a thoroughgoing oligarchy.
At this crisis of Athenian and Hellenic affairs, Critias saw fit to return to Athens. Critias, be it remembered, was a pupil of Socrates and a relative of Plato. At one time he had been a young man of democratic sympathies, but unfortunately for his historical reputation, he had fallen under the influence of Socrates. Under his lead there was established in Athens the notorious and bloody reactionary dictatorship of the Thirty, comprising such / 69 / moderates as Theramenes in the center, to Critias on the extreme right.
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