For links to many more fragments: The Orphic Fragments of Otto Kern.

SUMMARY: This testimony, from The Life of Pythagoras by Iamblichus, discusses the influence of Orpheus on the thought, practices, and writings of Pythagoras, and even suggests that Pythagoras may have written the Sacred Logos.


Ιαμβλίχου Χαλκιδέως περί βίου Πυθαγορικού λόγος 28, 146. 147; source: Johann August Nauck Iamblichi De Vita Pythagorica Liber p. 106, 1; from Androkýdîs (Ἀνδροκύδης) (Wilhelm Bertermann De Iamblichi vitae Pythagoricae fontibus, dissertation, published by Regimonti 1913, 29. 32):

πόθεν δὴ οὖν τὴν τοσαύτην εὐσέβειαν παρέλαβον οὗτοι οἱ ἄνδρες, εἴ τις βούλοιτο μαθεῖν, ῥητέον ὡς τῆς Πυθαγορικῆς κατ' ἀριθμὸν θεολογίας παράδειγμα ἐναργὲς ἔκειτο παρὰ Ὀρφεῖ. οὐκέτι δὴ οὖν ἀμφίβολον γέγονε τὸ τὰς ἀφορμὰς παρὰ Ὀρφέως λαβόντα Πυθαγόραν συντάξαι τὸν περὶ θεῶν λόγον, ὃν καὶ Ἱερὸν διὰ τοῦτο ἐπέγραψεν, ὡς ἂν ἐκ τοῦ μυστικωτάτου ἀπηνθισμένον παρὰ Ὀρφεῖ τόπου ̶ εἴτε ὄντως τοῦ ἀνδρός, ὡς οἱ πλεῖστοι λέγουσι, σύγγραμμά ἐστιν, εἴτε Τηλαύγους, ὡς ἔνιοι τοῦ διδασκαλείου ἐλλόγιμοι καὶ ἀξιόπιστοι διαβεβαιοῦνται ἐκ τῶν ὑπομνημάτων τῶν Δαμοῖ τῆι θυγατρί, ἀδελφῆι δὲ Τηλαύγους, ἀπολειφθέντων ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ Πυθαγόρου, ἅπερ μετὰ θάνατον ἱστοροῦσι δοθῆναι Βιτάληι τε τῆι Δαμοῦς θυγατρὶ καὶ Τηλαύγειἐνἡλικίαι γενομένωι, υἱῶι μὲν Πυθαγόρου, ἀνδρὶ δὲ τῆς Βιτάλης· κομιδῆι γὰρ νέος ὑπὸ τὸν Πυθαγόρου θάνατον ἀπολελειμμένος ἦν παρὰ Θεανοῖ τῆι μητρί ̶ δηλοῦται δὴ διὰ τοῦ Ἱεροῦ λόγου τούτου ἢ περὶ Θεῶν λόγου, ἐπιγράφεται γὰρ ἀμφότερον, καὶ τίς ἦν ὁ παραδεδωκὼς Πυθαγόραι τὸν περὶ Θεῶν λόγον. λέγει γάρ· |107 N. ‘‹λόγος› ὅδε περὶ θεῶν Πυθαγόρα τῶ Μνημάρχω, τὸν ἐξέμαθον, ὀργιασθεὶς ἐν Λιβήθροις τοῖς Θραικίοις, Ἀγλαοφάμω τελεστᾶ μεταδόντος, ὡς ἄρα Ὀρφεὺς ὁ Καλλιόπας κατὰ τὸ Πάγγαιον ὄρος ὑπὸ τᾶς ματρὸς πινυσθεὶς ἔφα, τὰν ἀριθμῶ οὐσίαν ἀΐδιον εἶναι μὲν ἀρχὰν προμαθεστάταν τῶ παντὸς ὠρανῶ καὶ γᾶς καὶ τᾶς μεταξὺ φύσιος, ἔτι δὲ καὶ θείων καὶ θεῶν καὶ δαιμόνων διαμονᾶς ῥίζαν.’ (147) ἐκ δὴ τούτων φανερὸν γέγονεν ὅτι τὴν ἀριθμῶι ὡρισμένην οὐσίαν τῶν θεῶν παρὰ τῶν Ὀρφικῶν παρέλαβεν. ἐποιεῖτο δὲ διὰ τῶν αὐτῶν ἀριθμῶν καὶ θαυμαστὴν πρόγνωσιν καὶ θεραπείαν τῶν θεῶν κατὰ τοὺς ἀριθμοὺς ὅτι μάλιστα συγγενεστάτην.

“If, therefore, any one wishes to learn what were the sources whence these men derived so much piety, it must be said, that a perspicuous paradigm of the Pythagoric theology according to numbers, is in a certain respect to be found in the writings of Orpheus. Nor is it to be doubted, that Pythagoras receiving auxiliaries from Orpheus, composed his treatise Concerning the Gods, which on this account also he inscribed The Sacred Discourse, because it contains the flower of the most mystical place in Orpheus; whether this work was in reality written by Pythagoras, as by most authors it is said to have been, or as some of the Pythagoric school who are both learned and worthy of belief assert, was composed by Telauges; being taken by him from the commentaries which were left by Pythagoras himself to his daughter Damo, the sister of Telauges, and which it is said after her death were given to Bitale the daughter of Damo, and to Telauges the son of Pythagoras, and the husband of Bitale, when he was of a mature age. For when Pythagoras died, he was left very young with his mother Theano. In this Sacred Discourse also, or treatise Concerning the Gods (for it has both these inscriptions), who it was that delivered to Pythagoras what is there said concerning the Gods, is rendered manifest. For it says:

‘that Pythagoras the son of Mnesarchus was instructed in what pertains to the Gods, when he celebrated orgies in the Thracian Libethra, being initiated in them by Aglaophemus; and that Orpheus the son of Calliope, having learnt wisdom from his mother in the mountain Pangæus, said, that the eternal essence of number is the most providential principle of the universe, of heaven and earth, and the intermediate nature; and farther still, that it is the root of the permanency of divine natures, of Gods and dæmons.’

From these things, therefore, it is evident that he learnt from the Orphic writers that the essence of the Gods is defined by Number. Through the same numbers also, he produced an admirable fore-knowledge and worship of the Gods, both which are especially most allied to numbers.”

(trans. Thomas Taylor, 1818)

Christian Lobeck Aglaophamus I 721; Erwin Rohde Rhein. Mus. XXVII 1872, 46 = Kl. Schr. II 154; Wilhelm Bertermann ll.

249 a. Ιαμβλίχου Χαλκιδέως περί βίου Πυθαγορικού λόγος 28, 151 p. 110, 5 Johann August Nauck:

ὅλως δέ φασὶ Πυθαγόραν ζηλωτὴν γενέσθαι τῆς Ὀρφέως ἑρμηνείας τε καὶ διαθέσεως, καὶ τιμᾶν τοὺς θεοὺς Ὀρφεῖ παραπλησίως, ἱσταμένους αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς ἀγάλμασι καὶ τῶι χαλκῶι, οὐ ταῖς ἡμετέραις συνεζευγμένους μορφαῖς, ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἱδρύμασι τοῖς θείοις, πάντα περιέχοντας καὶ πάντων προνοοῦντας καὶ τῶι παντὶ τὴν φύσιν καὶ τὴν μορφὴν ὁμοίαν ἔχοντας. ἀγγέλλειν δὲ αὐτῶν τοὺς καθαρμοὺς καὶ τὰς λεγομένας τελετάς, τὴν ἀκριβεστάτην εἴδησιν αὐτῶν ἔχοντα. ἔτι δέ φασὶ καὶ σύνθετον αὐτὸν ποιῆσαι τὴν θείαν φιλοσοφίαν καὶ θεραπείαν|111 N. ἃ μὲν μαθόντα παρὰ τῶν Ὀρφικῶν, ἃ δὲ παρὰ Χαλδαίων καὶ μάγων, ἃ δὲ παρὰ τῆς τελετῆς τῆς ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι γινομένης, ἐν Ἴμβρωι τε καὶ Σαμοθράικηι καὶ Δήμνωι, καὶ εἴ τι παρὰ τοῖς κοινοῖς, καὶ περὶ τοὺς Κελτοὺς δὲ καὶ τὴν Ἰβηρίαν. v. nr. 249.

“And, in short, it is said that Pythagoras was emulous (ed. imitative) of the Orphic mode of writing and [piety of] disposition; and that he honored the Gods in a way similar to that of Orpheus, placing them in images and in brass, not conjoined to our forms, but to divine receptacles; because they comprehend and provide for all things; and have a nature and morphe similar to the universe. He also promulgated purifications, and initiations as they are called, which contain the most accurate knowledge of the Gods. And farther still, it is said, that he was the author of a compound divine philosophy and worship of the Gods; having learnt indeed some things from the followers of Orpheus, but others from the Egyptian priests; some from the Chaldæans and Magi; some from the mysteries performed in Eleusis, in (ed. the island of) Imbrus, Samothracia, and Delos; and some also from those which are performed by the Celtæ, and in Iberia.”

(trans. Thomas Taylor, 1818)

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

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We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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