Golden Verses

Nicholas Weeks

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These 71 verses in the Pythagorean tradition have guided many for hundreds of years. Here is a partial outline of a modern translation with Hierocles commentary:

For the sake of an overview I [Herman Schibli] summarize here Hierocles' Commentary
chapter by chapter, indicating the main themes of each [of the 27]:

Proem. Definition of philosophy, divided into the practical and
contemplative. Introduction to the Golden Verses, which unveil the
aim of Pythagorean philosophy.
Chapter I. On piety. The creator-god and the three classes of
rational beings--immortal gods, glorious heroes, and humans--that
merit honour according to their substance. The creative law that
preserves the order and ranking of beings in the cosmos. Piety
manifested not in external sacrifices but in inner purity.
Chapter II. On reverence for the oath as guarantor of divine law
and cosmic order. The divine and human manifestations of the
oath. On the proper use of oaths.
Chapter III. On the honour towards glorious heroes. Definition
of glorious heroes as natural daemons who occupy the median rank
of rational beings .
Chapter IV. On earth-dwelling daemons, defined as knowledgeable
and virtuous human beings who are daemons by relation,
insofar as they resemble the daemonic class. We honour these
outstanding human beings by following their way of life.
Chapter V. On the honour towards parents and kin. On caring for
one's parents. Divine law takes precedence when parents are not virtuous.
Chapter VI. On voluntary friendship. Whereas parents are
honoured by reason of natural ties, friends are to be sought for
the sake of a partnership in the virtues.
Chapter VII. On behaviour towards friends. Friendship is to be
maintained with all forbearance as long as a partnership in virtue is
possible or a lost friend is able to be recalled to virtue. Human
kindness extended to all men, but friendship only to the good.
Chapter VIII. On controlling the irrational soul. On the conflicts
arising from its spirited and desiderative parts. The irrational and
affective faculties must be habituated to obey reason.
Chapter IX. On avoiding shameful deeds, both when alone and in
company. Self-knowledge (i.e. respect of oneself as a rational
substance) and conscience act as guardians against shameful practices.