Page:The fairy tales of science.djvu/325

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transmigration of souls taught by Pythagoras[1] in the sixth century B.C., the souls of the departed were made to drink the waters of Lethe, when quitting the infernal regions to return to the surface of the earth to animate new bodies there.

Pluto, the supreme lord and ruler over this subterranean realm, sat here enthroned in gloomy majesty, on a seat of ebony, a crown of the same wood encircling his "portentous brow," and a two-pronged sceptre in his right hand. On voyages of inspection through his dominions, he rode in a chariot of dark hue, drawn by four jet-black steeds. No temples nor altars were ever raised to him by man; no hymns ever chanted in his praise; and strange enough, from some tacit understanding among the learned of all nations, evidently dictated by some universal mysterious intuitive sense of the "fitness of things," the starry heavens are, even to the present day, left without a representative of his name. Yet was he acknowledged to be a powerful god, and trembling man would not dare to withhold from him the propitiatory sacrifice: the blood

  1. Pythagoras travelled through Egypt, Central Asia, and Hindostan in search of knowledge. On his return he opened a school of philosophy in Lower Italy, about the time of Servius Tullius or of Tarquinius Superbus. He believed in the transmigration of souls, and affirmed that he could distinctly remember several previous existences of his own. His scholars yielded him the most implicit faith, and thought it sufficient to reply to a controverting argument, "himself has said it."