Political fragments of Archytas and other ancient Pythagoreans/On fraternal love

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Ethical fragments of Hierocles, preserved by Stobaeus by Hierocles, translated by Thomas Taylor
On fraternal love

From Political fragments of Archytas and other ancient Pythagoreans, by Thomas Taylor, published 1822. In Taylor's day it was assumed that these works were by the 5th-century Pythagorean author Hierocles of Alexandria. They are now assigned to the 2nd-century Stoic philosopher Hierocles.

On fraternal love[edit]

THE first admonition, therefore, is very clear, easily obtained, and is common to all men. For it is a sane assertion, which every man will consider as evident. And it is this: Act by every one, in the same manner as if you supposed yourself to be him, and him to be you.[1] For he will use a servant well who considers with himself, how he would think it proper to be used by him, if he indeed was the master, and himself the servant. The same thing also must be said of parents with respect to children, and of children with respect to parents; and, in short, of all men with respect to all. This admonition, however, is transcendently adapted to the alliance of brothers to each other; since nothing else is necessary for him to admit previously, who considers how he ought to conduct himself towards his brother, than promptly to assume the natural sameness of the person of each of them. This, therefore, is the first admonition, that a man should act towards his brother in the same way in which he would think it proper that his brother should act towards him. But, by Jupiter, some one may say, I do not exceed propriety in my manners and am equitable, but my brother's manners are rough and without affability. Such a one, however, does not speak rightly. For, in the first place, perhaps he does not speak the truth; since an excessive love of self is sufficient [to induce a man] to magnify and extol what pertains to himself, but to diminish and vilify what pertains to others. Frequently, therefore, men of inferior worth, prefer themselves to others who are far more excellent characters. And, in the next place, though the brother should be in reality such a person [as above described], I should say, prove yourself to be a better man than he is, and you will vanquish his rusticity by your beneficence. For no great thanks are due to those who conduct themselves moderately towards worthy and benignant men; but to render him more mild who is stupid, and whose manners are rough, is the work of a man [properly so called], and deserves great applause. Nor is it at all impossible for the exhortation to take effect. For in men of the most absurd manners, there are the seeds of a mutation to a better condition, and of honour and love for their benefactors. For are not even savage animals, and such as are naturally most hostile to our race, and who are taken away by violence, and at first are detained by chains, and confined in iron cages,—are not these afterwards rendered mild by a certain mode of treatment, and by daily supplying them with food? And will not the man who is a brother, or even any casual person, who deserves attention in a much greater degree than a brute, be changed to milder manners by proper treatment, though he should not entirely forsake his rusticity? In our behaviour, therefore, towards every man, and in a much greater degree towards a brother, we should imitate the reply of Socrates to one who said to him, "May I die unless I am revenged on you." For his answer was, "May I die, if I do not make yon my friend." And thus much concerning these particulars.

In the next place, a man should consider that after a manner his brothers are parts of him, just as my eyes are parts of me; and likewise my legs, my hands, and the remaining members of my body. For brothers have the same relation to a family considered as one thing [as the parts to the whole of the body]. As, therefore, the eyes and the hands, if each of them should receive a peculiar soul and intellect, would, by every possible contrivance, pay a guardian attention to the remaining parts of the body, on account of the beforementioned communion, because they could not perform their proper office well without the presence of the other members; thus also it is requisite that we who are men, and who acknowledge that we have a soul, should omit no offices which it becomes us to perform to our brothers. For again, brothers are more naturally adapted to assist each other, than are the parts of the body. For the eyes, indeed, being present with each other, see what is before them, and one hand cooperates with the other which is present; but the mutual works of brothers are, in a certain respect, much more multifarious. For they perform things which are profitable in common, though they should be at the greatest distance from each other; and they greatly benefit each other, though the interval which separates them should be immeasurable. In short, it must be considered, that our life appears to be a certain long war continued to the extent of many years; and this partly through the nature of the things themselves which possess a certain opposition; and partly through the sudden and unexpected occurrences of fortune; but most of all through vice itself, which neither abstains from any violence, nor from any fraud and evil stratagems. Hence nature, as not being ignorant of the purpose for which she generated us, produced each of us accompanied, after a certain manner, by an auxiliary. No one, therefore, is alone, nor does he derive his origin from an oak or a rock, but from parents, and in conjunction with brothers, and kindred, and other familiars. But reason affords us great assistance, conciliating to us strangers, and those who have no connection with us by blood, and procuring for us an abundance of auxiliars. On this account we naturally endeavour to allure and make every one our friend. Hence it is a thing perfectly insane to wish to be united to those who have not any thing from nature which is capable of procuring our love, and voluntarily to become familiar with them in the most extended degree; and yet neglect those prompt auxiliars and associates which are supplied by nature herself, such as brothers happen to be.


  1. The following extract from Sir William Jones, as given by Moor in his Hindu Pantheon, p. 421, demonstrates the great antiquity of this precept:

    "Our divine religion has no need of such aids as many are willing to give it; by asserting that the wisest men of this world were ignorant of the two great maxims that we must act in respect of others as we should wish them to act in respect of ourselves and that, instead of returning evil for evil, we should confer benefits on those who injure us. But the first rule is implied in a speech of Lysias, and expressed in distinct phrases by Thales and Pittacus; and I have even seen it word for word, in the original of Confucius, which I carefully compared with the Latin translation. If the conversion, therefore, of the Pandits and Maulavis, in India, shall ever be attempted by protestant missionaries, they must beware of asserting, while they teach the gospel, what those Pandits and Maulavis would know to be false. The former would cite the beautiful Arya couplet, which was written at least three centuries before our era, and which pronounce the duty of a good man, even in the moment of destruction, to consist, not only in forgiving, but even in a desire of benefiting his destroyer as the sandal tree, in the instant of its overthrow, sheds perfume on the axe which fells it. And the latter would triumph, in repeating the verse of SADI, who represents a return of good for good as a slight reciprocity; but says to the virtuous man, Confer benefits on him who has injured thee? using an Arabic sentence, and a maxim apparently of the ancient Arabs. Nor would the Mussulmans fail to recite four distichs of Hafiz, who has illustrated that maxim, with fanciful but elegant allusions:

    "Learn from yon orient shell to love thy foe,
    And store with pearls the hand that brings thee woe:
    Free, like yon rock, from base vindictive pride,
    Emblaze with gems the wrist that rends thy side.
    Mark where yon tree rewards the stony shower
    With fruit nectarious, or the balmy flower:
    All nature calls aloud-- 'Shall man do less
    Than heal the smiter, and the railer bless?'"
     -- As. Res. Vol. IV.