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Ovid XV Chapter 2: 60-142 Pythagoras' Teachings: Vegetarianism
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|There was a man here, Pythagoras, a Samian by birth, who had fled Samos and its rulers, and, hating their tyranny, was living in voluntary exile. Though the gods were far away, he visited their region of the sky, in his mind, and what nature denied to human vision he enjoyed with his inner eye. When he had considered every subject through concentrated thought, he communicated it widely in public teaching the silent crowds, who listened in wonder to his words, concerning the origin of the vast universe, and of the causes of things; and what the physical world is; what the gods are; where the snows arise; what the origin of lightning is; whether Jupiter, or the storm-winds, thunder from colliding clouds; what shakes the earth; by what laws the stars move; and whatever else is hidden; and he was the first to denounce the serving of animal flesh at table; the first voice, wise but not believed in, to say, for example, in words like these : 'Human beings, stop desecrating your bodies with impious foodstuffs. There are crops; there are apples weighing down the branches; and ripening grapes on the vines; there are flavoursome herbs; and those that can be rendered mild and gentle over the flames; and you do not lack flowing milk; or honey fragrant from the flowering thyme. The earth, prodigal of its wealth, supplies you with gentle sustenance, and offers you food without killing or shedding blood. Flesh satisfies the wild beast's hunger, though not all of them, since horses, sheep and cattle live on grasses, but those that are wild and savage: Armenian tigers, raging lions, and wolves and bears, enjoy food wet with blood. Oh, how wrong it is for flesh to be made from flesh; for a greedy body to fatten, by swallowing another body; for one creature to live by the death of another creature! So amongst such riches, that earth, the greatest of mothers, yields, you are not happy unless you tear, with cruel teeth, at pitiful wounds, recalling Cyclops's practice, and you cannot satisfy your voracious appetite, and your restless hunger, unless you destroy other life! But that former age, that we call golden, was happy with the fruit from the trees, and the herbs the earth produced, and did not defile its lips with blood. Then birds winged their way through the air in safety, and hares wandered, unafraid, among the fields, and its own gullibility did not hook the fish: all was free from trickery, and fearless of any guile, and filled with peace. But once someone, whoever he was, the author of something unfitting, envied the lion's prey, and stuffed his greedy belly with fleshy food, he paved the way for crime. It may be that, from the first, weapons were warm and bloodstained from the killing of wild beasts, but that would have been enough: I admit that creatures that seek our destruction may be killed without it being a sin, but while they may be killed, they still should not be eaten. From that, the wickedness spread further, and it is thought that the pig was first considered to merit slaughter because it rooted up the seeds with its broad snout, and destroyed all hope of harvest. The goat was led to death, at the avenging altar, for browsing the vines of Bacchus. These two suffered for their crimes! What did you sheep do, tranquil flocks, born to serve man, who bring us sweet milk in full udders, who give us your wool to make soft clothing, who give us more by your life than you grant us by dying? What have the oxen done, without guile or deceit, harmless, simple, born to endure labour? He is truly thankless, and not worthy of the gift of corn, who could, in a moment, remove the weight of the curved plough, and kill his labourer, striking that work-worn neck with his axe, that has helped turn the hard earth as many times as the earth yielded harvest. It is not enough to have committed such wickedness: they involve the gods in crime, and believe that the gods above delight in the slaughter of suffering oxen! A victim of outstanding beauty, and without blemish (since to be pleasing is harmful), distinguished by sacrificial ribbons and gold, is positioned in front of the altar, and listens, unknowingly, to the prayers, and sees the corn it has laboured to produce, scattered between its horns, and, struck down, stains with blood those knives that it has already caught sight of perhaps, reflected in the clear water. Immediately they inspect the lungs, ripped from the still-living chest, and from them find out the will of the gods. On this (so great is man's hunger for forbidden food) you feed, O human race! Do not, I beg you, and concentrate your minds on my admonitions! When you place the flesh of slaughtered cattle in your mouths, know and feel, that you are devouring your fellow-creature.'||
Vir fuit hic ortu Samius, sed fugerat una |
et Samon et dominos odioque tyrannidis exul
sponte erat isque licet caeli regione remotos
mente deos adiit et, quae natura negabat
visibus humanis, oculis ea pectoris hausit,
cumque animo et vigili perspexerat omnia cura,
in medium discenda dabat coetusque silentum
dictaque mirantum magni primordia mundi
et rerum causas et, quid natura, docebat,
quid deus, unde nives, quae fulminis esset origo,
Iuppiter an venti discussa nube tonarent,
quid quateret terras, qua sidera lege mearent,
et quodcumque latet, primusque animalia mensis
arguit inponi, primus quoque talibus ora
docta quidem solvit, sed non et credita, verbis:
'Parcite, mortales, dapibus temerare nefandis
corpora! sunt fruges, sunt deducentia ramos
pondere poma suo tumidaeque in vitibus uvae,
sunt herbae dulces, sunt quae mitescere flamma
mollirique queant; nec vobis lacteus umor
eripitur, nec mella thymi redolentia florem:
prodiga divitias alimentaque mitia tellus
suggerit atque epulas sine caede et sanguine praebet.
carne ferae sedant ieiunia, nec tamen omnes:
quippe equus et pecudes armentaque gramine vivunt;
at quibus ingenium est inmansuetumque ferumque,
Armeniae tigres iracundique leones
cumque lupis ursi, dapibus cum sanguine gaudent.
heu quantum scelus est in viscera viscera condi
ingestoque avidum pinguescere corpore corpus
alteriusque animans animantis vivere leto!
scilicet in tantis opibus, quas, optima matrum,
terra parit, nil te nisi tristia mandere saevo
vulnera dente iuvat ritusque referre Cyclopum,
nec, nisi perdideris alium, placare voracis
et male morati poteris ieiunia ventris!
'At vetus illa aetas, cui fecimus aurea nomen,
fetibus arboreis et, quas humus educat, herbis
fortunata fuit nec polluit ora cruore.
tunc et aves tutae movere per aera pennas,
et lepus inpavidus mediis erravit in arvis,
nec sua credulitas piscem suspenderat hamo:
cuncta sine insidiis nullamque timentia fraudem
plenaque pacis erant. postquam non utilis auctor
victibus invidit, quisquis fuit ille, leonum
corporeasque dapes avidum demersit in alvum,
fecit iter sceleri, primoque e caede ferarum
incaluisse potest maculatum sanguine ferrum
(idque satis fuerat) nostrumque petentia letum
corpora missa neci salva pietate fatemur:
sed quam danda neci, tam non epulanda fuerunt.
'Longius inde nefas abiit, et prima putatur
hostia sus meruisse mori, quia semina pando
eruerit rostro spemque interceperit anni;
vite caper morsa Bacchi mactandus ad aras
ducitur ultoris: nocuit sua culpa duobus!
quid meruistis oves, placidum pecus inque tuendos
natum homines, pleno quae fertis in ubere nectar,
mollia quae nobis vestras velamina lanas
praebetis vitaque magis quam morte iuvatis?
quid meruere boves, animal sine fraude dolisque,
innocuum, simplex, natum tolerare labores?
inmemor est demum nec frugum munere dignus,
qui potuit curvi dempto modo pondere aratri
ruricolam mactare suum, qui trita labore
illa, quibus totiens durum renovaverat arvum,
quot dederat messes, percussit colla securi.
nec satis est, quod tale nefas committitur: ipsos
inscripsere deos sceleri numenque supernum
caede laboriferi credunt gaudere iuvenci!
victima labe carens et praestantissima forma
(nam placuisse nocet) vittis insignis et auro
sistitur ante aras auditque ignara precantem
inponique suae videt inter cornua fronti,
quas coluit, fruges percussaque sanguine cultros
inficit in liquida praevisos forsitan unda.
protinus ereptas viventi pectore fibras
inspiciunt mentesque deum scrutantur in illis;
inde (fames homini vetitorum tanta ciborum)
audetis vesci, genus o mortale! quod, oro,
ne facite, et monitis animos advertite nostris!
cumque boum dabitis caesorum membra palato,
mandere vos vestros scite et sentite colonos.