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Damon and Pythias


The story of Damon (/ˈdmən/; Greek: Δάμων, gen. Δάμωνος) and Pythias (/ˈpɪθəs/; Πυθίας or Φιντίας; or Phintias, /ˈfɪntiəs/) is a legend in Greek historic writings illustrating the Pythagorean ideal of friendship. Pythias is accused of and charged with plotting against the tyrannical Dionysius I of Syracuse. Pythias requests of Dionysius to be allowed to settle his affairs on the condition that his friend, Damon, be held hostage and, should he, Pythias, not return, be executed in his stead. When Pythias returns, Dionysius, amazed by the love and trust in their friendship, frees them both.

Contents

Greek legend


As told by Aristoxenus, and after him Cicero (De Offic. 3.45), Diodorus Siculus (10.4), and others, Pythias and his friend Damon, both followers of the philosopher Pythagoras, traveled to Syracuse during the reign of the tyrannical Dionysius I (r. 405–367 BC). Pythias was accused of plotting against the tyrant and sentenced to death.

Accepting his sentence, Pythias asked to be allowed to return home one last time to settle his affairs and bid his family farewell. Not wanting to be taken for a fool, the king refused, believing that, once released, Pythias would flee and never return. Damon offered himself as a hostage in Pythias' absence, and when the king insisted that, should Pythias not return by an appointed time, Damon would be executed in his stead, Damon agreed and Pythias was released.

Dionysius was convinced that Pythias would never return, and as the day Pythias promised to return came and went, he called for Damon's execution—but just as the executioner was about to kill Damon, Pythias returned.

Apologizing to his friend for the delay, Pythias explained that on the passage back to Syracuse pirates had captured his ship and thrown him overboard, but that he swam to shore and made his way back to Syracuse as quickly as possible, arriving just in time to save his friend.

So astonished by and pleased with their friendship, Dionysius pardoned both men. It was also said that the tyrant then sought to become their third friend, but was denied.

Another version says that it was a test planned by Dionysius and his courtiers. The Pythagoreans were renowned for their moral strength and superiority, but some Syracusan courtiers argued the claim was false, and others disagreed, so with their king they devised a test—a crisis that would show whether two Pythagoreans lived up to that reputation.[1]

Works based on the legend


Idiomatic use


"Damon and Pythias" came to be an idiomatic expression for "true friendship."

...said Utterson. “I thought you had a common bond of interest.”

“We had,” was the reply. “But it is more than ten years since Henry Jekyll became too fanciful for me. He began to go wrong, wrong in the mind… Such unscientific balderdash,” said the doctor, flushing suddenly purple, “would have estranged Damon and Pythias.”

This little spirit of temper was somewhat of a relief to Mr. Utterson. “They have only differed on some point of science,” he thought…

References


  1. ^ Ferguson, Kitty (2008). Pythagoras His Lives and the Legacy of a Rational Universe. Walker. p. 119.
  2. ^ (in German) Die Bürgschaft – Wikisource . De.wikisource.org. Retrieved on 2012-02-16.
  3. ^ Terhune, Albert Payson (1915). The Story of Damon and Pythias . Grosset and Dunlap Publishers.
  4. ^ Damon and Pythias (1914) on IMDb
  5. ^ "Bummer and Lazarus/The Damon and Pythias of San Francisco" . 1865. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  6. ^ Books: Great American Fighter Pilots of World War II by Robert D. Loomis, page 180, Landmark books, copyright 1961, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 61-7780










Categories: 4th-century BC philosophers | Greek mythology | Pythagoreans




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