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Inner Purity and Pollution in Greek ReligionVolume I: Early Greek Religion$
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Andrej Petrovic and Ivana Petrovic

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198768043

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198768043.001.0001

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Pythagoras on Purity of Soul and Sacrificial Ritual

Pythagoras on Purity of Soul and Sacrificial Ritual

(p.55) 2 Pythagoras on Purity of Soul and Sacrificial Ritual
Inner Purity and Pollution in Greek Religion

Andrej Petrovic

Ivana Petrovic

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 discusses Pythagoras, c. 570–495 bc. The transmitted symbola which articulate the rules of conduct for the ‘Pythagorean way of life’ include numerous instructions concerning the performance of religious rituals. Obtaining and preserving purity occupy a prominent place in the extant symbola. Diodorus Siculus testifies that Pythagoras requested that those performing sacrifices should approach the gods not only wearing pure and bright garments and having a body free of pollution (potentially incurred through ‘unjust deeds’ by which, we argue, illicit sexual intercourse, murder, and dietary transgressions are meant), but also with a ‘ritually pure soul’ (10.9.6). We discuss Pythagoras’ attitudes towards the soul and propose that such state of the soul is probably acquired through a specific kind of prayer combined with periods of contemplative silence. On the basis of other symbola and Pythagoras’ views on metempsychosis, we argue that Diodorus transmits an idea which can genuinely be attributed to Pythagoras.

Keywords:   Pythagoras, symbola, purity of soul, psyche, purity of body, sacrifice, prayer, Zaleucus

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