Tracking Inside the Self: Aesara the Pythagorean

Aesara [consulted this spanish translation by J. P. Bermúdez]

The work of Aisara of Sparta the Pythagorean about the nature of human kind

“Human nature seems to me to be a model for law and justice for home and the city alike. For one who searches the tracks inside themselves might discover and interpret this within: for law and justice, which is the guiding principle of the soul, are inside us. Because our nature is threefold, it supports three types of operations: our intelligence [noos] guides judgment and wisdom; our passion [thumôsis] directs bravery and impulse; and our desire shapes our attractions and affection. These forces are situated in relation to each other in such a way that the most powerful controls them, and the weakest is controlled. The intermediate power has a middle position, to exercise control and to be controlled in turn.

God shaped these traits in such a way and distributed them too along the model of the human body because he believes that the human alone—and none of the other mortal animals—is amenable to law and justice. For the state of any community could not even develop from one thing only, much less many, and those similar to each other—since it is necessary, when materials are different, for the parts of our souls to be different too, just as in the parts of the body when it comes to the instruments of touch, sight, taste, smell, they do not have the same harmony in respect to all things—nor could a common state come from multiple things which are unrelated but just happen to come into contact, but instead [it comes] from parts which have obtained some completeness in their whole arrangement, their composition, and their harmony together. Not only do multiple unrelated things happen to find a whole and complete form but these elements also may brought together in a random way however they happened to come together, and yet are still governed by some law and a kind of wisdom.

If each of the elements takes the same part of power and honor, even though they are unlike and one is worse and one is better and one is in the middle, they are not able of bringing the parts of the soul into harmony. If they are unequal, and the best does not control the greater portion of the soul, but the worse does, then there is great imprudence and disorder in the mind. If the better takes the greater portion and the worse takes the less, but they are not each distributed according to a logical balance, then harmony and love and justice are not able to exist in the mind, since when each one of them is distributed according to a proportional order, that’s the structure I think is most just.

A certain kind of unanimity and similarity of outlook accompanies this kind of composition. This would be rightly said to be a good government of the soul which brings the strength of virtue from the better ruling and the worse being ruled. Friendship and attraction and affection for one’s own kind and family also grow from these parts. For the mind persuades, since it can see consequences; desire longs for things; and passion, when full of energy, seethes with hate and becomes dear to desire. The mind, because it can harmonize pleasure and pain, also balances out the tense and eager portion of the soul with the light and dissolute part.

Each part is apportioned according to the family and state of each trait. The mind sees consequences and keeps track of affairs while the passion provides impulse and courage for what has been anticipated and desire, which is related to tender affection, harmonizes with the mind, taking what is pleasurable and providing a reflection on it to the reflective portion of the mind. Human life seems to me to be best with a mixture of these things, when the pleasurable is mixed with the serious and pleasure is mixed with virtue. The mind is able to harmonize these things, once it has come to love learning and virtue.”

Αἰσάρας Πυθαγορείου Λευκανᾶς ἐκ τοῦ Περὶ ἀνθρώπω φύσιος (Fr. phil. Gr. II p. 51 Mull.) :

Φύσις ἀνθρώπω κανών μοι δοκέει νόμω τε καὶ δίκας ἦμεν καὶ οἴκω τε καὶ πόλιος. Ἴχνια γὰρ ἐν αὑτῷ στιβαζόμενος εὕροιτό κά τις καὶ μαστευόμενος· νόμος γὰρ ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ δίκα ἁ τᾶς ψυχᾶς ἐστι διακόσμασις. Τριχθαδία γὰρ ὑπάρχοισα ἐπὶ τριχθαδίοις ἔργοις συνέστακε· γνώμαν καὶ φρόνασιν ἐργαζόμενος <ὁ νόος> καὶ ἀλκὰν καὶ <ὁρμὰν ἁ> θύμωσις καὶ ἔρωτα καὶ φιλοφροσύναν ἁ ἐπιθυμία. Καὶ οὕτω συντέτακται ταῦτα ποτ’ ἄλλαλα πάντα, ὥστε αὐτᾶς τὸ μὲν κράτιστον ἀγέεσθαι, τὸ δὲ χέρειον ἄρχεσθαι, τὸ δὲ μέσον μέσαν ἐπέχεν τάξιν, καὶ ἄρχεν καὶ ἄρχεσθαι.

Ταῦτα δ’ οὕτως ἐμάσατο κατὰ λόγον ὁ θεὸς ἔν τε ἐκτυπώσι καὶ ἐξεργασίᾳ τῶ ἀνθρωπίνω σκάνεος, ὅτι μόνον ἄνθρωπον ἐνοάσατο νόμω τε καὶ δίκας ἐπιδέκτορα γενέσθαι καὶ οὐδὲν ἄλλο τῶν θνατῶν ζῴων. Οὔτε <γὰρ> ἐξ ἑνὸς σύσταμα κοινανίας γένοιτό κα, οὔτε μὰν ἐκ πλειόνων, ὁμοίων δὲ τούτων (ἀνάγκα γάρ, ἐπεὶ τὰ πράγματα διαφέροντά ἐντι, καὶ τὰς ἐν ἁμῖν μοίρας τᾶς ψυχᾶς διαφόρως ἦμεν, ὥσπερ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶ σώματος <ἅψιος ὄργανα καὶ> ὁράσιος καὶ ἀκοᾶς καὶ γεύσιος καὶ ὀσφράσιος, οὐ γὰρ πάντα ποτὶ πάντα τὰν αὐτὰν ἔχει συναρμογάν), οὔτε μὰν ἐκ πλειόνων μὲν καὶ ἀνομοίων, τῶν τυχόντων μέντοι γε, ἀλλὰ τῶν ποττὰν τῶ ὅλω συστάματος ἐκπλάρωσιν καὶ σύνταξιν καὶ συναρμογὰν τευχθέντων· οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐκ πλειόνων καὶ ἀνομοίων καὶ τῶν ἐς τὸ ὅλον καὶ τέλεον τευχθέντων, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτῶν τούτων οὐκ εἰκαίως καὶ ὡς ἔτυχε συνταχθέντων, ἀλλὰ μετά τινος νόμω καὶ ἔμφρονος ἐπιστασίας.

Αἴ τε γὰρ τὰν ἴσαν ἐφέρετο μοῖραν καὶ δυνάμιος καὶ τιμᾶς, ἀνόμοια ἐόντα καὶ τὰ μὲν χερείονα τὰ δὲ κάρρονα τὰ δὲ μέσα, οὔ κα ἐδύνατο ἁ κατὰ ψυχὰν τῶν μερέων κοινανία συναρμοσθῆμεν· αἴ τε ἀνίσας, μὴ τὰ κάρρονα δὲ τὰν μείζονα μοῖραν ἐφέρετο, ἀλλὰ τὰ χερείονα, πολλά <κα> ἀφροσύνα καὶ ἀταξία περὶ τὰν ψυχὰν ὑπᾶρχεν· αἴ τε τὰ κάρρονα μὲν τὰν μείζονα, τὰ χερείονα δὲ τὰν μείονα, μὴ ποτὶ λόγον δὲ ἕκαστον τούτων, οὔ κα ἐδύνατο ὁμόνοια καὶ φιλία καὶ δικαιότας ἦμεν περὶ τὰν ψυχάν, ἐπεὶ ὧ ἕκαστον ἓν ποτὶ λόγον συντέτακται τὸν ἁρμόσδοντα, τὸ τοιοῦτον φαμὶ ἐγὼ δικαιότατα ἦμεν.

Καὶ μὰν ὁμόνοιά τις καὶ ὁμοφροσύνα ὀπαδέει τᾷ τοιαύτᾳ διατάξι. Τὸ δὲ τοιοῦτον δικαίως κα λέγοιτο εὐνομία ἦμεν τᾶς ψυχᾶς, ἅτις ἐκ τῶ ἄρχεν μὲν τὸ κάρρον, ἄρχεσθαι δὲ τὸ χέρειον κράτος ἐπιφέροιτο τᾶς ἀρετᾶς. Καὶ φιλία δὲ καὶ ἔρως καὶ φιλοφροσύνα σύμφυλος καὶ συγγενὴς ἐκ τούτων ἐξεβλάστασε τῶν μερέων. Συμπείθει μὲν γὰρ ὁ νόος ὁραυγούμενος, ἔραται δὲ ἁ ἐπιθυμία, ἁ δὲ θύμωσις ἐμπιπλαμένα μένεος, ἔχθρᾳ ζέοισα φίλα γίνεται τᾷ ἐπιθυμίᾳ. Ἁρμόξας γὰρ ὁ νόος τὸ ἁδὺ τῷ λυπηρῷ συγκατακρεόμενος καὶ τὸ σύντονον καὶ σφοδρὸν τῷ κούφῳ μέρει τᾶς ψυχᾶς καὶ διαχυτικῷ· ἕκαστόν τε ἑκάστω πράγματος τὰν σύμφυλον καὶ συγγενέα προμάθειαν διαμεμέρισται, ὁ μὲν νόος ὁραυγούμενος καὶ στιβαζόμενος τὰ πράγματα, ἁ δὲ θύμωσις ὁρμὰν καὶ ἀλκὰν ποτιφερομένα τοῖς ὁραυγαθεῖσιν· ἁ δὲ ἐπιθυμία φιλοστοργίᾳ συγγενὴς ἐᾶσα ἐφαρμόσδει τῷ νόῳ ἴδιον περιποιουμένα τὸ ἁδὺ καὶ τὸ σύννοον ἀποδιδοῖσα τῷ συννόῳ μέρει τᾶς ψυχᾶς. Ὧνπερ ἕκατι δοκέει μοι καὶ ὁ βίος ὁ κατ’ ἀνθρώπως ἄριστος ἦμεν, ὅκκα τὸ ἁδὺ τῷ σπουδαίῳ συγκατακραθῇ καὶ <ἁ> ἁδονὰ τᾷ ἀρετᾷ. Ποθαρμόξασθαι δ’ αὐτὰ ὁ νόος δύναται, παιδεύσιος καὶ ἀρετᾶς ἐπήρατος γενόμενος.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Allegory of the Good Government (detail) - cropped.jpg
From the Allegory of Good Government in Siena by Ambrogio Lorenzetti

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