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311415.  Sun Apr 06, 2008 8:15 am Reply with quote

In reference to cheese dreams; Pythagoras taught that one should refrain from eating fava beans:

"if one abstains from them, one's stomach will be less noisy, and one's dreams will be less oppressive and calmer"

s: WCC


311452.  Sun Apr 06, 2008 9:18 am Reply with quote

Hannibal Lecter take note!

311689.  Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:45 pm Reply with quote

Where's that quote from, eggshaped? The classical source, I mean (what with the lad himself having inconveniently not written anything himself); it's inconveniently not in my Pythagoras (and other loonies) book.

A quote about Pythag and beans I do have is the following, which is, in fact, Diogenes Laertius (later Roman-ish) quoting a lost work of Aristotle:

Pythagoras enjoined abstention from beans either because they are like the privy parts, or because they are like the gates of Hades (for this is the only plant that has no joints), or because they are destructive, or because they are like the nature of the universe, or because they are oligarchical (being used in the choice of rulers by lot).

Nothing like good decisive analysis. How they resemble the universe, what jointlessness has to do with Hades, and what was wrong with Aristotle's privy parts may bear further investigation.

311694.  Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:54 pm Reply with quote

The Orphics, with whom there are various Pythagorean links, also shunned the bean (Orphica fragment 291):

Eating fava beans and gnawing on the heads of one's parents are one and the same.

Pythagoreans' devotion to the anti bean cause is demonstrated by the following story, taken from Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras (chapter 31), although one probably ought to take it with a pinch of salt, as with much that is Pythagorean:

So (the Pythagoreans) would have escaped, and their pursuit would have been given up by Eurymene's soldiers, who were heavily armed, had their flight not led them up against a field sewn with beans, which were already flowering. Unwilling to violate their principle not to touch beans, they stood still, and driven to desperation turned, and attacked their pursuers with stones and sticks, and what ever they found at hand, till they had wounded many, and slain some. But [numbers told and] all the Pythagoreans were slain by the spearmen, as none of them would suffer himself to be taken captive, preferring death, according to the Pythagorean teachings.

Aristotle wasn't the only one unsure as to why this was so important; Iamblichus goes on to say that:

As Eurymenes and his soldiers had been sent for the express purpose of taking some of the Pythagoreans alive to Dionysius, they were much crest-fallen; and... turned homewards. But as they were returning they met two of the Pythagoreans who had lagged behind, Myllias the Crotian and his Lacedaemonian wife Timycha, who had not been able to keep up with the others, being in the sixth month of pregnancy. These therefore the soldiers gladly made captive, and led to the tyrant with every precaution, so as to ensure their arrival alive. On learning what had happened, the tyrant was very much disheartened, and said to the two Pythagoreans, "You shall obtain from me honors of unusual dignity if you shall be willing to reign in partnership with me." All his offers, however, were by Myllias and Timycha rejected. Then said he, "I will release you with a safe-guard if you will tell me one thing only." On Myllias asking what he wished to learn, Dionysius replied: "Tell me why your companions chose to die rather than tread on beans?" But Myllias at once answered, "My companions did indeed prefer death to treading on beans; but I had rather do that than tell you the reason." Astonished at his answer, Dionysius ordered him forcibly removed, and Timycha tortured, for he thought that a pregnant woman, deprived of her husband, would weaken before the torments, and easily tell him all he wanted to know. The heroic woman, however, with her teeth bit her tongue until it was separated, and spat it out at the tyrant, thus demonstrating that the offending member should be entirely cut off, even if her female nature, vanquished by the torments, should be compelled to disclose something that should be reserved in silence.

Last edited by 96aelw on Sun Apr 06, 2008 7:04 pm; edited 1 time in total

311695.  Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:56 pm Reply with quote

Pliny the Elder on beans and their spriitual significance, including mention of Pythagoras:

In our ancient ceremonials, too, bean pottage occupies its place in the religious services of the gods. Beans are mostly eaten together with other food, but it is generally thought that they dull the senses, and cause sleepless nights attended with dreams. Hence it is that the bean has been condemned by Pythagoras; though, according to some, the reason for this denunciation was the belief which he entertained that the souls of the dead are enclosed in the bean: it is for this reason, too, that beans are used in the funereal banquets of the Parentalia. According to Varro, it is for a similar cause that the Flamen abstains from eating beans: in addition to which, on the blossom of the bean, there are certain letters of ill omen to be found.

There are some peculiar religious usages connected with the bean. It is the custom to bring home from the harvest a bean by way of auspice, which, from that circumstance, has the name of "referiva." In sales by public auction, too, it is thought lucky to include a bean in the lot for sale. It is a fact, too, that the bean is the only one among all the grains that fills out at the increase of the moon, however much it may have been eaten away: it can never be thoroughly boiled in sea-water, or indeed any other water that is salt.

311704.  Sun Apr 06, 2008 7:41 pm Reply with quote

Egyptians also shunned beans, according to Herodotus, which is slightly curious given that the Oxford Companion to Food describes a broad bean based concoction (ful medames) as the (modern) Egyptian national dish. It also suggests a farting-religion link to bean suspicion, in that the Greek word anemos means both wind and soul.

The supposed genital resemblance of beans was noticed by others than Aristotle, and they seem to have been held to resemble both testicles and wombs, depending on whom you ask. St Jerome is said to have forbade them to nuns, on the grounds that their resemblance to a womb might excite lust (among other places, here), and that the ensuing farting might excite lust, which may say more about Jerome than it does about beans. Haven't pinned down the quote to a particular letter yet, but I don't despair of doing so.

There you go, then; the broad bean, symbol of birth, death, lust, creation, politics, and cosmic order. Links to both food and farting, of course, in one of which threads all that probably should have gone, but heigh ho.

311711.  Sun Apr 06, 2008 8:00 pm Reply with quote

Oh, one more thing (he typed, in his best Columbo voice); Pythagorean bean abstension has been linked to favism, a genetic condition for whose sufferers broad beans can prove fatal. Favism is linked to a deficiency of a particular enzyme (Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase), in that all favists have G6PD deficiency, but many people lacking in G6PD are not favist. The deficiency confers greater resistance to malaria, and is particularly common in, amongst other places, Greece and southern Italy, which has led to suggestions that Pythagoras' ban was in fact intended to protect favists against the serious consequences that eating beans would have for them. However, this wouldn't explain why Pythagoreans and Orphics alone among the Greeks banned them, why the other Greeks were so mystified by this ban, or why Pythagoras' other dietary rules came to be. Further, favism wasn't described until the 19th century, and the particular brand of malaria against which it especially protects may not have come to Greece and Italy until after Pythagoras' time (taken from a review of Plants of Life, Plants of Death, in Folklore, 2000).

311745.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 3:20 am Reply with quote

Extraordinary. I'm shamefully ignorant of this; were the Pythagoreans in questions personal disciples of the man himself, or some kind of militia, or what?

Mat, your friend Barry Baldwin would like this stuff.

Frederick The Monk
311752.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 3:50 am Reply with quote

96aelw wrote:
Egyptians also shunned beans, according to Herodotus, which is slightly curious given that the Oxford Companion to Food describes a broad bean based concoction (ful medames) as the (modern) Egyptian national dish.

Herodotus is having a laugh - there is lots of evidence of bean eating in Egypt from all periods. The Oxyrinchus papyrii mention 'Phaseolus' (from the Greek phaselos - bean) and show they were available in the same sort of quantities and at roughly the same price as lentils. Chickpeas and flat beans (vetch) were also common, as were the leguminous seeds of fenugreek. There was also an unidentfied bean known as arakos which sold for the same price as barley.

see Bagnall, R.S., Egypt in Late Antiquity. Princeton 1993 for full grisly details

Last edited by Frederick The Monk on Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:48 am; edited 1 time in total

Frederick The Monk
311753.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 3:54 am Reply with quote

Vegetarianism was known as 'the Pythagorean diet' until the late 19th century.

Link to Alan.

311820.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:32 am Reply with quote

Q: When was London last invaded by robots?

F: Any mention of Doctor Who.

A: 1944.

Although the V-1 missiles, launched at London by the Germans from June 1944, were nicknamed doodlebugs and buzz bombs, they were most commonly referred to as “the robots.”

When the first V-1 wreckage was examined by Londoners, there was puzzlement: the thing appeared to be a small plane, but in that case where was the pilot? Contemporary records (diaries and so on) make it clear that when it was realised that London was under attack by robots - as opposed to mere men, as had been the case during the Blitz - people found this psychologically much harder to deal with. Although rumours of the new “secret weapon” had been running for months, the actuality - like something out of a science fiction story, as many noted - was far worse.

In practical terms, too, it was much harder to defend against unmanned attacks, which came at every hour of the day or night, not being restricted by good flying weather, the stages of the moon and so on, as manned bombers were.

The authorities, however, were enormously relieved when the first Vs landed, and were found to contain nothing but explosives; they had been expecting chemical or biological weapons.

The V-1 and V-2 are certainly the most devastating terrorist weapons yet devised. A V-1 was a flying bomb, carrying one ton of explosive power; buildings were destroyed or severely damaged by blast within half a mile radius of its landing spot. Entire streets simply collapsed “like packs of cards.”

There are several odd aspects to the V-1. It tended to rip people’s clothes off them, even if the people themselves survived: in one attack, this effect “left two elderly spinsters in Belgravia emerging from the ruins stark naked but clutching their Pekinese.”

People were sucked out of windows near the crash site. Soot was sucked out of chimneys, which meant that victims, alive or dead, were usually covered in soot.

S: ‘London 1945’ by Maureen Waller (John Murray, 2005).

311827.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:42 am Reply with quote

Did we ever use the Four-Minute Warning stuff in the last series? It’s just that I note that, when the V-2s were being launched from a suburb of The Hague, “The rocket took all of four minutes to reach its target in London.”

S: ‘London 1945’ by Maureen Waller (John Murray, 2005).

Which is another possible origin for the whole “four minute” myth?

311831.  Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:46 am Reply with quote

Yes, we did record something. Can't remember if it made the cut though.

313841.  Thu Apr 10, 2008 7:40 am Reply with quote

I know that mental illnesses aren't fair-game; not even the funny ones, but this is fascinating.

Frontotemporal dementia is often misdiagnosed as Alzeimers; it is a degenerative brain disease. However some people who get the disease become incredibly creative, and become great artists or musicians.

This is because the right posterior brain (which is used in creativity) has its connections changed, altering circuits in the brain (can you tell, I don't really understand that). Supposedly, Ravel suffered an early form of this disease when he composed Balero.

Lots more here

341895.  Thu May 22, 2008 8:39 am Reply with quote

A strange thing here. A new theory as to why locusts swarm is that they're collectively attempting to escape from young cannibal locusts.

Young locusts, which cannot fly, have been seen eating other members of their group.

The new theory suggests that some other locusts start to panic.

Increasing numbers of locusts band together to try to get away from the hungry cannibals chasing behind.

They keep this momentum when they reach the adult phase of their life cycle and take to the air.


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