The "Golden Verses" write that "Power is a near neighbour to necessity." Does anyone have an idea about what that could mean?

Wikipedia contributors. "The golden verses of Pythagoras." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Mar. 2019. Web. 1 Apr. 2019.

  • Can you reference the quote from Pythagoras as, far as I know, we have nothing tgatvhas come down directly from him. Mar 1, 2019 at 21:26
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    "It appears that the verses may have been known as early as the third century BCE but their existence as we know them cannot be confirmed prior to the fifth century CE". Pythagoras lived in 5th century BCE, so even assuming the earlier date he did not mean anything by the Golden Verses, they are a late fabrication. A neo-Pythagorean Hierocles writes in his commentary, p.50 on this one that "necessity supplies us with more strength than we imagine we have"
    – Conifold
    Mar 1, 2019 at 21:50

2 Answers 2


Fabre D'Olivet translated with commentary the Golden Verses of Pythagoras in 1813. Nayan Louise Redfield translated that into English in 1916. D'Olivet provided a commentary for the verse in question:

If thou canst at least: for a most rigid law Binds Power to Necessity

D'Olivet's interpretation of this is:

...Pythagoras recognized two motives of human action, the first, issuing from a constrained nature called Necessity; the second emanating from a free nature, called Power, and both dependent upon an implied primordial law.

D'Olivet contrasts this interpretation with Stoicism and Platonism.

This would be one interpretation of what Pythagoras, or whoever wrote the Golden Verses, meant.

The Golden Verses of Pythagoras. Translated by Fabre D'Olivet and Nayan Louise Redfield. G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1917.

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    Many thanks on that one... SE only allows one +1 I intend 2. One for the translation; a bigger one for informing of this book of Fabre D'Olivet
    – Rushi
    Apr 1, 2019 at 12:50

I believe that this implies power is a necessity. So this means that power is necessary in life. Now, this now may seem something bad to put in the "golden verses", but in that time it probably seemed true.

  • It's difficult in modern times to imagine those with power behaving tyranically.. yet those with power now continue to shore up their power. Sadly, the public.may once again rue their loss of power.
    – Richard
    Mar 2, 2019 at 15:30

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