This is a short precis from an academic’s view of a pioneering Greek vegetarian philosopher ‘s thoughts on Greek meat eating.



“Late in the sixth century Pythagoras taught that souls migrated after death into into other bodies, both human and animal.

Meat eating was therefore an abomination, a form of cannibalism.

As vegetarians, his followers were excluded from the principle instructions of social life; they lived in closed communities of their own, subject to strict rules of conduct.

The human race as a whole was descended from “unjust ancestors’, viz. the wicked Titans who dismembered and ate the young god Dionisius.

Meat eating was a further pollution, repeated day by day.

The soul required “purification” from these taints, or it would pay the penalty.

In these two interconnected movements we find a series of phenomena untypical of `Greek religion:  ascetism, preoccupation with the afterlife, rejection of profane society, the concept of a special religious way of life, doctrines of guilt and salvation.

All well and good for Greece but it was on the outskirts particularly in Italy and Sicily, that such movements had most adherents, and they remained marginal phenomena”.


For me this is a simplistic way of looking at early meat eating because it does not mention; actual sacrifice, cooked or raw meat, vegetables, food nourishment and other things of an organic nature vital to vegans or vegetarians.

On the other hand I suppose It is easy today to scoff at early vegetarians such as Pythagoras; mainly because they did not take into account the health benefits of not eating meat, and making ludicrous pronouncements, such as meat eating and the soul since;  how on earth does not eating meat benefit the soul?

At any rate the ancient Greeks were, if nothing, pioneers of tan early search for a healthy lifestyle, taking regular exercise and watching what we eat, so we should, perhaps, forgive the odd lapse or two into whimsy. 

The quotation mentioned above is taken from “The Oxford History of the Classical World (1998)”.