In 518 BC, Pythagoras journeyed west … interview with the … ruler Leon of Phlius while both were attending the Olympic Games. Prince Leon was most impressed by Pythagoras’ range of knowledge and asked in which of the arts he was most proficient.
Pythagoras replied that, rather than being proficient in any art, he regarded himself as being a “philosopher”. Prince Leon had never heard this term before—it had been newly coined by Pythagoras—and asked for an explanation.
Pythagoras said: “Life may well be compared with these pan-Grecian Games. For in the vast crowd assembled here, some are led on by the hopes and ambitions of fame and glory, while others are attracted by the gain of buying and selling, with mere views of profit and wealth. But among them there are a few, and they are by far the best, whose aim is neither applause nor profit, but who come merely as spectators through curiosity, to observe what is done, and to see in what manner things are carried on here.
“It is the same with life. Some are slaves to glory, power
and domination; others to money. But the finest type of man gives himself up to discovering the meaning and purpose of life itself. He, taking no account of anything else, earnestly looks into the nature of things. This is the man I call a lover of wisdom, that is, a philosopher. As it is most honourable to be an onlooker without making any acquisition, so in life, the contemplation of all things and the quest to know them greatly exceed every other pursuit.”