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The order takes its name from the Greek legend of Damon and Pythias. In the story, Damon is held hostage by the Greek tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse so that Damon’s friend Pythias who conspired against the tyrant, might settle his affairs. If Pythias did not return, Damon would be executed. But Pythias did return, and Dionysius was so impressed by their friendship, he freed them both. Justus H. Rathbone heard this legend in a poem by John Banim and was inspired to create an organization that could live up to those high ideals of friendship and love.

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“The purposes of your organization are most wonderful. If we could but bring its spirit to all our citizenry, what a wonderful thing it would be. It breathes the spirit of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence. It is one of the best agencies conceived for the upholding of government, honoring the flag, for the reuniting of our brethren of the North and of the South, for teaching the people to love one another, and portraying the sanctity of the home and loved ones. I would suggest that these great principles be perpetuated and that you go to the Congress of the United States and ask for a charter, and so organize on a great scale throughout this nation, and disseminate this wonderful work that you have so nobly started. I will do all in my power to assist you in this application and with your work.”\\    

– President Abraham Lincoln

Official Declaration of Principles Pythian knighthood had its conception in the exemplification of the life test of true friendship existing between Damon and Pythias. Friendship, or mutual confidence, being the strongest bond of union between man and man, and only existing where honor has an abiding place, is adopted as a foundation principle. As the ideal knight of olden time was the personification of all the higher and nobler attributes of man's nature, the candidate for knighthood had to prove himself worthy of acceptance by those who valued friendship, bravery, honor, justice, and loyalty. The Knights of Pythias is dedicated to the cause of universal peace and is pledged to the promotion of understanding among men of good will as the surest means of attaining it. The order of Knights of Pythias - founded in Friendship, Charity and Benevolence, which it proclaims as its cardinal principles - strives to gather into one mighty fraternity worthy men who appreciate the true meaning of friendship; who are cautious in word and act; who love truth; who are brave in defending right; whose honor is untarnished; whose sense of justice will prevent, to the best of their ability, a personal act or word injurious to the worthy; whose loyalty to principle, to family, to friends, to their country and the constituted authority under which they enjoy citizenship is undoubted; and who, at all times, are prepared to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them. The Order shall accomplish these principles through acts of community service.

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