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Pythagoras of Samos Biography

Pythagorean Society


Pythagoras of Samos Biography - Pythagoras of Samos Pictures - Pythagoras the Astronomer

Pythagoras of Samos Pictures - Pythagoras the Astronomer

Public Domain - With gratitude to School Mathematics/Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland
There, he founded another school in Croton (now known as Crotone, on the east of the heel of southern Italy). It was a philosophical and religious school with many followers. Like a pyramid, with Pythagoras at the head, the society had an inner circle of followers known as mathematikoi (priests of mathematics). These mathematikoi lived permanently with the Society, were allowed no personal possessions and were vegetarians. They received training only from by Pythagoras, following very strict rules.

The next layer of the society was called the akousmatics. They were further away from Pythagoras in many ways. They lived in their own houses, and only came to the Society during the day. Pythagoras and his inner circle believed that souls migrated after death into the bodies of other beings, believing it possible an animal could contain a human soul. They saw eating animals as cannibalism. The outer circle was not confined to a vegetarian diet. The society contained both men and women.


None of Pythagoras's work survives today. That is partially due to the secret nature of his school. We know they didn't study mathematics as we do today. For Pythagoras, numbers had a spiritual meaning. He believed that all things are numbers. There are a number of theorems attributed to Pythagoras, or at least to his society, but the most famous one, bearing his name was probably not invented by him at all. Apparently, the Babylonians had realized the relationships between the sides of a right triangle over 1000 years before. However, it seems Pythagoras may have been able to prove it at last.

Besides his contributions to mathematics, Pythagoras was essential to the early field of astronomy. As Plato later would believe, Pythagoras felt the sphere was the perfect shape. This may have lead to his assertion that the Earth was a sphere. He realized the orbit of the Moon was inclined to the equator of the Earth. He also figured out that the evening star (Venus) was the same as the morning star.

To Flee Again

Around 508 BC Cylon, a Croton noble, attacked the Pythagorean Society. Although he was wealthy and powerful, Cylon is also said to have been violent and corrupt. He jealously wanted to be included in the Pythagorean Society and approached the leader, himself. But because of Cylon's faults, he was turned away. In a rage, Cylon vowed to destroy the society and with his followers persecuted the group, causing Pythagoras to flee to Metapontium, where many say he died. Some claim suicide.

Others do not share this belief. Iamblichus says the attack was a minor affair and Pythagoras returned a short time later. We do know the society was not wiped out and continued for many more years. Stories that claim that Pythagoras taught Empedokles would indicate he lived at least beyond 480 BC, while others are quoted as claiming he lived to the age of 100.

Unfortunately, the actual date or place of Pythagoras's death has been lost to history. However, his impact on that history still resonates today.

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