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Pythagoras

Pythagoras was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of Pythagoreanism born on the Greek island of Samos circa 570 BC. His philosophical, religious, and political teachings influenced the philosophies of many important philosophers after him, such as Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, Western philosophy. We know that he was the son of Mnesarchus and he was born on the island of Samos. He traveled to Croton around 530 BC, where he founded a school in which initiates were sworn to secrecy and lived a communal, ascetic lifestyle.

Pythagoras is identified with the teaching of “transmigration of souls” (metempsychosis), which argues that every soul is immortal and, upon death, enters into a new body. In 510 BC Croton won the war against Sybaris and many Pythagorean meeting houses were burned as Pythagoras’s followers came into conflict with supporters of democracy. It’s possible that Pythagoras may have been killed during this persecution or alternatively he may have escaped to Metapontum, where he eventually died circa 495 BC.

What is Pythagoras known for?

In antiquity, Pythagoras was credited with many mathematical and scientific discoveries, including the Pythagorean theorem, the five regular solids, the Theory of Proportions, the sphericity of the Earth, and the identity of the morning and evening stars as the planet Venus. It is said that he was the first man to call himself a philosopher (“lover of wisdom”) and that he was the first to divide the globe into five climatic zones. It is possible that many of the accomplishments credited to him likely originated earlier or were made by his colleagues or successors.

Pythagoras influenced Plato, whose dialogues, especially Timaeus, exhibit Pythagorean teachings. Pythagorean ideas on mathematical perfection also influenced ancient Greek art.  Pythagoras’ philosophical ideas had a major impact on scientists such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Isaac Newton and he continued to be seen as a very important philosopher throughout the Middle Ages. Pythagorean symbolism was used throughout early modern European esotericism and his teachings as portrayed in Ovid’s Metamorphoses influenced the modern vegetarian movement.