"Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few."


Pythagoras was an ancient Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings influenced the philosophies of 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. Following Croton’s decisive victory over Sybaris in around 510 BC, Pythagoras’s followers came into conflict with supporters of democracy and Pythagorean meeting houses were burned. Pythagoras may have been killed during this persecution or escaped to Metapontum, where he eventually died.

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 continued to be regarded as an important philosopher throughout the Middle Ages and his philosophy had a major impact on scientists such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Isaac Newton. Pythagorean symbolism was used throughout early modern European esotericism and his teachings as portrayed in Ovid’s Metamorphoses influenced the modern vegetarian movement.