Fun Facts About Pythagoras
Pythagoras was an ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician who lived in the 6th century BC. He is best known for the Pythagorean theorem, which bears his name. However, there are many interesting facts about Pythagoras beyond his famous mathematical equation. Here are some fun Pythagoras facts:
Early Life and Influences
- Pythagoras was born around 570 BC on the island of Samos, which is off the coast of modern-day Turkey. Not much is known about his early life.
- As a young man, Pythagoras studied under various teachers and philosophers. He was influenced by the mathematician Thales, the writer Pherecydes, and possibly the philosopher Anaximander.
- In his mid-20s, Pythagoras left Samos and travelled around the Mediterranean region to study. He spent time in Egypt and Babylon (modern-day Iraq) soaking up mathematical and spiritual wisdom.
The Pythagorean Society
- Around 530 BC, Pythagoras returned to Samos and established his own school of philosophy and mathematics.
- A few years later, Pythagoras relocated his school to Croton in southern Italy. There he founded the Pythagorean society, which functioned as both a school and religious community.
- The Pythagorean society had an inner circle of students who lived communally and followed strict rules set out by Pythagoras. These rules included vegetarianism, silence for long periods of time, and a ban on eating beans!
- Women were allowed to become members of the Pythagorean society, which was highly unusual in ancient Greece. Two prominent female Pythagoreans were Theano, Pythagoras’s wife, and Perictione, his daughter.
- Pythagoras is most famous for the theorem that states: In a right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. This formula is used across mathematics and physics.
- The Pythagoreans made many other important contributions to mathematics. They discovered irrational numbers, observed the five regular solids, and possibly proved the theory of proportion.
- Pythagoras saw mathematics as a way to understand the order and harmony of the universe. The Pythagoreans believed “all is number.” They searched for mathematical patterns and ratios in nature.
Religious and Mystical Views
- In addition to mathematics, Pythagoras emphasized religious teaching and mysticism within his society.
- The Pythagoreans believed in transmigration of the soul or reincarnation. They taught that the soul is immortal and undergoes a series of rebirths until it becomes morally pure.
- Pythagoras apparently had a golden thigh. One legend suggests that he showed it to Abaris the Hyperborean as proof of his identity as the god Apollo.
- According to some accounts, Pythagoras could be in two places at once and had a golden knee that enabled him to predict the future. However, these stories may be mythical embellishments.
- Pythagoras apparently prohibited his followers from eating beans for mystical or symbolic reasons. However, the exact reason behind this bean ban remains unclear.
Death and Legacy
- Pythagoras lived to around age 75. He died in Metapontum, Italy around 495 BC.
- After Pythagoras’s death, his society and schools declined. But his mathematical and philosophical ideas continued to spread and influence later generations.
- The famous Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero said “Pythagoras changed the name of philosophy into love for wisdom, that its followers might not seem to be arrogant.”
- In Raphael’s famous painting The School of Athens, Pythagoras is depicted writing in a large book, highlighting his importance as a mathematician and thinker.
- The word “philosopher” may have originated from Pythagoras’s society, who were known as philalethai or “lovers of truth.”
Pythagoras made lasting contributions to mathematics, philosophy, religion, and mystery traditions. His elegant geometrical theorem continues to bear his name over 2500 years after his lifetime! Beyond the familiar formula, Pythagoras was a multi-faceted figure whose influence stretched across the ancient world.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pythagoras
Here are some common FAQs about the life and ideas of Pythagoras:
Who was Pythagoras?
Pythagoras was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and mathematician who lived in the 6th century BC. He was born on the island of Samos but later established a society and school based on his teachings in southern Italy.
What is Pythagoras best known for?
Pythagoras is most famous for the mathematical theorem that bears his name: In a right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. This formula is used across geometry and physics.
What was the Pythagorean society?
The Pythagorean society was a religious brotherhood established by Pythagoras that functioned as both a school and community. Members lived by Pythagoras’s rules on issues like vegetarianism, silence, and not eating beans. They studied philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, music, and mysticism.
What were Pythagoras’s religious beliefs?
Pythagoras emphasized mysticism and reincarnation within his society. He believed in transmigration of the soul – the idea that the soul is immortal and is reborn into new bodies across lifetimes. This cycling continues until the soul becomes ethically pure.
Did Pythagoras make other mathematical discoveries?
Yes, the Pythagoreans made several big contributions to math. As well as the famous theorem, they discovered irrational numbers, identified the five regular solids, and possibly proved the theory of proportion.
What happened to Pythagoras’s society after he died?
After Pythagoras’s death around 495 BC, his society and schools went into decline, possibly due to infighting and attacks. However, his ideas continued to spread and influence later thinkers and mathematicians across the Mediterranean.
Why was Pythagoras important?
Pythagoras radically shaped philosophy and mathematics in the ancient world. His geometrical theorem is still used today. He also influenced religious thought through ideas like transmigration of the soul. Pythagoras emphasized mathematics as a way to decode the universe’s hidden patterns.
So in summary, Pythagoras was a pioneering philosopher and mathematician whose impacts are still felt today. He founded an influential society based on his teachings, made vital mathematical discoveries, and developed religious ideas that shaped Western esoteric traditions. Pythagoras remains one of the most significant figures of ancient Greek thought.