Pythagoras (approximately 570 BCE - 495 BCE, ) was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher, polymath and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graecia and influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, the West in general. Knowledge of his life is clouded by legend. Modern scholars disagree regarding Pythagoras's education and influences, but they do agree that, around 530 BC, he travelled to Croton in southern Italy, where he founded a school in which initiates were sworn to secrecy and lived a communal, ascetic lifestyle. This lifestyle entailed a number of dietary prohibitions, traditionally said to have included aspects of vegetarianism.[5]

The teaching most securely identified with Pythagoras is metempsychosis, or the "transmigration of souls", which holds that every soul is immortal and, upon death, enters into a new body. He may have also devised the doctrine of musica universalis, which holds that the planets move according to mathematical equations and thus resonate to produce an inaudible symphony of music.

Scholars debate whether Pythagoras developed the numerological and musical teachings attributed to him, or if those teachings were developed by his later followers, particularly Philolaus of Croton. 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 he may have escaped to Metapontum and died there.

In antiquity, Pythagoras was credited with many mathematical and scientific discoveries, including the Pythagorean theorem, Pythagorean tuning, 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 was 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. Classical historians debate whether Pythagoras made these discoveries, and many of the accomplishments credited to him likely originated earlier or were made by his colleagues or successors. Some accounts mention that the philosophy associated with Pythagoras was related to mathematics and that numbers were important, but it is debated to what extent, if at all, he actually contributed to mathematics or natural philosophy.

Pythagoras influenced Plato, whose dialogues, especially his Timaeus, exhibit Pythagorean teachings. Pythagorean ideas on mathematical perfection also impacted ancient Greek art. His teachings underwent a major revival in the first century BC among Middle Platonists, coinciding with the rise of Neopythagoreanism. Pythagoras continued to be regarded as a great philosopher throughout the Middle Ages and his philosophy had a major impact on scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes 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.

Herodotus, Isocrates, and other early writers agree that Pythagoras was the son of Mnesarchus, and that he was born on the Greek island of Samos in the eastern Aegean.

According to these biographers, Pythagoras' father was not born on the island, although he got naturalized there, but according to Iamblichus he was a native of the island. He is said to have been a gem-engraver or a wealthy merchant, but his ancestry is disputed and unclear.

His mother was a native of Samos, descending from a geomoroi family. Apollonius of Tyana, gives her name as Pythais.

Iamblichus tells the story that the Pythia prophesied to her while she was pregnant with him that she would give birth to a man supremely beautiful, wise, and beneficial to humankind.

As to the date of his birth, Aristoxenus stated that Pythagoras left Samos in the reign of Polycrates, at the age of 40, which would give a date of birth around 570 BC. Pythagoras's name led him to be associated with Pythian Apollo (Pūthíā); Aristippus of Cyrene in the 4th century BC explained his name by saying, "He spoke [ἀγορεύω, agoreúō] the truth no less than did the Pythian [πυθικός puthikós]".

During Pythagoras's formative years, Samos was a thriving cultural hub known for its feats of advanced architectural engineering, including the building of the Tunnel of Eupalinos, and for its riotous festival culture. It was a major center of trade in the Aegean where traders brought goods from the Near East.

According to Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier, these traders almost certainly brought with them Near Eastern ideas and traditions. Pythagoras's early life also coincided with the flowering of early Ionian natural philosophy.

He was a contemporary of the philosophers Anaximander, Anaximenes, and the historian Hecataeus, all of whom lived in Miletus, across the sea from Samos.

Pythagoras is traditionally thought to have received most of his education in the Near East. Modern scholarship has shown that the culture of Archaic Greece was heavily influenced by those of Levantine and Mesopotamian cultures.

Like many other important Greek thinkers, Pythagoras was said to have studied in Egypt. By the time of Isocrates in the fourth century BC, Pythagoras's reputed studies in Egypt were already taken as fact.

The writer Antiphon, who may have lived during the Hellenistic Era, claimed in his lost work On Men of Outstanding Merit, used as a source by Porphyry, that Pythagoras learned to speak Egyptian from the Pharaoh Amasis II himself, that he studied with the Egyptian priests at Diospolis (Thebes), and that he was the only foreigner ever to be granted the privilege of taking part in their worship.

The Middle Platonist biographer Plutarch (c. 46 - c. 120 AD) writes in his treatise On Isis and Osiris that, during his visit to Egypt, Pythagoras received instruction from the Egyptian priest Oenuphis of Heliopolis (meanwhile Solon received lectures from a Sonchis of Sais).[55] According to the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - c. 215 AD), "Pythagoras was a disciple of Sonchis, an Egyptian archprophet, as well as Plato of Sechnuphis." Some ancient writers claimed that Pythagoras learned geometry and the doctrine of metempsychosis from the Egyptians.

Other ancient writers, however, claimed that Pythagoras had learned these teachings from the Magi in Persia or even from Zoroaster himself.

Diogenes Laertius asserts that Pythagoras later visited Crete, where he went to the Cave of Ida with Epimenides.

The Phoenicians are reputed to have taught Pythagoras arithmetic and the Chaldeans to have taught him astronomy.

By the third century BC, Pythagoras was already reported to have studied under the Jews as well.

Contradicting all these reports, the novelist Antonius Diogenes, writing in the second century BC, reports that Pythagoras discovered all his doctrines himself by interpreting dreams.

The third-century AD Sophist Philostratus claims that, in addition to the Egyptians, Pythagoras also studied under sages or gymnosophists in India. Iamblichus expands this list even further by claiming that Pythagoras also studied with the Celts and Iberians.

Ancient sources also record Pythagoras having studied under a variety of native Greek thinkers. Some identify Hermodamas of Samos as a possible tutor.

Hermodamas represented the indigenous Samian rhapsodic tradition and his father Creophylos was said to have been the host of his rival poet Homer. Others credit Bias of Priene, Thales, or Anaximander (a pupil of Thales).

Other traditions claim the mythic bard Orpheus as Pythagoras's teacher, thus representing the Orphic Mysteries.

The Neoplatonists wrote of a "sacred discourse" Pythagoras had written on the gods in the Doric Greek dialect, which they believed had been dictated to Pythagoras by the Orphic priest Aglaophamus upon his initiation to the orphic Mysteries at Leibethra. Iamblichus credited Orpheus with having been the model for Pythagoras's manner of speech, his spiritual attitude, and his manner of worship. Iamblichus describes Pythagoreanism as a synthesis of everything Pythagoras had learned from Orpheus, from the Egyptian priests, from the Eleusinian Mysteries, and from other religious and philosophical traditions.Riedweg states that, although these stories are fanciful, Pythagoras's teachings were definitely influenced by Orphism to a noteworthy extent.

Of the various Greek sages claimed to have taught Pythagoras, Pherecydes of Syros is mentioned most often. Similar miracle stories were told about both Pythagoras and Pherecydes, including one in which the hero predicts a shipwreck, one in which he predicts the conquest of Messina, and one in which he drinks from a well and predicts an earthquake.

Apollonius Paradoxographus, a paradoxographer who may have lived in the second century BC, identified Pythagoras's thaumaturgic ideas as a result of Pherecydes's influence.

Another story, which may be traced to the Neopythagorean philosopher Nicomachus, tells that, when Pherecydes was old and dying on the island of Delos, Pythagoras returned to care for him and pay his respects. Duris, the historian and tyrant of Samos, is reported to have patriotically boasted of an epitaph supposedly penned by Pherecydes which declared that Pythagoras's wisdom exceeded his own.

On the grounds of all these references connecting Pythagoras with Pherecydes, Riedweg concludes that there may well be some historical foundation to the tradition that Pherecydes was Pythagoras's teacher. Pythagoras and Pherecydes also appear to have shared similar views on the soul and the teaching of metempsychosis.

Before 520 BC, on one of his visits to Egypt or Greece, Pythagoras might have met Thales of Miletus, who would have been around fifty-four years older than him. Thales was a philosopher, scientist, mathematician, and engineer, also known for a special case of the inscribed angle theorem. Pythagoras's birthplace, the island of Samos, is situated in the Northeast Aegean Sea not far from Miletus.

Diogenes Laërtius cites a statement from Aristoxenus (fourth century BC) stating that Pythagoras learned most of his moral doctrines from the Delphic priestess Themistoclea. Porphyry agrees with this assertion, but calls the priestess Aristoclea (Aristokleia).Ancient authorities furthermore note the similarities between the religious and ascetic peculiarities of Pythagoras with the Orphic or Cretan mysteries, or the Delphic oracle.

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