Marble bust of a man with a long, pointed beard, wearing a tainia, a kind of ancient Greek headcovering in this case resembling a turban. The face is somewhat gaunt and has prominent, but thin, eyebrows, which seem halfway fixed into a scowl. The ends of his mustache are long a trail halfway down the length of his beard to about where the bottom of his chin would be if we could see it. None of the hair on his head is visible, since it is completely covered by the tainia.
Bust of Pythagoras of Samos in the Capitoline Museums, Rome[1]
Bornc. 570 BC
Diedc. 495 BC (aged around 75)
either Croton or Metapontum
EraAncient Greek philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Notable ideas

Attributed ideas:

Pythagoras of Samos[a] (c. 570 – c. 495 BC)[b] was an Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of the Pythagoreanism movement. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graecia and influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, Western philosophy. Knowledge of his life is clouded by legend, but he appears to have been the son of Mnesarchus, a seal engraver on the island of Samos. Modern scholars disagree regarding Pythagoras's education and influences, but they do agree that, around 530 BC, he travelled to Croton, 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 vegetarianism, although modern scholars doubt that he ever advocated for complete vegetarianism.

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 escaped to Metapontum, where he eventually died.

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")[c] 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.

Biographical sources

No authentic writings of Pythagoras have survived,[4][5][6] and almost nothing is known for certain about his life.[7][8][9] The earliest sources on Pythagoras's life are brief, ambiguous, and often satirical.[10][6][11] The earliest source on Pythagoras's teachings is a satirical poem probably written after his death by Xenophanes of Colophon, who had been one of his contemporaries.[12][13] In the poem, Xenophanes describes Pythagoras interceding on behalf of a dog that is being beaten, professing to recognize in its cries the voice of a departed friend.[14][12][11][15] Alcmaeon of Croton, a doctor who lived in Croton at around the same time Pythagoras lived there,[12] incorporates many Pythagorean teachings into his writings[16] and alludes to having possibly known Pythagoras personally.[16] The poet Heraclitus of Ephesus, who was born across a few miles of sea away from Samos and may have lived within Pythagoras's lifetime,[17] mocked Pythagoras as a clever charlatan,[10][17] remarking that "Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus, practiced inquiry more than any other man, and selecting from these writings he manufactured a wisdom for himself—much learning, artful knavery."[17][10]

The Greek poets Ion of Chios (c. 480 – c. 421 BC) and Empedocles of Acragas (c. 493 – c. 432 BC) both express admiration for Pythagoras in their poems.[18] The first concise description of Pythagoras comes from the historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus (c. 484 – c. 420 BC),[19] who describes him as "not the most insignificant" of Greek sages[20] and states that Pythagoras taught his followers how to attain immortality.[19] The writings attributed to the Pythagorean philosopher Philolaus of Croton, who lived in the late fifth century BC, are the earliest texts to describe the numerological and musical theories that were later ascribed to Pythagoras.[21] The Athenian rhetorician Isocrates (436–338 BC) was the first to describe Pythagoras as having visited Egypt.[19] Aristotle wrote a treatise On the Pythagoreans, which is no longer extant.[22] Some of it may be preserved in the Protrepticus. Aristotle's disciples Dicaearchus, Aristoxenus, and Heraclides Ponticus also wrote on the same subject.[23]

Most of the major sources on Pythagoras's life are from the Roman period,[24] by which point, according to the German classicist Walter Burkert, "the history of Pythagoreanism was already... the laborious reconstruction of something lost and gone."[23] Three lives of Pythagoras have survived from late antiquity,[24][9] all of which are filled primarily with myths and legends.[24][25][9] The earliest and most respectable of these is the one from Diogenes Laërtius's Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers.[24][25] The two later lives were written by the Neoplatonist philosophers Porphyry and Iamblichus[24][25] and were partially intended as polemics against the rise of Christianity.[25] The later sources are much lengthier than the earlier ones,[24] and even more fantastic in their descriptions of Pythagoras's achievements.[24][25] Porphyry and Iamblichus used material from the lost writings of Aristotle's disciples[23] and material taken from these sources is generally considered to be the most reliable.[23]

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français: Pythagore
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latviešu: Pitagors
Lëtzebuergesch: Pythagoras vu Samos
lietuvių: Pitagoras
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magyar: Püthagorasz
मैथिली: पाइथागोरस
македонски: Питагора
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မြန်မာဘာသာ: ပိုက်သာဂိုးရပ်စ်
Nederlands: Pythagoras
नेपाली: पाइथागोरस
日本語: ピタゴラス
Nordfriisk: Pythagoras
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oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Pifagor
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਪਾਈਥਾਗੋਰਸ
پنجابی: فيثاغورث
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русский: Пифагор
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sicilianu: Pitàgura
සිංහල: පයිතගරස්
Simple English: Pythagoras
slovenčina: Pytagoras zo Samosu
slovenščina: Pitagora
ślůnski: Pitagoras
کوردی: پیتاگۆرس
српски / srpski: Питагора
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