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  • 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.
  • His father is said to have been a gem-engraver or a wealthy merchant, but his ancestry is disputed and unclear.
  • As to the date of his birth, Aristoxenus stated that Pythagoras left Samos at the age of 40, which would give a date of birth around 570 BC.
  • Pythagoras’s early life also coincided with the flowering of early Ionian natural philosophy.


  • Like many other important Greek thinkers, Pythagoras was said to have studied in Egypt. Ancient sources also record Pythagoras having studied under a variety of native Greek thinkers.
  • Some identify Hermodamas of Samos as a possible tutor.Other traditions claim the mythic bard Orpheus as Pythagoras’s teacher.
  • 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.
  • Of the various Greek sages claimed to have taught Pythagoras, Pherecydes of Syros is mentioned most often.
  • 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.


  • Pythagoras himself dwelled in a secret cave, where he studied in private and occasionally held discourses with a few of his close friends.
  • Around 530 BC, when Pythagoras was around forty years old, he left Samos.His later admirers claimed that he left because he disagreed with the tyranny of Polycrates in Samos
  • He arrived in the Greek colony of Croton in what was then Magna Graecia.He served as an advisor to the elites in Croton and gave them frequent advice.


  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • His philosophy had a major impact on scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton.