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Unveiling the Mysteries: A Journey into the Ancient World of Pythagoreanism

Introduction to Pythagoreanism

Pythagoreanism, a philosophical school and religious movement founded by Pythagoras, has had a significant influence on Western philosophy, mathematics, and science. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of Pythagoreanism, exploring its origins, beliefs, and teachings, as well as the life and education of its founder, Pythagoras.

So, let’s embark on a journey into the ancient world of Pythagoreanism!

Pythagoreanism as a Philosophical School and Religious Movement

At its core, Pythagoreanism was both a philosophical school and a religious movement. Founded by the enigmatic Pythagoras in the 6th century BCE, it sought to uncover the fundamental principles governing the universe and humanity’s place within it.

Pythagoreanism was characterized by a deep reverence for mathematics, as Pythagoras believed that numbers were the key to understanding the world.

Beliefs and Teachings of Pythagoras and his Followers

Pythagoras and his followers held a plethora of beliefs and teachings that shaped their unique philosophical perspective. Central to their worldview was the notion of a harmonious universe, where everything existed in perfect order.

They believed that the universe was governed by mathematical principles and ratios, reflecting the idea that everything was interconnected. One of Pythagoras’ most famous contributions was the discovery of the Pythagorean theorem, which states that in a right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

This theorem revolutionized geometry and laid the foundation for the understanding of various mathematical concepts. In addition to their mathematical pursuits, Pythagoreans placed great emphasis on ethical conduct and the purification of the soul.

They believed in the transmigration of souls, the idea that the soul continues to exist after death and can be reborn into a new body. This belief led them to practice vegetarianism and uphold strict codes of ethical behavior to ensure the purification and progress of their souls.

Early Life and Education of Pythagoras

Pythagoras was born around 570 BCE on the island of Samos in Greece. Little is known about his early life, but it is believed that he came from a prosperous family.

As a young boy, Pythagoras received a well-rounded education, which included music, poetry, and athletics, in addition to mathematics and philosophy. Pythagoras traveled extensively in search of knowledge, studying under various renowned philosophers and thinkers of his time.

He is said to have been greatly influenced by the teachings of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, the pre-Socratic philosophers who had paved the way for new ways of thinking about the world. During his travels, Pythagoras also encountered mythical figures like Orpheus and Homer, who further shaped his philosophical and spiritual outlook.

It is believed that Pythagoras drew inspiration from the legendary musical and mathematical talents of Orpheus and the moral lessons conveyed in Homer’s epic poems.


In conclusion, Pythagoreanism, as a philosophical school and religious movement, had a profound impact on various disciplines, from mathematics to ethics. Pythagoras and his followers sought to unravel the mysteries of the universe using mathematics and believed in the interconnectedness of all things.

Pythagoras’ own life and education were marked by a pursuit of knowledge and an openness to diverse sources of inspiration. By delving into the fascinating world of Pythagoreanism, we gain valuable insights into ancient philosophical thought and the foundations of modern scientific inquiry.

Travels and Spiritual Journeys of Pythagoras

Pythagoras, known for his profound wisdom and contributions to ancient philosophy, embarked on a series of travels and spiritual journeys that greatly shaped his teachings and worldview. This article delves into the details of his travel destinations, disputed accounts, and encounters with Egyptian priests and other spiritual teachings.

Travel destinations and Disputed accounts

Pythagoras’ travels took him far and wide, allowing him to interact with various cultures and philosophies. While the exact details of his journeys are shrouded in mystery and subject to speculation, it is believed that he traveled to Egypt, Babylonia, and other parts of the Near East.

These visits supposedly exposed him to the wisdom of ancient civilizations and enriched his understanding of mathematics, astronomy, and spirituality. Accounts of Pythagoras’ travels and encounters are often disputed due to the limited historical documentation and the veiled nature of Pythagoreanism.

Some accounts claim that he spent years studying with Egyptian priests, learning their mystical practices and pursuing esoteric knowledge. These priests were known for their expertise in mathematics, astronomy, and religious rituals, making their teachings highly sought after by seekers of wisdom.

Study with Egyptian priests and other spiritual teachings

Pythagoras’ alleged studies with Egyptian priests were said to have greatly influenced his spiritual and philosophical beliefs. The Egyptians had a profound understanding of mathematics, reflected in their advanced architecture, engineering, and agricultural practices.

Pythagoras likely learned about mathematical principles and geometric symbolism from them, contributing to his own mathematical discoveries later on. The Egyptians also held profound spiritual beliefs, including the concept of the soul’s journey after death.

This idea resonated with Pythagoras, who incorporated it into his own teachings on the transmigration of souls. It is speculated that Pythagoras may have learned various mystical practices, such as dream interpretation and divination, during his time with the Egyptian priests.

In addition to his studies in Egypt, Pythagoras is also said to have encountered other spiritual traditions during his travels. It is believed that he sought out the wisdom of Persian Magi, Indian sages, and Babylonian astrologers.

Through these encounters, he developed a broader understanding of the spiritual and philosophical landscape of the ancient world.

Return to Samos and establishment of the Semicircle

After completing his travels, Pythagoras returned to his birthplace, the island of Samos. It was here that he established his own philosophical and religious community, known as the Semicircle.

The Semicircle was a place of intellectual and spiritual exploration, where Pythagoras and his followers engaged in deep philosophical discussions and practical demonstrations of their teachings. The Semicircle was not just a physical space but also a community built on principles of harmony and mutual respect.

Pythagoras believed in the power of community and the importance of cultivating virtues such as discipline, self-control, and moderation. These principles guided the daily lives of the members of the Semicircle and fostered an environment conducive to learning and personal growth.

Reasons for Pythagoras leaving Samos and dispute over his departure

Despite the success and influence of the Semicircle, Pythagoras eventually left Samos under disputed circumstances. Various accounts suggest different reasons for his departure, adding to the enigmatic nature of his life and teachings.

Some theories propose that political unrest and opposition from the ruling class forced Pythagoras to seek a new home for his community. Another narrative claims that Pythagoras’ departure was motivated by his desire to expand his teachings beyond the limitations of a single location.

He believed in the universality of knowledge and sought to share his wisdom with a wider audience. This move allowed him to establish new schools and spread his philosophical and mathematical ideas to other parts of the ancient world.


Pythagoras’ travels and spiritual journeys played a significant role in shaping his philosophical and mathematical contributions. Whether through his alleged studies with Egyptian priests or encounters with other spiritual traditions, Pythagoras absorbed wisdom from different cultures and synthesized it into his own teachings.

His return to Samos and establishment of the Semicircle provided a platform for the cultivation of knowledge and virtues, while his subsequent departure marked the expansion of his influence. By exploring the intricacies of Pythagoras’ travels and spiritual quests, we gain a deeper understanding of the foundations of Pythagoreanism and its enduring impact on Western thought.

Commune in Kroton and Political Influence

After his departure from Samos, Pythagoras found a new home in the city of Kroton, where he established a commune and continued to spread his teachings. This article further explores Pythagoras’ move to Kroton, the establishment of the commune, his political influence, a victorious battle, and the conflicts that ultimately led to his downfall.

Pythagoras’ move to Kroton and establishment of a commune

Driven by his desire to share his philosophical and religious ideas with a larger audience, Pythagoras journeyed to the city of Kroton in southern Italy. Here, he found a receptive community and a fertile ground for his teachings.

Pythagoras attracted numerous disciples who were eager to learn from his wisdom and live according to his principles. In Kroton, Pythagoras established a commune, known as the Pythagorean Community.

This community functioned as a self-sufficient and tightly-knit society, where members lived in harmony and adhered to a strict set of rules and practices. Pythagoras believed that by creating an environment conducive to learning and personal growth, he could cultivate a society of enlightened individuals.

The Pythagorean Community placed great emphasis on the pursuit of knowledge, ethical conduct, and physical well-being. They engaged in various activities such as meditation, study sessions, and communal meals, fostering a sense of unity and spiritual connection among its members.

Pythagoras’ teachings, with their focus on the harmony of body, mind, and soul, resonated deeply with the people of Kroton. Political influence, victory in battle, and conflicts leading to downfall

Pythagoras, through his intellect and charisma, gained significant political influence in Kroton.

He became an advisor to the city’s rulers and played a crucial role in shaping their policies. Pythagoras advocated for just governance, encouraging leaders to prioritize the welfare of the community and maintain social harmony.

His influence allowed him to implement reforms that aimed to create a more equitable and virtuous society. Under Pythagoras’ guidance, the city of Kroton experienced a period of prosperity and stability.

Their military forces achieved a remarkable victory in a battle against a neighboring city-state, securing the city’s dominance in the region. This victory further enhanced Pythagoras’ reputation as a wise strategist and a respected leader.

However, the ascent of Pythagoras and his followers also sparked conflicts and opposition from various factions in Kroton. The established elite and religious institutions felt threatened by the influence and teachings of this new philosophical movement.

They viewed Pythagoras and his followers as a challenge to their power and tradition. These conflicts eventually led to the downfall of Pythagoras and the Pythagorean Community.

Discontent and mistrust grew among certain factions, fueling accusations of impiety and secretive practices. The commune was persecuted, and Pythagoras himself was forced to flee for his life.

Death and Controversies surrounding Pythagoras

The accounts surrounding Pythagoras’ death and escape from Kroton are varied and often contradictory. According to some sources, Pythagoras died during the attack on the commune, while others claim he escaped and continued his teachings elsewhere.

The exact circumstances of his death remain shrouded in mystery and subject to speculation. Despite the controversies and challenges faced by Pythagoras, his legacy endured.

His teachings, recorded by his loyal followers, continued to shape the development of Western philosophy, science, and mathematics for centuries to come. Pythagorean principles influenced renowned thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle, leaving an indelible mark on the intellectual and philosophical landscape.

However, disputes and disagreements regarding Pythagoras’ contributions arose over time. Some critics argued that many of the ideas attributed to Pythagoras were in fact developed by his followers, and that his role was more that of a charismatic leader than an original thinker.

These disputes highlight the complexities and uncertainties surrounding the life and teachings of this enigmatic figure.


Pythagoras’ move to Kroton, the establishment of a commune, and his subsequent political influence demonstrated the power of his teachings and the impact he had on the community. Despite achieving great victories and prosperity, conflicts and opposition led to the downfall of the Pythagorean Community.

The controversies surrounding Pythagoras’ death and the disputes regarding his contributions continue to intrigue scholars and philosophers, shedding light on the complex nature of his legacy. The story of Pythagoras serves as a testament to the enduring relevance of his ideas and the profound influence he had on the ancient world and beyond.

Core Beliefs and Practices of Pythagoreanism

Pythagoreanism, with its deep reverence for numbers, sacred mathematics, and the interconnectedness of the universe, encompassed a range of beliefs and practices. This article explores the core principles of Pythagoreanism, focusing on the importance of numbers, sacred mathematics, the understanding of the universe, as well as the concepts of metempsychosis, an egalitarian communal lifestyle, and daily rituals.

Importance of Numbers, Sacred Mathematics, and Understanding the Universe

Pythagoreans believed that numbers held a fundamental place in the universe, serving as the building blocks of reality. They saw numbers not just as abstract concepts, but as living entities with their own unique qualities and symbolic meanings.

To the Pythagoreans, everything in the universe could be understood and explained through the language of numbers. Sacred mathematics played a pivotal role in Pythagorean philosophy.

They believed that the universe operated according to precise mathematical principles, reflecting an underlying harmony. The Pythagoreans applied mathematical concepts to a wide range of fields, including music, astronomy, and even ethical reasoning.

They saw mathematics as a path to uncovering the hidden truths of the cosmos and attaining spiritual enlightenment. Pythagoreans sought to understand the universe through the study of celestial bodies and the movements of the stars and planets.

They believed that the cosmos was a carefully orchestrated system, where everything moved in perfect harmony. By observing and studying the celestial realm, they aimed to uncover the secrets of the universe and gain insights into its underlying structure and order.

Metempsychosis, Egalitarian Communal Lifestyle, and Daily Rituals

Another significant belief in Pythagoreanism was the concept of metempsychosis, often referred to as the transmigration of souls. The Pythagoreans believed that the soul was immortal and that it moved from one body to another after death.

This belief emphasized the importance of leading a virtuous life to ensure the purification and progress of the soul through its many incarnations. Pythagoreans also espoused an egalitarian communal lifestyle.

In their communities, individuals lived together as equals, sharing responsibilities, possessions, and adhering to a strict set of ethical principles. This communal way of life aimed to foster harmony, cooperation, and mutual respect among its members.

Through their communal living, the Pythagoreans sought to achieve a higher level of spiritual and philosophical enlightenment. Daily rituals were an integral part of Pythagorean life, serving as a means to cultivate discipline, self-control, and inner harmony.

These rituals consisted of practices such as meditation, physical exercises, and communal meals. Pythagoreans believed that these rituals helped balance the body, mind, and soul, allowing individuals to align themselves with the principles of the universe and cultivate virtues.

Legacy and Impact of Pythagoreanism

Pythagoreanism left a profound and lasting impact on various fields of study, including mathematics, music, and astronomy. Pythagoreans made significant contributions to mathematics.

They explored the properties of numbers, developed the concept of ratios, and laid the foundation for later developments in geometry. The discovery of the Pythagorean theorem, attributed to Pythagoras, revolutionized the study of triangles and laid the groundwork for modern mathematical principles.

Music was also deeply influenced by Pythagoreanism. Pythagoreans believed that music, with its mathematical qualities, could shape the soul and bring about harmony and balance.

They discovered the mathematical relationships between musical intervals, leading to the development of musical scales and the understanding of harmony in music. In the field of astronomy, Pythagoreans made important advancements in studying celestial bodies and their patterns of motion.

They believed that the motions of the heavenly bodies could be understood mathematically. Although their astronomical theories were later replaced by more accurate models, their contributions paved the way for the development of modern astronomy.

Despite its significant contributions, Pythagoreanism eventually faced divisions and declined into relative obscurity. Internal disputes and external pressures weakened the Pythagorean communities until they faded away.

Nevertheless, Pythagorean ideas persisted through the works of later philosophers and mathematicians, continuing to influence the development of Western thought.


Pythagoreanism, with its focus on numbers, sacred mathematics, and the understanding of the universe, offered a unique and transformative worldview. The concepts of metempsychosis, an egalitarian communal lifestyle, and daily rituals provided a framework for ethical living and spiritual growth.

The legacy of Pythagoreanism can still be seen today in various fields, from mathematics and music to philosophy and cosmology. Through their contributions and teachings, the Pythagoreans left an indelible mark on Western intellectual history, leaving us with a deep appreciation for the profound interplay between mathematics, philosophy, and the mysteries of the universe.

In conclusion, Pythagoreanism, with its core beliefs in the importance of numbers, sacred mathematics, and the understanding of the universe, has left a profound impact on various fields. The Pythagoreans’ emphasis on the interconnectedness of all things and the pursuit of knowledge through mathematics and observation has shaped disciplines such as mathematics, music, and astronomy.

Their communal lifestyle and daily rituals aimed to cultivate virtue and harmony within individuals. Although Pythagoreanism faced divisions and eventual decline, its legacy continues to inspire thinkers and scholars today.

The legacy of Pythagoreanism serves as a reminder of the enduring power of knowledge, harmony, and the pursuit of truth in the quest for understanding the world around us.

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