Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pythagoras: the philosopher who conveyed the wisdom of the East to the West.


When Pythagoras arrived in Croton, a city of Magna Grecia around 532 BC he found a society deeply hurt and dissappointed. The defeat of Kroton by an another city state the Epizephyrian Locris, represented the dismay in political and social level. The influence of Pythagoras and his impressive rhetoric which was addressing to the youth, were two factors that contributed in the increase of his prestige, making him one of the most important personalities of the city and of the ancient world.

In Kroton Pythagoras founded a philosophical school in order to ideally shape the society of Kroton as he wanted. Pythagoras was interacting mainly with aristocrats of the city and he became a spiritual and philosophical leader. Soon his disciples  would assume the leadership of the city. The influence of Pythagoras and his disciples on the matter of city administration would continue affecting later generations of leaders of Kroton and would render the city once again powerful.

The southern Italy was called Magna grecia(greater Greece) in the antiquity because of  the numerous colonies of the Greeks in the area.
The heresy as his school was characterized, because of what it was taught there it was converted into a new moral, religious ,political and scientific movement. The influence of the Pythagorean teaching and philosophy influenced also the fate and events of neighbouring cities of Kroton.One example was the utter destruction of the city of Sybaris(511BC) one of the wealthiest cities of the ancient world after a suggestion by Pythagoras to the leaders of Kroton. Nevertheless because of this suggestion Pythagoras and his students were highly criticized resulting his departure from the city. Pythagoras settled in an another Italian colony called Metapontion until the end of his life(480 BC)

Pythagoras was lucky to be born in Samos at the height of its power under the leadership of the tyrrant Polycrates. He was also even luckier his island to be near the city of Miletus where at the time lived two of the greatest pre-Socratic philosophers Thales and Anaximader.

Pythagoras was born in Samos a Greek island, between 580-570 BC . His father Mnesarchos was a successful and wealthy merchant was descended from one of the aristocratic families which formed the court of the famous tyrrant of Samos Polycrates. Pythagoras was accompanying his father in his mercantile trips having thus the opportunity to meet and learn about new cultures like the Phoenician and the Egyptian. In Tyrinth he attended astronomy  lessons by Babylonian priests. Later he was taught Geometry and Astrology by Thales and Anaximader. However the biggest influence in Pythagoras' education was Pherecydes. Pherecydes was the first Greek to adopt the eastern views of immortality of soul and second life which he conveyed to his student Pythagoras.Although some historians claim that Pythagoras' views on the immortality of soul were influenced by Egyptian priests.

The ahmes papyrus 
After the death of Pherecydes Pythagoras was impelled by Thales to turn towards the mystical Egyptian priests.Carrying with him a written recommendation by Polycrates to Pharaoh Amasis, Pythagoras achieved to be accepted as a student of the priests in Thebes. There he was initiated in all the Egyptian rituals and learned the Egyptian views about life and death. The Egyptians believed that many animals were sacred and their diet was as we would call it nowadays a vegeterian's diet.According to some historians Pythagoras had the chance to study the Achmes papyrus which dated back to the second millenium BC. This papyrus revealed through a mystical language some complex and perfectly developed mathematical theories which were unknown for the rest of the world.
After finishing his studies in Egypt he wandered all around the known world.At some point he became a student of Chaldean priests of Babylon who were masters of mysticism and astronomy. 
Carrying knowledge from all around the known world Pythagoras returned to Samos and became the teacher of Polycrates' son. However very soon their relations were worsened and Pythagoras left for Italy.

Pythagorean lifestyle

The registration of students in his school in Kroton was like a process of initiation into a secret society.The wannabe students were beginning their initiation process in the gym where they had to accomplish some tasks. Later they would participate in a symposium to answer some questions.Pythagoras was judging the candidate's appropriacy to enter the school not by the answers he was giving but by the physical reactions he had when the questions were posed to him.If the student was admitted  he would attend five years of lessons to complete the first grade of education(there were three grades). The students before entering the school were giving all their fortune to a group of students where they belonged. During the first grade of studies they were only allowed to listen what Pythagoras taught. 

A student's program began with gymnastics in the morning  and Pythagorean teaching in the afternoon.heir diet was strict. For lunch they were eating bread and honey and for dinner bread and vegetables. Before going to sleep every student had to consider what were his deeds of the day and what conclusion could he make.Only the third grade students were allowed to teach and tell about what they had learned.

Pythagorean teaching

The central doctrine of Pythagoras philosophy is based on the idea that "the number" is the essence of the beings. This philosophy derived from the interest of the Pythagoreans in music. They believed that the harmony of music was related to mathematical analogies. The "number" was the beginning of everything for the Pythagoreans. Some numbers were considered sacred for the Pythagoreans. One example was the geometrical construction of 10. (1+2+3+4=10). Another famous theory was the Pythagorean theorem

The Pythagorean moral theory was the effort of the human transition to modesty and harmony. This required that the human would maintain some characteristics like prudence,confidentiality,quietness, respect,patriotism, denial of wealth , justice and valour.Friendship had an important position in moral teaching.This was proved by an incident where someone asked Pythagoras "What is a friend" and Pythagoras answered "It's the other me"
The famous Pythagorean theorem
According to Pythagoras the soul is immortal an is located somewhere between the brain and the heart.As it is aforementioned he also believed in life after death.According to Pythagoras' reincarnation theory the soul of the body that had a pure life would go to heaven and unite with god but if the soul was impure, it had to re enter to a body until it would be cleansed  from sin.
Pythagoras honoured only Apollo among the Greek gods. He was often referring to him as father. He believed in demons whom he thought to be pure souls that wandered on the skies. The strongest being for Pythagoras was god and he was represented by the number 1.

The teachings of Pythagoras included mathematical philosophical and geometrical theories that made him notorious in the ancient world influencing the Greek science and philosophy. Besides, every time he was asked "What are you?"  he responded "I am a philosopher". His philosophy was the way of life would determine the salvation of someone's soul.

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