By Konstantinos Kalachanis
Like philosophy, the sciences of math can change anything in the lives of people directly involved with it. It can absorb one into the mysterious world of numbers and the endless universe of philosophical ideas. Pythagoras not only left behind distinctive works, but also mysterious myths of his personality.
Pythagoras was already well-known in his hometown Samos for his special talent in math. He gained the respect of his teachers and of the elders thanks to his eloquence, his directness in expressing his innovative ideas and his extroversion. Thales, his teacher, was almost exclusively engaged in teaching math to his best student, Pythagoras.
After teaching him everything he possibly could, Thales encouraged his student to travel to Egypt and get advice from priests that would make him “the most divine and the wisest of all men.” Pythagoras ended up leaving his hometown at the age of 18, because of the tyrannical regime that suppressed his ideas and the enrichment of his knowledge.
His lifelong journey turned his good relations with religion into adoration and released his great love towards astronomy and geometry through his talent in math. The Egyptian priests were skeptical of him, so they introduced him to their stricter way of life, religion and learning. All doubts were lost though, as Pythagoras’ passion for learning and wit was recognized.
When he returned to Samos, he funded a school in order to impart knowledge to his countrymen, but due to their lack of interest, he moved to Southern Italy in order to find new and more cooperative students. At the same time, he funded a mysticist, political and religious fraternity which caused quite a stir, but there is no further information available on this.
His mysterious personality was noticeable during his teaching; no notes and questions were allowed, that is why a great part of his works are lost. There is no additional information even on the renowned Pythagorean Theorem.
It is also not known if Pythagoras invented this theorem on his own or with the help of his students. The simple phrase saying that “the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides” was proven right before the Babylonians.
Even if his school was one of the most famous of his era, Pythagoras still had many enemies because of his political and religious actions. As a result, his school was destroyed by his opponents, prompting his move to Italy.
He spent the last years of his life teaching and traveling. His fame however, still created problems. Nonetheless, no matter how much doubt he was confronted with, nobody can deny his great contribution to philosophy and math.