Who was Pythagoras?

Still more celebrated was the philosopher, Pythagoras, who lived perhaps half a century after Thales. He was also of Asiatic birth, and, like Thales, travelled everywhere to study. When he had, as he thought, solved the problems of existence, he did another thing typical of the Greeks of the time. He went from city to city of his countrymen to select which one was most attractive as a permanent home. He finally decided not upon one of the Asiatic cities nor upon one of those of European Greece, but upon one of the prosperous colonies which had been established in the sunny climate of southern Italy. He settled therefore at Crotona, and there established a "school of philosophy."

Tradition tells us that Pythagoras was a marvellously impressive man. He spoke most beautifully, but most calmly. He wore always a long white robe, with a long white beard and flowing hair. He moved slowly, he ate no meat, and he never showed upon his serene face the trace of any passion or feeling whatsoever. Gradually his influence in Crotona became such that be was the real ruler of the city. His doctrines spread to other places, until almost every Grecian metropolis had its school of Pythagoreans, a sort of intellectual aristocracy, who not only swayed the thought of the community, but often held political control as well.

In Crotona the followers of Pythagoras attempted at length to establish an oligarchy, that is, a government open only to a few of themselves; but they were defeated and driven out with considerable bloodshed by an uprising of the common folk, the democracy. Similar tumults occurred in other cities, and gradually this "government by philosophers" sank into obscurity. As Pythagoras never wrote down his doctrines, and forbade his followers to do so, his teachings have come down to us only in vague and distorted form, and we really know little of them. They were certainly, however, tremendously admired and influential in his own time.

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