Pythagoras of Samos and his Society

a 2 + b 2 = c 2

Most of us probably know Pythagoras of Samos because of the famous equation above used to solve for the side lengths and angle measurements of right angles.

I had to research and write up on Pythagoras for my paper on the History of Number Theory. Pythagoras and his followers were actually the first one to develop the Number Theory. Anyhow, the more interesting information which I found out was that Pythagoras founded and headed an exclusive secret society of mathematicians.

When he was about 55 years old, Pythagoras established a school in Croton, Italy. His school and teachings focused on mathematics, music, philosophy and astronomy, and the relationship of these fields to religion. Within the school, Pythagoras founded and headed a society composed of both men and women (he was indeed ahead of his time). The members of the society's inner circle were called the mathematikoi. The mathematikoi lived within the school, didn't have any personal possessions and were vegetarians. They were taught personally by Pythagoras. Meanwhile, less restricted members of the outer circle were called akousmatics. They lived outside the school, had their own possessions and were not necessarily vegetarians. The school and the society practiced secrecy and communalism which makes it hard for present mathematicians and historians to determine which works were actually by Pythagoras.

Around 580 BC, the society was attacked by Ceylon, a popular and wealthy Croton of ill-repute. He had wanted to join the society but was rejected by Pythagoras because of his character flaws. Angered by the rejection,Ceylon and his friends violently attacked Pythagoras and the
society. Because of this, the later parts of Pythagoras and the details of his death remain unclear. Some contend that he was able to excape the attacks while other argue that he died during the attacks.

Who said being a mathematician was a safe and boring job??? ;)

Bulaevsky, Jacobo, Arcytech, 2001.
JJ O' Connor and EF Robertson, MacTutor History of Mathematics, 1999.

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