Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 5

Pythagoras in Samos

by Iamblichus Icon
5 minutes  • 941 words
Table of contents

Pythagoras was admired even more by the more aged inhabitants after his return to Samos.

He appeared to them:

  • to be more beautiful and wise, and
  • to possess more divine gracefulness.

Hence, he was publicly called on by his country to benefit all men, by imparting to them what he knew.

  • He complied with this request.
  • But he endeavoured to introduce the symbolical mode of teaching, in a way perfectly similar to the documents that he had learned in Egypt.

This was even though the Samians did not:

  • very much admit this mode of tuition, nor
  • adhere to aptitude required by him

Therefore, no one:

  • attended to him nor
  • was genuinely wanted those disciplines which he tried by all means to introduce among the Greeks.

Yet he was neither despised nor neglected Samos, because it was his country. Therefore, he wished to give his fellow-citizens a taste of the sweetness of the mathematical disciplines, even if they did not want to be instructed in them.

This is why he used the following method and artifice.

Teaching Math

He saw youth in poverty who loved gymnastic and other bodily exercises, playing at ball in the Gymnasium with great skill.

  • Pythagoras thought that the young man might easily be persuaded to attend to him, if he were:
    • sufficiently supplied with the necessaries of life, and
    • freed from the care of procuring them.

And so, as soon as the youth left the bath, Pythagoras called him to him, and promised that he would furnish him with every thing requisite to the support of his bodily exercise, on condition that he would learn from him gradually, easily, but continually. In this way, the young lad would not be burdened by receiving them at once.

But the young man immediately accepted the conditions.

Pythagoras tried to instruct him in arithmetic and geometry, forming each of his demonstrations in an abacus, and giving the youth 3 oboli as a reward for every figure which he learnt.

He continued this for a long time, exciting him to the geometrical theory by the desire of honour.

Thus, Pythagoras led the youth into an orderly path which had so captivated the youth that he continued to pursue them even if he should suffer the extremity of lack.

Pythagoras then pretended poverty. He could no longer give the youth 3 oboli.

Upon hearing this, the youth replied:

I am able to learn and receive your disciplines without the 3 oboli.

But I have not the means of procuring sufficient nutrition for myself.

You should work to procure daily necessaries and food. You should not be distracted by the abacus, and by stupid and vain pursuits.

The youth, however, vehemently abhorring the thought of discontinuing his studies, replied:

I will provide for you in future and repay your kindness in a way resembling that of the stork. I in my turn will give you 3 oboli for every figure.

From that time, he was so captivated by these disciplines, that he alone, of all the Samians, migrated from his country with Pythagoras, having the same name with him, but being the son of Eratocles.

Teaching Math

“Pythagoras” was said to have 3 books on Athletics.

  • In it, he orders the Athletæ to feed on flesh instead of dry figs.
  • Such books are very improperly ascribed by some to Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus.

Around the same time, Pythagoras was admired at Delos, when he approached to the “bloodless altar” of the father Apollo, and worshipped it.

Afterwards, he went to all the oracles.

He likewise dwelt for some time in Crete and Sparta to learn their laws.

  • Afterwards, he returned home in order to investigate what he had omitted.

He established a school in the city, which is even now called “The Semicircle of Pythagoras”.

  • In it, the Samians now consult about public affairs, conceiving it right to investigate things just and advantageous in that place which he had constructed who paid attention to the welfare of all men.

He also formed a cavern out of the city, adapted to his philosophy, in which he spent most of his days and nights investigating useful things in disciplines, framing intellectual conceptions after the same manner as Minos the son of Jupiter.

He so much surpassed those who afterwards employed his disciplines, that they conceived magnificently of themselves, from the knowledge of theorems of small importance.

Pythagoras completed the science of the celestial orbs, and unfolded the whole of it by arithmetical and geometrical demonstrations.

He is, however, to be admired in a still greater degree for what he afterwards accomplished.

For when now philosophy had received a great accession, he was admired by all Greece, and the best of those who philosophized came to Samos on his account, in order that they might participate of his erudition.

The citizens likewise:

  • employed him in all their embassies, and
  • compelled him to help them administer public affairs.

However, he easily saw the difficulty of simultaneously:

  • complying with the laws of his country, and
  • remaining at home to philosophize
    • He considered that all philosophers before him had lived overseas. This is why he decided to neglect all political occupations.

He thus moved to Italy, conceiving it to be his proper country. This is because:

  • Italy had the most men well-disposed towards learning. and
  • the Samians neglected education

Crotona was the noblest city in Italy.

  • When he arrived there, he had as many as 600 followers.
  • These were excited by:
    • his discourses to the study of philosophy
    • an amicable division of the goods of life in common
      • This is why they were called Cœnobitæ.

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