Pythagoras: Artist, Statesman, Philosopher

Charles Seltman introduces Pythagoras, a man of great personal authority and astonishingly diverse gifts, who founded one of the most influential schools of philosophy in the ancient world.

I. Pythagoras in Samos

Three large and important Greek islands lie close to the coast of Asia Minor. Lesbos, Chios, and Samos—the last, which is the smallest, being only slightly bigger than the Isle of Wight. The Greek island is about twenty-seven miles long and fourteen miles wide; the Isle of Wight measures twenty-three by thirteen miles. Samos has had a lively history, filled with the actions of highly individualistic people.

When Anatolian powers threatened, as they so often did, Samos always found itself closest to the danger zone; for a narrow strait, no more than one mile wide, separates the island from the mainland. In ancient times, it was more prosperous than it is today, although it still produces olive oil, raisins, cotton, tobacco, and great quantities of Samian wine. As long ago as the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., there were large flocks of sheep on the island. Samian wool, like its wine and oil, was famous.

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