Pythagoras: Artist, Statesman, Philosopher - Part II

In the second part of his series, Charles Seltman focuses on the life of Pythagoras in Italy and how he became one of the greatest thinkers and most remarkable men in history.

When Pythagoras sailed away from the island of Samos, leaving the frustrations of a tyrant’s rule behind him, he was moving into a land where freedom then flourished. No autocrat had as yet got control of any State in the southern regions of Italy, which the Greeks called Megale Hellas, and the Romans Magna Graecia.

Over seventy years of age — or, by another account, about sixty — he had already accumulated in his eastern home a vast amount of learning, knowledge and practice. In boyhood, as his father’s apprentice, he was drawn to mathematical enquiries by observation of the crystals used by gem-engravers. Sir William Ridgeway once pointed out that:

combining his knowledge of crystallography, gained from his father’s trade, with that of Egyptian geometry, Pythagoras conceived the world as built up of a series of material bodies imitating geometric solids. Quartz-crystal would give him a perfect pyramid and double pyramid; iron pyrites is found in cubes massed together; the dodekahedron is found in nature in the common garnet; and the beryl is a cylindrical hexagon.

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