Pythagoras and his school
Crotone’s main historical figure is undoubtedly Pythagoras, the famous mathematician, legislator and ancient Greek philosopher. The story of Pythagoras is shrouded in mystery. We know very little about him and most of the records concerning him arose in later times.
According to these sources, Pythagoras was born on the Greek island of Samos in the first half of the sixth century BC and later moved to Magna Graecia, where he founded his school in Crotone around 530 BC.
One version of Pythagoras's death is linked to the philosopher’s rejection of broad beans, which was shared by his school: not only were the Pythagoreans careful not to eat them, but they heedfully avoided any type of contact with this plant. According to the legend, Pythagoras himself, while fleeing from political opponents, opted to be captured and killed rather than to seek safety by crossing a bean field.
Pythagoras is traditionally regarded as the founder of vegetarianism in the West, as he was the first of the ancient philosophers to denounce the custom of eating animals. He saw the practice as an unnecessary cause for massacre, given that the earth already offered abundant plants and fruits that could be eaten without bloodshed.
While the school of Pythagoras inherited the mystique of its founder, it also inherited his interest for mathematics, astronomy, music and philosophy.
The school, which could even be attended by women, offered two types of lessons: one public and one private. During the public lesson, which was dedicated to the common people, the master explained the basis of his philosophy based on numbers in the simplest possible manner, so that everyone could understand. The private lesson, on the other hand, was of a higher level and was mainly frequented by distinguished students of mathematics.
As the Pythagoreans were supporters of the Orphic theories on the immortality of the soul and metempsychosis, they believed that ascetic practices, both spiritual and physical, had to be carried out in order to maintain it in a pure and pristine state.
These practices included solitary walks in the mornings and evenings, body care and exercise, such as running, wrestling and gymnastics, as well as a diet made up of simple foods, whereby they even abolished wine consumption.
Pythagoras and his followers studied the properties of even and odd numbers, triangular numbers and perfect numbers, leaving a lasting legacy for future mathematicians.