Pythagoras was a highly influential educator during the time of ancient Greece. In this post, we will take a brief look at his life and impact on education.
Pythagoras was born around 570BC on the island of Samos. His early life was spent in private study. However, as a young man, Pythagoras traveled to Egypt to acquire additional education.
Down To Egypt
While in Egypt, Pythagoras studied with the Egyptian priest. The Egyptian priest were the masters of education in Egypt and was the only class in Egypt that received an advanced education. Under their tutelage, Pythagoras was exposed to various math and science subjects as well as some of the religious practices of Egypt. He was particularly touched by their way of life and it led him to develop his own style of living that would eventually be called Pythagoreanism.
After completing additional studies in Egpyt, Pythagoras moved to Italy and founded his own school. The school had essentially two levels which were the exoteric and esoteric. Students began in the exoteric studies and stayed there for at least 3 years. After completing exoteric studies a student would begin esoteric studies with Pythagoras himself.
The subjects taught at Pythagoras’ school includes physics, geography, medicine, math and even metaphysics. In terms of math, it was Pythagoras who gave algebra students the Pythagorean theorem which states that the square of a hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the square of the base and the square of the height as shown in the expression below
base2 + height2 = hypotenuse2
Pythagoras also had distinct metaphysical views. He believed in one true called as a form of monotheism. This was in stark contrast to the commonly held beliefs of Greece at the time. Christianity was a rather strong religion at this time and it is possible that Pythagoras may have come into contact with this religion.
Pythagoras also believed in the transmigration of the soul. This essentially means that when an animal died they would come back as a lower animal. This is in many ways a form of reincarnation. It was simply another way of saying “You shall not really die” which was an idea shared in a garden by a snake to a woman.
Pythagoras’ school was known for being authoritative, strict, and even have a habit of being aristocratic. This along with other ideas made Pythagoras school unpopular. So unpopular that a mob would eventually burn his school down to the ground.
It is not clear if Pythagoras died in the flames or lived on as scholars are still debating this. What can be seen is that Pythagoras view of education has continued to live on to this day. His way of life had an influence on many people and his contribution to mathematics has touched the life of practical every algebra student on the planet.