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Herodotus, Isocrates, and other early writers all agree that Pythagoras was born on Samos, the Greek island in the eastern Aegean, and we also learn that Pythagoras was the sonof Mnesarchus. His father was a gem-engraver or a merchant. His name led him to be associated with Pythian Apollo; Aristippus explained his name by saying, "He spoke (agor-) thetruth no less than did the Pythian (Pyth-)," and Iamblichus tells the story that the Pythia prophesied that his pregnant mother would give birth to a man supremely beautiful, wise,and beneficial to humankind. A late source gives his mother's name as Pythais. As to the date of his birth, Aristoxenus stated that Pythagoras left Samos in the reign ofPolycrates, at the age of 40, which would give a date of birth around 570 BC.[
Both Plato and Isocrates affirm that, above all else, Pythagoras was famous for leaving behind him a way oflife. Both Iamblichus and Porphyry give detailed accounts of the organisation of the school, although the primary interest of both writers is not historical accuracy, but ratherto present Pythagoras as a divine figure, sent by the gods to benefit humankind.
Pythagoras set up an organization which was in some ways a school, in some ways a brotherhood, andin some ways a monastery. It was based upon the religious teachings of Pythagoras and was very secretive. The adherents were bound by a vow to Pythagoras and each other, for thepurpose of pursuing the religious and ascetic observances, and of studying his religious and philosophical theories. The claim that they put all their property into a common stockis perhaps only a later inference from certain Pythagorean maxims and practices.] On the other hand, it seems certain that there were many women among the adherents of Pythagoras.
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