Pythagoras, the man behind the Pythagorean theorem was more than just a mathematician. He was a spiritual leader with followers who thought he’d been sent from Heaven. For the Pythagoreans, math was a religious experience and some equations were divine secrets, unfit for public eyes.
When your middle school teacher showed you how to find the hypotenuse of a right triangle, you probably didn’t get down on your knees and start worshiping him as a god. But when it first happened in ancient Greece, that was pretty much how people reacted.
There was a whole cult behind the man who figured out how to measure the side of a triangle, and—as you might imagine—they had some pretty strange beliefs.
10. Pythagoras Led A Cult That Worshiped Numbers
Pythagoras had followers. A whole group of mathematicians signed up to be his pupils, to learn everything he knew, and to help him solve the great riddles of the universe. But this was more than just a group of people who liked math—it was a full-blown religion.
Numbers, Pythagoras believed, were the elements behind the entire universe. He taught his followers that the world was controlled by mathematical harmonies that made up every part of reality. More than that, though, these numbers were sacred—almost like gods.
The Pythagoreans had sacred numbers. Seven was the number of wisdom, 8 was the number of justice, and 10 was the most sacred number of all. Every part of math was holy. When they solved a new mathematical theorem, they would give thanks to the gods by sacrificing an ox.
The Greeks thought it was a little freaky. They didn’t just call it a philosophy or a religion—they saw it as a cult and a dangerous one at that. Pythagoras scared people. They even burned down his house and chased him out of town, fearing his mystic command over the sacredness of numbers.