10 Strange Facts About Pythagoras: Mathematician And Cult Leader

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9. They Prayed To The Number 10

Photo credit: Jossifresco

The Pythagoreans had a sacred symbol called the Tetractys. It was a triangle with 10 points across four rows, meant to symbolize the organization of space and the universe. Ten, they believed, was the number of the highest order, which contained the course of all mortal things. And they literally worshiped it.

Pythagoras’s followers had a set prayer they used to worship the number 10. “Bless us, divine number, thou who generated gods and men!” they would say. “For the divine number begins with the profound, pure unity until it comes to the holy four; then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, the firstborn, the never-swerving, the never-tiring holy ten, the keyholder of all.”

Everyone had to do it. If you wanted to join the Pythagoreans, you had to swear an oath to the holy triangle. They would swear their loyalty “by that pure, holy, four-lettered name on high,” meaning the Tetractys. Then they would have to swear by Pythagoras himself, who, like a mathematical Prometheus, “to our mortal race did bring the Tetractys.”

8. Pythagoras Was Treated Like A God

Photo credit: Fyodor Bronnikov

Pythagoras’s followers really believed that he was a demigod. They called him “the divine Pythagoras” and told people that he was the son of a god—usually either Hermes or Apollo, depending on whom you asked.

They even had hymns to Pythagoras’s divinity. “Pythais, fairest of the Samian tribe,” one song went, “Bore from th’ embraces of the God of Day. Renown’d Pythagoras, the friend of Jove!”

They even thought that Pythagoras had superpowers. His followers said that he could tame eagles and bears by stroking them. He could control any animal, for that matter, with the sheer power of his voice, and he had the power to write words on the face of the Moon.

One of the biggest legends about him was that he had a golden thigh. When someone doubted his divinity, it was said that Pythagoras would show them his shimmering thigh and win a new convert. In one story, he showed a priest his thigh and, as a reward, was given a magical golden dart that let him fly over mountains, expel diseases, and calm storms.

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