IN BED WITH PYTHAGORAS
Young people around the world have come to associate the name Pythagoras with equal parts dread and wonder as they first study trigonometry. I still remember the first time I heard this name at the age of 6 and then years later as I studied philosophy in communist Poland. We were taught that his was a model for a just, pseudo-egalitarian society – as ours was meant to be. It would be an understatement to say I didn’t subscribe to this view and escaped the communist system for the western world.
My wife Barbara Ferri inherited her ancestral estate Borgo Ferri in Calabria – a region of Italy which was a part of Magna Grecia (Great Greece) from ~700 BC to ~200 BC. Borgo Ferri is a short distance from the city of Crotone (known in ancient times as Kroton) where Pythagoras is thought to have founded his school in 530 BC.
Several years ago, I became a founding member of a philosophical society called the Nuova Scuola Pitagorica (New Pythagorean School) in Crotone. My passion for history and philosophy has been a driving force to study Pythagoreanism in greater depth. I visited the places he is historically recorded as having lived and taught at – including Samos, Athens, Crete, Egypt, Crotone, Sybari, and Metaponte.
Some years ago, at a reception where my wife was being honored with the Theano Prize (named after Pythagoras’ wife), I met a scholar who lectures on Greek mythology and Pythagorean philosophy. Over the years since, we have carried on a continuous debate over the influence of this philosophy over the past 25 centuries. This subject has so fascinated me that I have now decided to write a book about it.
“In bed with Pythagoras” is the story of Pythagoras; the contradictions in his personal life, his school, teachings, philosophy, and impact over the past 2500 years. Many well known philosophers, scientists, and writers like Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St-Augustine, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Pope Francis have been influenced by his theories. It is based on debates about various writings of his followers, historians, and legends that have persisted in the absence of any surviving document by the subject himself. Pythagoras’ ascetic life, his family, disciples, contemporary elites, and finally, his tragic ending are pieced together to further our understanding. In a time when the World Economic Forum tells us that the 1% have more than twice as much wealth as the remaining 6.9 billion people on Earth, Pythagoras’ ideas on an equal and just society are more relevant than ever.