Introduction: It has been said that, one hundred years after his death, around 497 B.C., hardly anyone at Athens still remembered anything of Pythagoras of Samos; seven hundred years later, his followers knew everything about him including the secret recipe of his favorite honey cakes. The author of this account of Pythagoras’ ancestry and birth, the Neo-platonic, Syrian philosopher Iamblichus, was just such a follower. Living in the fourth century A. D., he was a vigorous opponent of the newly emerging Christian religion, writing many books on Pythagoras and his teachings.
3. It is said that Ankaios who lived in Samos in Kephallenia was begotten by Zeus. Whether he received this repute because of virtue or a greatness of soul, he exceeded the wisdom of the other Kephallenians. An oracle was given about him by the Pythian oracle (Apollo of Delphi) to gather a colony from among the Kephallenians and the Arcadians and the Thessalians …
4. They say that Mnesarchos and Pythais who were the parents of Pythagoras were descended from this house and were of the family of Ankaios … 5. Once when his nobility of birth was being celebrated by the citizens, a certain poet from Samos said he (Pythagoras) was begotten by Apollo …
5. Iamblichus goes on to show that this is really simply rumor, at least as far
as Apollo’s physically being the father of Pythagoras is concerned, i.e., by
Apollo’s impregnating the philosopher’s mother….
8. However, the soul of Pythagoras came from the realm of Apollo, either being a heavenly companion or ranked with him in some other familiar way,
to be sent down among men; no one can deny this. It can be maintained from his birth and the manifold wisdom of his soul. 9…. He was educated so that he was the most beautiful and godlike of those written about in histories.
10. After his father died, he increased in nobility and wisdom. Although he was still a youth, in his manner of humility and piety he was counted most worthy already, even by his elders. Seen and heard, he persuaded everyone (to his way of thinking), and to everyone who saw him he appeared to be astonishing, so that, reasonably, he was considered by many to be the son of a God.