The History of Pythagoras
The period around 500-600 B.C. was extraordinary for the number of men whose thought would profoundly affect the world from that time forward.
In India, Prince Siddhartha was becoming the Gautama Buddha. In China, it was the time of Lao-tse and Confucius. In the western world, it was the time of Pythagoras.
In our modern perspective on “history”, everything before Plato and Aristotle is murky, and even semi-mythic. We tend to see everything before the rise of Periclean Athens as primitive; an arrogant and fallacious perspective. Pythagoras, some seven generations before Plato, was a philosopher/scientist in a line of teaching already thousands of years old, the Orphic tradition.
The major names we know from this ancient line are Orpheus (semi-mythological), Hermes Trismegistus of Egypt (legendary), Pythagoras, (historical personage), and Plato. The classic writers regarded Orpheus as the greatest spiritual master, Pythagoras the greatest scientist, and Plato the greatest philosopher in this line of teaching.
From our perspective we see the historical Pythagoras as an originator, but it would be more accurate to see him as the inheritor of a very ancient body of teaching