The founders of the school sought to invest their doctrines with the halo of tradition by ascribing them to Pythagoras and Plato, and there is no reason to accuse them of insincerity.
But as Pythagoras himself came from Samos, and his doctrines have a decidedly Oriental tinge, it may very well be that both he and the Essenes drew from a common source; for there is no need to reject, as is so commonly done, the statements of our authorities as to the antiquity of the Essenes.
While, on one hand, he combines much that had been suggested by Parmenides, Pythagoras and the Ionic schools, he has germs of truth that Plato and Aristotle afterwards developed; he is at once a firm believer in Orphic mysteries, and a scientific thinker, precursor of the physical scientists.
Considering his long life and reputation Aurispa produced little: Latin translations of the commentary of Hierocles on the golden verses of Pythagoras (1474) and of Philisci Consolatoria ad Ciceronem from Dio Cassius (not published till 1510); and, according to Gesner, a translation of the works of Archimedes.
Still, the enunciation of the moral precepts of Pythagoras appears to have been dogmatic, or even prophetic, rather than philosophic, and to have been accepted by his disciples with an unphilosophic reverence as the ipse dixit 1 of the master.
Shortly afterwards, however, an insurrection took place, by which the disciples of Pythagoras were driven out, and a democracy established.
The long-lived conception of a series of crystal spheres, acting as the vehicles of the heavenly bodies, and attuned to divine harmonies, seems to have originated with Pythagoras himself.
By the euhemeristic Hellespontine Greeks Herodotus was told that Zalmoxis was really a man, formerly a slave of Pythagoras at Samos, who, having obtained his freedom and amassed great wealth, returned to Thrace, and instructed his fellow-tribesmen in the doctrines of Pythagoras and the arts of civilization.
Belonging, it is said, to a rich and distinguished family, Parmenides attached himself, at any rate for a time, to the aristocratic society or brotherhood which Pythagoras had established at Croton; and accordingly one part of his system, the physical part, is apparently Pythagorean.
We learn both from Iamblichus6 and Porphyry' that Pythagoras practised the diagnosis of the characters of candidates for pupilage before admitting them, although he seems to have discredited the current physiognomy of the schools, as he rejected Cylo, the Crotonian, on account of his professing these doctrines, and thereby was brought into some trouble.