Humans used to follow a plant-based diet (2). We have greatly increased the consumption of meat and dairy in the last decades.
The first known documented vegan was the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras. He was the first who spoke for the benefits of a meatless diet. He believed all living beings have souls. So, he didn’t eat meat or fish.
Pythagoras was a philosopher and mathematician, lived in Ancient Greece from ca. 570 to ca. 490 BCE. He also lived for many years in Ancient Egypt and Italy.
He’s one of the most famous and controversial ancient Greek philosophers.
What was Pythagoras’ philosophy?
Pythagoras is best known today for his mathematical theorem. The famous formula of Pythagoras’ theorem is a2 + b2 = c2.
Also, he got involved in cosmology, mathematics, and philosophy.
Pythagoras himself wrote nothing. Our knowledge of Pythagoras’ sayings is entirely derived from the reports of others. Many question these reports. They say that some writings are the views of other philosophers, written in the name of Pythagoras.
Was Pythagoras the first vegan?
Pythagoras was considered the father of vegetarianism for centuries.
A diet without the presence of meat was referred to as a “Pythagorean diet” for years, up until the modern vegetarian movement began in the eighteenth century.
There are many controversial opinions, whether Pythagoras was vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based:
Pythagoras the plant-based:
- Aristoxenus said that Pythagoras was not a strict vegetarian and only avoiding eating some types of meat (Diogenes Laertius VIII. 20),
- Aristotle reports that the Pythagoreans refrain from eating only some animal parts (Aulus Gellius IV. 11. 11–12).
Pythagoras the vegetarian:
- Eudoxus said that Pythagoras didn’t consume meat at all and also even refused to associate with butchers (Porphyry, VP 7),
- Additionally, Dicaearchus (one of Pythagoras’ most well-known doctrines) was teaching that all animate beings are of the same family (Porphyry, VP 19). That suggested that people shouldn’t be eating other animals.
The most common belief is that Pythagoras and his followers followed vegetarianism for several reasons. Mostly, due to religious and ethical reasons.
Pythagoras believed all living beings have souls, so meat and fish shouldn’t be eaten.
The father of modern vegetarianism
Pythagoras’ principles influenced academics and religious thinkers for centuries.
This type of thinking, of equality, respect, and harmonious coexistence between species led to the foundation of the “Vegetarian Society” in England in the mid of the eighteenth century.