Famous people who may never have existed

Pythagoras

Pythagoras’ influence on mathematics can’t be overstated, though high school students stumped by the Pythagorean Theorem might argue otherwise. But there’s a growing movement of people who don’t see Pythagoras as a mere bane of freshman geometry class — they see him as a work of fiction.

As explained in the book Classical Philosophy: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Volume 1, Pythagoras never wrote anything that we know of. Everything we know about the man comes from outside sources like his followers, known as Pythagoreans (like Hulkamaniacs, only way dorkier). There’s even doubt that his mathematical breakthroughs came from him or his followers. As told by M.F Burnyeat, he didn’t discover his own theorem, and celestial spheres weren’t thought about until decades after he died, despite his reputation for being among the first to point to the sky and ask, “what are thooooosssse?”

Then there’s the poetically-named Book Of Dead Philosophers, which states even classical scholars think Pythagoras is a made-up person. This isn’t just due to his lack of writings, but also due to knowing about an ancient Italian cult, also called Pythagoreans. They might well have invented Pythagoras as a figurehead “leader” to justify wacky, fanatical beliefs like “A-squared + B-squared = C-squared.” Also, that odd numbers are male and even ones are female. And that beans are evil. If Pythagoras was real, he was clearly an odd duck.