Main article: Neopythagoreanism
Neopythagoreanism was a revival in the 2nd century BC – 2nd century AD period of various ideas traditionally associated with the followers of Pythagoras, the Pythagoreans. Notable Neopythagoreans include Nigidius Figulus, Apollonius of Tyana and Moderatus of Gades. Middle and Neo-Platonists such as Numenius and Plotinus also showed some Neopythagorean influence.
They emphasized the distinction between the soul and the body. God must be worshipped spiritually by prayer and the will to be good. The soul must be freed from its material surroundings by an ascetic habit of life. Bodily pleasures and all sensuous impulses must be abandoned as detrimental to the spiritual purity of the soul. God is the principle of good; Matter the groundwork of Evil. The non-material universe was regarded as the sphere of mind or spirit.
In 1915, a subterranean basilica where 1st century Neo-Pythagoreans held their meetings was discovered near Porta Maggiore on Via Praenestina, Rome. The groundplan shows a basilica with three naves and an apse similar to early Christian basilicas that did not appear until much later, in the 4th century. The vaults are decorated with white stuccoes symbolizing Neopythagorean beliefs but its exact meaning remains a subject of debate.