Congress' participants in Aristotle's Lyceum

Congress' participants in Aristotle's Lyceum


Aristotle was born in Stagira (384-322 BCE) of Chalkidike, but he spent most of his life in Athens. He had studied and taught at Plato’s Academy for nearly 20 years. Later on he founded the Lyceum, where he taught and wrote the majority of his works, and where the foundations of philosophical and scientific research were brought into being. Recent archaeological surveys and excavations have brought to light the Lyceum, and the Congress will hold Special session within its perimeter.

Moreover, this year we celebrate 2400 years from his birth, and thus the World Congress in Philosophy is dedicated to him and his philosophy. We hope that the National Bank of Greece, as well as Hellenic Post, on this occasion will issue the relevant special Commemorative Collection.

The Lyceum was the site where Aristotle in 335 BCE founded his School as a ‘thiasos of the Muses’ - an association devoted to the Muses. At this site Aristotle purchased a building for living quarters and others for teaching activities. The choice of area was hardly accidental. The School’s facilities were immediately adjacent to the Gymnasium, a place of physical training, education and culture that was frequented by young ephebes undergoing military training. The youths’ presence there was like a magnet that attracted philosophers and other intellectuals who wished to engage them in discussion. Among those who frequented the Gymansium were the famed intellectuals Prodicus of Keos, Protagoras of Abdera, Isocrates of Athens (who located his School here), to name but a few.

The Lyceum encompassed an area of considerable extent outside the city walls east of the city, and seems to have covered an area that now stretches from the National Gardens all the way to the Byzantine Museum. The Lyceum was one of the most significant Gymnasia of Athens and included facilities for the military training of youth and was the site of many sanctuaries, such as that of Lykeios Apollo, Heracles, and the temple of the Muses. The Gymnasium contained facilities for gymnastic exhibitions and for the training of hoplite infantrymen as well as cavalrymen; it also served as an Assembly site, before the Assembly was officially moved to the Pnyx in the 6th century BCE. At the same time it was an idyllic area with a variety of trees, shrubs, flowers and flowing water, all of which created an ideal setting for leisurely walks, discussions and reflection. Socrates was a frequent visitor there as we learn from Plato’s dialogue Lysis (203a-b).

When Aristotle founded the Lyceum he had already served some twenty years as a member of the Academy and a collaborator of Plato. Now, in the most mature phase of his life, assisted by his own students and his own collaborators, he lectured and wrote his major works here, thus establishing the Lyceum as the greatest theoretical and applied research center of the time. It became in effect the foremost institution of advanced learning in the liberal arts and sciences. Aristotle’s School had a similar structure and mode of operation as Plato’s Academy. The School was a society of friends engaged in advanced and path-breaking research; the public lectures of the School would draw large audiences.

Information about the Lyceum site is to be found in many ancient sources such as Plato, Xenophon, Theophrastus (in Diogenes Laertius), Plutarch, Lucian, Strabo, and Pausanias. The last information that has come down to us is from Plutarch and Lucian around the 2nd century CE who make reference to a dedication of the Gymnasium to Apollo as the god of Strength and Health.

Theophrastus, the successor of Aristotle at the Lyceum (322-287 BCE), states in his will that he wished to be buried in his own private plot of land he purchased within the greater area of the Lyceum, and he makes references to the Sanctuary of the Muses, two porticos, an altar, and to the statues of Aristotle and his son Nicomachus, and he designates a sum of money for repairs and maintenance of the School’s monuments and buildings (Diogenes Laertius V, 51-57). Undoubtedly, during the period of Theophrastus’ tenure as head of the School, the Lyceum contained a library, probably the first research library of its kind, which later became the model for the great library of Alexandria. Most importantly, the Lyceum library contained Aristotle’s works which, according to ancient sources (Strabo), were inherited by Neleus, who transported them to the city of Skepsis in the Troad in Asia Minor where they suffered damage and remained out of circulation until they were recovered in the 1st century BCE and brought back to Athens. After Sulla’s sacking of Athens in 86 BCE Aristotle’s works were taken to Rome as a war prize. There the writings were collated and systematically edited by Andronikos of Rhodes, a Scholarch who was invited to Rome for this purpose. Andronikos published the corpus, more or less as we have it today, in 45 BCE.

Amongst those who served as Scholarchs of the Lyceum were Theophrastus, after whom came Strato of Lampsacus (287 to c. 270 BCE), Lycon of Troas, (3rd century BCE), Ariston of Keos (3rd century BCE), Kritolaos of Phaselis, (190-150 BCE), Diodorus of Tyre (2nd century BCE), Andronikos of Rhodes (c. 58 BCE) and others. Important personages who worked at the Lyceum were Eudemus, Dikaiarchos of Messenia, the historian Menon, the theoretician of music Aristoxenos, and Demetrios of Phaleron (one of the leading figures behind the establishment of the Library and the Museum at Alexandria, 345-283 BCE).

Among the notable research-scholars who tried to locate the site were E. Curtius and J. A Kauper (1878) and Alexandros Rangaves (1888), who identified the location of Gymnasium with greater accuracy, pointing to the area which recent archeological excavation has certified to indeed be the historic site. In the more recent period honors go to I. Meliades, who during his excavations along the Ilisus river bed (1953-1954), expressed the view that the palaistra, i.e., the wrestling and boxing facility of the Gymansium, should be exactly where later excavations were to find it. These excavations occurred in 1966 by a number of Greek archeologists; especially important were those conducted under the direction of Dr. Eutychia Lygouri-Tolia.

Though there were many vicissitudes and there exist many blank pages in our history of the Lyceum, we can venture to say that philosophical activity continued here from 335 until 86 BCE when the area, and much of Athens, was pillaged by the Roman general Sulla. Later, during the 1st century BCE, it seems that the Lyceum was reconstituted in some fashion by Andronikos of Rhodes (45 BCE) who is referred to by some sources as the 11th Scholarch of the Lyceum. During the 2nd century CE the Emperor Marcus Aurelius appointed professors at the philosophical schools of Athens, and of course at the Lyceum. The Lyceum seems to have suffered great destruction during the barbarian invasion of the Heruli in 267 CE. The operation of the School (as well as that of the Academy) seems to have come to an end in 529 CE.

During the 23rd World of Philosophy, the archeological site of the Lyceum was open, for the first time, for the participants and attendees of the Congress. They attended the Special Philosophy Session and, at the same time, paid tribute to the great philosopher from Stagira

Photos from the Special Philosophy Session of the XXIIIrd World Congress of Philosophy at Aristotle’s Lyceum (August 2013).

Needless to say, during the World Congress (WCP2016) dedicated to the philosophy of Aristotle one Special Session will be organized at Lyceum.


«ὅτι δὲ δεῖ κύριον εἶναι μᾶλλον τὸ πλῆθος ἢ τοὺς ἀρίστους μὲν ὀλίγους δέ, δόξειεν ἂν λέγεσθαι καί τιν' ἔχειν ἀπορίαν τάχα δὲ κἂν ἀλήθειαν. τοὺς γὰρ πολλούς, ὧν ἕκαστός ἐστιν οὐ σπουδαῖος ἀνήρ, ὅμως ἐνδέχεται συνελθόντας εἶναι βελίους ἐκείνων, οὐχ ὡς ἕκαστον ἀλλ' ὡς σύμπαντας, οἷον τὰ συμφορητὰ δεῖπνα τῶν ἐκ μιᾶς δαπάνης χορηγηθέντων· πολλῶν γὰρ ὄντων ἕκαστον μόριον ἔχειν ἀρετῆς καὶ φρονήσεως, καὶ γίνεσθαι συνελθόντων, ὥσπερ ἕνα ἄνθρωπον τὸ πλῆθος, πολύποδα καὶ πολύχειρα καὶ πολλὰς ἔχοντ' αἰσθήσεις, οὕτω καὶ περὶ τὰ ἤθη καὶ τὴν διάνοιαν. διὸ καὶ κρίνουσιν ἄμεινον οἱ πολλοὶ καὶ τὰ τῆς μουσικῆς ἔργα καὶ τὰ τῶν ποιητῶν· ἄλλοι γὰρ ἄλλο τι μόριον, πάντα δὲ πάντες. ἀλλὰ τούτῳ διαφέρουσιν οἱ σπουδαῖοι τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἑκάστου τῶν πολλῶν, ὥσπερ καὶ τῶν μὴ καλῶν τοὺς καλούς φασι, καὶ τὰ γεγραμμένα διὰ τέχνης τῶν ἀληθινῶν, τῷ συνῆχθαι τὰ διεσπαρμένα χωρὶς εἰς ἕν, ἐπεὶ κεχωρισμένων γε κάλλιον ἔχειν τοῦ γεγραμμένου τουδὶ μὲν τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν ἑτέρου δέ τινος ἕτερον μόριον. εἰ μὲν οὖν περὶ πάντα δῆμον καὶ περὶ πᾶν πλῆθος ἐνδέχεται ταύτην εἶναι τὴν διαφορὰν τῶν πολλῶν πρὸς τοὺς ὀλίγους σπουδαίους, ἄδηλον, ἴσως δὲ νὴ Δία δῆλον ὅτι περὶ ἐνίων ἀδύνατον (ὁ γὰρ αὐτὸς κἂν ἐπὶ τῶν θηρίων ἁρμόσειε λόγος· καίτοι τί διαφέρουσιν ἔνιοι τῶν θηρίων ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν;)· ἀλλὰ περὶ τὶ πλῆθος οὐδὲν εἶναι κωλύει τὸ λεχθὲν ἀληθές. διὸ καὶ τὴν πρότερον εἰρημένην ἀπορίαν λύσειεν ἄν τις διὰ τούτων καὶ   τὴν ἐχομένην αὐτῆς, τίνων δεῖ κυρίους εἶναι τοὺς ἐλευθέρους καὶ τὸ πλῆθος τῶν πολιτῶν. τοιοῦτοι δ' εἰσὶν ὅσοι μήτε πλούσιοι μήτε ἀξίωμα ἔχουσιν ἀρετῆς μηδὲ ἕν. τὸ μὲν γὰρ μετέχειν αὐτοὺς τῶν ἀρχῶν τῶν μεγίστων οὐκ ἀσφαλές (διά τε γὰρ ἀδικίαν καὶ δι' ἀφροσύνην τὰ μὲν ἀδικεῖν ἀνάγκη τὰ δ' ἁμαρτάνειν αὐτούς)· τὸ δὲ μὴ μεταδιδόναι μηδὲ μετέχειν φοβερόν (ὅταν γὰρ ἄτιμοι πολλοὶ καὶ πένητες ὑπάρχωσι, πολεμίων ἀναγκαῖον εἶναι πλήρη τὴν πόλιν ταύτην). λείπεται δὴ τοῦ βουλεύεσθαι καὶ κρίνειν μετέχειν αὐτούς. διόπερ καὶ Σόλων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τινὲς νομοθετῶν τάττουσιν ἐπί τε τὰς ἀρχαιρεσίας καὶ τὰς εὐθύνας τῶν ἀρχόντων, ἄρχειν δὲ κατὰ μόνας οὐκ ἐῶσιν. πάντες μὲν γὰρ ἔχουσι συνελθόντες ἱκανὴν αἴσθησιν, καὶ μιγνύμενοι τοῖς βελτίοσι τὰς πόλεις ὠφελοῦσιν, καθάπερ ἡ μὴ καθαρὰ τροφὴ μετὰ τῆς καθαρᾶς τὴν πᾶσαν ποιεῖ χρησιμωτέραν τῆς ὀλίγης· χωρὶς δ' ἕκαστος ἀτελὴς περὶ τὸ κρίνειν ἐστίν” (Πολιτ.1281a.40-1281b38)


“The principle that the multitude ought to be in power rather than the few' best might seem to be solved and to contain some difficulty and perhaps even truth. For the many, of whom each individual is not a good man, when they meet together may be better than the few good, if regarded not individually but collectively, just as a feast to which many contribute is better than a dinner provided out of a single purse. For each individual among the many has a share of excellence and practical wisdom, and when they meet together, just as they become in a manner one man, who has many feet, and hands, and senses, so too with regard to their character and thought. Hence the many are better judges than a single man of music and poetry; for some understand one part, and some another, and among them they understand the whole. There is a similar combination of qualities in good men, who differ from any individual of the many, as the beautiful are said to differ from those who are not beautiful, and works of art from realities, because in them the scattered elements are combined, although, if taken separately, the eye of one person or some other feature in another person would be fairer than in the picture. Whether this principle can apply to every democracy, and to all bodies of men, is not clear. Or rather, by heaven, in some cases it is impossible to apply; for the argument would equally hold about brutes; and wherein, it will be asked, do some men differ from brutes? But there may be bodies of men about whom our statement is nevertheless true. And if so, the difficulty which has been already raised, and also another which is akin to it-viz. what power should be assigned to the mass of freemen and citizens, who arenot rich and have no personal merit-are both solved. There is still a danger in allowing them to share the great offices of state, for their folly will lead them into error, and their dishonesty into crime. But there is a danger also in not letting them share, for a state in which many poor men are excluded from office will necessarily be full of enemies. The only way of escape is to assign to them some deliberative and judicial functions. For this reason Solon and certain other legislators give them the power of electing to offices, and of calling the magistrates to account, but they do not allow them to hold office singly. When they meet together their perceptions are quite good enough, and combined with the better class they are useful to the state (just as impure food when mixed with what is pure sometimes makes the entire mass more wholesome than a small quantity of the pure would be), but each individual, left to himself, forms an imperfect judgement.” (Pol. 1281a.40-1281b38, transl by B. Jowett in the Works of Aristotle, edited by Jonathan Barnes,1984)