Athens Schools and Plato’s Academy 

it is well known that Socrates was Plato’s famous mentor. Plato’s school, the Academy, maybe the first university in the world, was founded back in 387 BC in the park in Kolonos. It was not only Plato but also Aristotle who studied there and later left the school to become a teacher of Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, there is not much to see there today, but it’s a nice park to go to for walking, completely open.

During Athens destruction of Sulla (86 BC), not only the Dipylon Gate destroyed and its surroundings but also Plato’s Academy were destroyed.

Stoics, Cynics and Alexander the Great

For the record, we should mention that the Stoic School was founded by Zeno of Citium in Cyprus (334-262 BC), who was teaching at the Poikile Stoa, located in Athens Agora, close to Adrianou Street today. Zeno was a merchant; he lost his fortune after a shipwreck and came to Athens. There he became a student of Crates of Thebes (365-285 BC), who was a student of Diogenes of Sinope (412-323 BC).

Crates was not Athenian but was from a wealthy family in  Thebes, and he renounced his fortune to live in Athens. He was nicknamed the Door-Opener “θυρεπανοίκτης”, because he would enter any house and people would receive him gladly and with honor. Crates was the teacher of Zeon, and he was buried in his country.

Crates’ teacher, the famous Diogenes, was not from Athens as well, but from Sinope, an Ionian colony. He was so famous that Alexander the Great himself went to meet him in Corinth.

Diogenes was exiled from his homeland, and his family business was banking. Things did not go well since he was accused of forgery, and Diogenes lost his citizenshop and possesions and went to Athens. He has a slave with him, Manes, who espoused him shortly thereafter. It was his first humorous approach: “If Manes can live without Diogenes, why not Diogenes without Manes?”. Diogenes was nicknamed Cynic, because of the area called Cynosarges in Athens. Diogenes met Antisthenes (466-366), the founder of Cynicism, and a student of Socrates (470-399). Antisthenes was also taught rhetoric from Gorgias, the protagonist of a Plato’s dialogue.

Cynical from Cynosarges, Κυνόσαργες, where a temple of Hercules was, named after dog>κύων in ancient Greek, and fast>αργός, that according to the legend snatched the offering from a sacrifice. The oracle advised to build a temple to Hercules to honor him. The exact location is unknown, but it is probably close to Lyceum, and near the modern area of Neos Kosmos. Excavations were made by the British School of Athens.

Aristotle and Lyceum

The Lyceum was a public discussion place before Aristotle and was outside the eastern city walls. Before Pnyx Hill was selected as a place of public gathering, it was where people were discussing, a location of significance. So many famous people had already given speeches there, such as Protagoras, Isocrates, Socrates and Plato. The name Lyceum comes from an epithet of God Apollo, which comes from “wolf”.

Aristotle was the best student of Plato but was not selected as a director since he was not Athenian. The family traditions ‘ruled’ Greeks centuries ago! So how did he find his Peripatetic School in Athens? How did Athens become his home place? After completing his Plato’s Academy studies, Aristotle (whose family business was medicine) went to Lesvos for botanic studies. A few years later, Phillip II, king of an average kingdom back then, Macedonia, invited him to tutor his son, Alexander. After Alexander completed his dominance in Greece, he actually obliged the Athenians to welcome another foreigner to open a new school in 334 BC, and “Lyceum” was born. We have to think that Aristotle used some buildings in the area that was named Lyceum, and his school became famous as “Peripatetic”. Aristotle fled Athens in 323 BC, after Alexander’s death. The school was destroyed as well in 86 BC, as was the most part of the city, and a new school was built later. The remains were discovered recently, in 1996, next to the Byzantine Museum today.

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