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Aristotle’s Lyceum

By Corinne Chandler

The Lyceum of Aristotle, AthensIf Homer was correct in writing that “the souls of the dead come to the Meadow of Asphodel where the phantoms of those whose work is done abide" then surely Aristotle’s approving spirit must be roaming here in the grounds of his lyceum.

Founded by Aristotle in 335 BC., the lyceum was known as a Peripatetic School (from the Greek word peripatos, which means stroll) as it is believed that Aristotle liked to stroll through the school’s tree filled groves discussing philosophy and the principles of mathematics and rhetoric with his students.

This inspiring site was excavated by archaeologist Effie Lygouri in 1996 and first opened to the public in June 2014.  The idea is to integrate the Lyceum into Athens every day life as part park, part historical reminder of the city’s glorious past.

As this is the remains of a peripatetic school it is especially meaningful to have created a natural looking landscape, and as I entered from Rigilis Street one of the first things I noticed were tall grasses rustling gently in the breeze and the sound of birdsong. Even the sound of traffic on nearby Vasilissis Sophias Avenue became a distant hum as I got closer to the excavations.

Aristotle's Lyceum, Athens, GreeceAristotle was himself a student of Plato and, although he was Plato's most promising pupil he held opposing views on several fundamental philosophical issues. These beliefs led him to found his own school and it was here in this incredibly significant spot that he developed and taught his own method of inductive and deductive reasoning, observing the workings of the world around him and then reasoning from the particular to a knowledge of essences and universal laws.

The Lyceum was a school of unprecedented organized scientific inquiry and, In a sense, the first major centre to put forward the modern scientific method. It was from here, too, that Aristotle wrote extensively on a wide range of subjects including politics, metaphysics, ethics and logic.

It wasn’t all intellectual pursuits for the fourth century BC scholar, however. Athleticism was highly valued and there are the remains of baths, a gymnasium and a palaestrae where students would box, wrestle and compete in the no holds barred pankrateion.

With its well-tended walkways lined with sweet smelling thyme, rosemary and lavender Aristotle’s Lyceum is once again a spot for walking, an oases of calm, a setting for reflection, and still, perhaps most importantly, a place for learning.

The Lyceum, located between the Officers Club, the Athens Conservatory and the Byzantine Museum on the junction between Rigillis Street and Vassileos Constantinou Avenue is open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Admission is free of charge. While one could not dispute the importance of the school, the Lyceum of Aristotle is a site that only an archaeologist could love so one might be forgiven if he did not go out of his way to see it. But if you are in the neighborhood it is worth a visit and it looks a lot better than Plato's Academy does.

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