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“Education is the best provision for old age.”
Some people say that Aristotle was the greatest philosopher of all. He was certainly one of Plato’s best students. He spent twenty years at Plato’s Academy, first as a student, then a researcher, and finally a teacher.
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C.E., in Stageira, Chalcidice. His father, Nichomachus, was a doctor for the king of Macedonia, who was the grandfather of Alexander the Great. It is likely that Aristotle was a friend of the king’s son, Philip.
Nichomachus died when Aristotle was about 10 and as his mother had also died, Proxenus, who was either an uncle or a family friend, cared for Aristotle.
When Aristotle was about 17 he was sent to Athens to study. Plato soon recognized his brilliance and referred to him as the “Intellect of the School”. He only left the Academy when Plato died in 347 B.C.E.
While in Assos, where he might have been an ambassador for Philip (now the king of Macedonia), he married Pythias, the sister of Hermias, one of his student friends and ruler of Assos. They had a daughter. When Pythias died about 10 years later he formed a relationship with Herpyllis, who came from his hometown. They had a son, Nichomachus.
After Aristotle had spent three years in Assos King Philip invited him to Macedonia, where he became Alexander’s teacher for the next 12 years. With a teacher like that, no wonder Alexander became known as “Great”! When Philip died, Alexander set off on his expedition into Asia, and Aristotle went back to Athens. Here he opened his own school, the Lyceum. For another 12 years he taught at his school and people think that this is when he wrote his most important notes and books.
Alexander brought back samples of vegetable and animal life from the conquered lands and gave these to Aristotle. He also gave the Lyceum a huge amount of money, worth about four million dollars today. Aristotle used this money to build the world’s first zoo and botanical garden, and what was learned there became the basis of the world’s scientific knowledge about natural science. He developed a way of classifying animals that is still used today.
In the mornings Aristotle would walk around the grounds of the Lyceum with his students. He ate lunch with them, and in the afternoons he would give lectures to the public. The students at the Lyceum ruled themselves, with a different student being elected every 10 days to handle the running of the school. Each student was also responsible for doing historical or scientific research.
When Alexander the Great died, the Athenian enemies of the Macedonians became powerful. They accused Aristotle of being disrespectful to the gods. Aristotle knew that Socrates had been accused of the same thing and sentenced to death, so he escaped from Athens and went to Chalcis, where he died the same year, 323 B.C.E. He was 61.
Aristotle is famous for writing about all aspects of the world. He wrote about poetry, ethics (standards of behavior), logic, rhetoric (the art of using language), weather, and more. In fact, he studied and wrote about every part of science that was then known and he is still considered one of the greatest thinkers of all time.