Aristotle statue



Stagirian Aristotle

Stagira was a small city of Halkidiki in the 4th century, which was under the jurisdiction of Macedonia’s Κing. Aristotle, who later became one of the most important Greek philosophers of ancient times, was born there in 384 B.C. Today the region is called Liotopi, and is half kilometer south of Olympiada village. Aristotle came from an important and wealthy family. His father Nicomachus belonged to the genus of Asclepius and historical sources report that he was personal doctor, friend and advisor of Κing Amyntas II, father of Macedonia’s King Philip II. His mother, Faistida, came from Halkida. Aristotle spent his childhood years in Pella, in the Macedonian Royal Court. His parents died when he was still a child so he was raised by a relative and friend of his father named Proxenus.


When Aristotle was seventeen years old (367 B.C.) he migrated to Athens to try his luck. He became a member of Plato’s Academy and instead of becoming a doctor, like his father, he chose philosophy and science. The Academy ensured the best education during that time in Greece and it is certain that Plato and his philosophy had a decisive influence on the life and work of Aristotle.
He stayed there for twenty years (367-347 B.C.) until his master’s passing but there is no clear information during that period. It is said though, that he did not accept all of Plato’s theories easily. There was a period where he had won his favor but later on, when their opinions differentiated, serious differences and probably tension appeared in their relationship. In retrospect, some people -probably friends of Speusippus, Plato’s nephew and heir to the direction of the Academy- accused him of indecent behavior towards the teacher.


Plato died in 347 B.C. and Aristotle left Athens and the Academy. Some researchers claim that his decision had been influenced by the fact that he or even Xenocrates and Theofrastus did not agree with the views of Plato’s nephew Speusippus, who had taken over the Academy. His departure might have also been related to politics, because Athenians began to react to the expansionist policy of the Macedonians, and it was known that he had close connections to the Court of Philip II.
Thus he accepted the invitation of Hermias, former slave and student of the Academy and at that time tyrant of cities Atarneus and Assos, and went to Troad’s Assos in the Middle East. Hermias had a few of Plato’s followers around him and that was favorable for Aristotle. He stayed in Assos for three years and married Pythias, niece and stepdaughter of Hermias. They had a daughter named after his wife. While in Athens, and after the death of his wife, he became involved with Herpyllis of Stagira who bore him a son named Nicomachus.
When Persians assassinated Hermias for his Macedonian-friendly beliefs, Aristotle, being urged by his most loyal student and partner Theophrastus, left Middle East and settled in Mytilene (345 B.C.) where he stayed for two years. During that time, King Philip II had heard a lot from Hermias about him and searching for a tutor for his son Alexander, who later would grow up to be Alexander the Great, invited him to Pella. Thus, the time between 343-342 B.C., Aristotle was in Macedonia and undertook the education and training of thirteen year old Alexander. Their respectful relationship continued even after Aristotle’s departure. After 340 B.C., when Alexander was appointed viceroy, Aristotle settled in his hometown Stagira.


In the year 339 to 338 B.C. Speusippus died and Plato’s Academy became leaderless. Aristotle was a candidate for taking over the direction but he stayed in Macedonia and didn’t go to Athens to submit his nomination. Thus, Xenocrates was elected as the director. That was the basic cause for the definitive break of ties between Aristotle and the Academy and his departure from it.
Aristotle stayed in Macedonia until 335/334 B.C., just after Philip’s assassination and Alexanders newly reign. Next he returned to Athens and from that moment on the most fertile period of his life begun. He leased land -because, according to Athenian law, a foreigner had no right of owning any property- between the Lycabettus hill and the river Ilissos in the area near the temple dedicated to Apollo Lyceum and the Muses, and founded an official school, the Lyceum. This school was named “Peripatetic” and its members “Peripatetics” due to the fact that they used to walk around the gardens while discussing. Aristotle, during his time when he was head of The Lyceum (336/335-323/322 B.C.) wrote some important pieces on philosophy, morality, biology and psychology. At the same time he began organizing his research and classifying the sciences.
He also collected hundreds of manuscripts and therefore created the first large organized library, which was a model for those of Alexandria’s and Pergamon’s. It is said that his old student Alexander helped him financially. Theophrastus became the new director of the Academy after Aristotle’s withdrawal. During that time the Lyceum flourished and the number of students increased –it is said as many as two thousand.


In 323 B.C., after the death of Alexander the Great, the anti-macedonian sentiment was strengthened and Aristotle’s connection to the Macedonians aroused the suspicions of Athenians, who stopped seeing him as a friend. Maybe this general dissatisfaction against the philosopher was also amplified by his conflict with other schools such as Isocrate’s. Eurymedon the hierophant of the Elephsinia Demitra and Dimophilos from Isocrate’s school, brought a charge of impiety against Aristotle, because he had made a statue of Hermias in Delphi and wrote an hymn to Areti to honor him. The excuse was that he had used an hymn that traditionally was dedicated to Appollo for praising a common man, his friend, Hermias. He was brought to trial but to avoid conviction he fled together with his second wife Herpyllis and their two children Nicomachus and Pythias to Halkida where he died in 322 B.C. at the age of 63 from a stomach disease that troubled him for many years. Diogenes Laertius had preserved his will executor of which had been appointed the Macedonian governor of Athens, Antipater and in which Theophrastus had been appointed the head of The Lyceum.