Philosopher (c. 384 BCE–c. 322 BCE)
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was born circa 384 B.C. in Stagira, Greece. When he turned 17, he enrolled in Plato’s Academy. In 338, he began tutoring Alexander the Great. In 335, Aristotle founded his own school, the Lyceum, in Athens, where he spent most of the rest of his life studying, teaching and writing. Aristotle died in 322 B.C., after he left Athens and fled to Chalcis.
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was born circa 384 B.C. in Stagira, a small town on the northern coast of Greece that was once a seaport. Aristotle’s father, Nicomachus, was court physician to the Macedonian king Amyntas II. Although Nicomachus died when Aristotle was just a young boy, Aristotle remained closely affiliated with and influenced by the Macedonian court for the rest of his life. Little is known about his mother, Phaestis; she is also believed to have died when Aristotle was young.After Aristotle’s father died, Proxenus of Atarneus, who was married to Aristotle’s older sister, Arimneste, became Aristotle’s guardian until he came of age. When Aristotle turned 17, Proxenus sent him to Athens to pursue a higher education. At the time, Athens was considered the academic center of the universe.
In Athens, Aristotle enrolled in Plato’s Academy, Greek’s premier learning institution, and proved an exemplary scholar. Aristotle maintained a relationship with Greek philosopher Plato, himself a student of Socrates, and his academy for two decades. Plato died in 347 B.C. Because Aristotle had disagreed with some of Plato’s philosophical treatises, Aristotle did not inherit the position of director of the academy, as many imagined hewould.After Plato died, Aristotle’s friend Hermias, king of Atarneus and Assos in Mysia, invited Aristotle to court. During his three-year stay in Mysia, Aristotle met and married his first wifePythias, Hermias’ niece. Together, the couple had a daughter, Pythias, named after her mother.
In 338 B.C., Aristotle went home to Macedonia to start tutoring King Phillip II’s son, the then 13-year-old Alexander the Great. Phillip and Alexander both held Aristotle in high esteem and ensured that the Macedonia court generously compensated him for his work. In 335 B.C., after Alexander had succeeded his father as king and conquered Athens, Aristotle went back to the city. In Athens, Plato’s Academy, now run by Xenocrates, was still the leading influence on Greek thought. With Alexander’s permission, Aristotle started his own school in Athens, called the Lyceum. On and off, Aristotle spent most of the remainder of his life working as a teacher, researcher and writer at the Lyceum in Athens. Because Aristotle was known to walk around the school grounds while teaching, his students, forced to follow him, were nicknamed the “Peripatetics,” meaning “people who travel about.” Lyceum members researched subjects ranging from science and math to philosophy and politics, and nearly everything in between. Art was also a popular area of interest.
Members of the Lyceum wrote up their findings in manuscripts. In so doing, they built the school’s massive collection of written materials, which by ancient accounts was credited as one of the first great libraries. In the same year that Aristotle opened the Lyceum, his wife Pythias died. Soon after, Aristotle embarked on a romance with a woman named Herpyllis, who hailed from his hometown of Stagira. According to some historians, Herpyllis may have been Aristotle’s slave, granted to him by the Macedonia court. They presume that he eventually freed and married her. Regardless, it is known that Herpyllis bore Aristotle children, including one son named Nicomachus, after Aristotle’s father. Aristotle is believed to have named his famed philosophical work Nicomachean Ethics in tribute to his son. When Aristotle’s former student Alexander the Great died suddenly in 323 B.C., the pro-Macedonian government was overthrown, and in light of anti-Macedonia sentiment, Aristotle was charge with impiety. To avoid being prosecuted, he left Athens and fled to Chalcis on the island of Euboea, where he would remain until his death.