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The Lykeion or Lyceum of Aristotle

The Lykeion or Lyceum of Aristotle

The Lykeion or Lyceum of Aristotle was also called the "Peripatec School", 335 BC, because students and teachers, would stroll  (peripeto = walk) the tree lines grounds during the course of lectures.

This place of learning was one of ancient Athens most important sites and the fore-runner of todays modern university and museum. Here Aristotle and others taught philosophy, mathematics and rhetoric.

Its exact where abouts were only established recently and were assumed to have been near Syntagma Square or the National Gardens just outside the Diochares Gate. However, during the construction of a new wing for the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, just east of Rigillis Street on Vassilias Sophias Ave. a part of the Lykeion's remains were unearthed.

This was a very famous school particularly for philosophy and the organization of knowledge with an extensive library and museum. It was more formal in style than the lesser gymnasia such as the Academy where Plato taught. The groves of the Academy and Lykeion were cut down during the seige of Athens by the Roman Emperor Sulla in 86 BC. The close by Byzantine Museum of Athens is being enlarged and it will encompass an archeological park which will include the Lykeion. Please see walking tour map #4 for major museums and approximate location.

Incidentally, the "Stoic" school of philosophy was so called beacuse it was taught in the "stoa" of the Athenean Agora.

By Iota Sykka

One of the sites chosen as part of the green cultural routes program organized by the Culture Ministry’s Directorate of Museums, Exhibitions and Educational Programs Department was Aristotle’s Lyceum. The tour, which introduced attendees to new and exciting information about life in ancient Greece, was led by the head of the Third Ephorate of Classical Antiquities, Eleni Banou.

The walk down Rigillis Street from Vassilissis Sofias Avenue toward Vassileos Constantinou Avenue was the perfect start, accompanied by the fragrances of herbs including oregano, thyme, rosemary and lavender. On our right, separated from the Byzantine Museum’s garden by a fence, we spotted a green retreat with glass shelters protecting the discoveries on the site which has been identified as Aristotle’s school of philosophy, or Lyceum, established in 335 BC.

The Lyceum, located between the Officers Club, the Athens Conservatory and the Byzantine Museum, is poised for its grand opening. The display areas are ready, the information signs are up and the site is officially waiting for visitors. Those passing the well-tended 11,000-square meter grounds on the Culture Ministry’s tour asked Banou when the ancient philosophy school would be ready. Some of them managed to sneak in through the door on the Vassilissis Sofias side of the site to take in the ancient lyceum from up close. The signs are insightful, even if architect and site supervisor Niki Sakka is not there to provide a guided tour, informing the public about the history of the site that Aristotle rented in order to set up his Peripatetic School, a part of the Lyceum. They also provide information on the three big compounds of Ancient Athens – the Academy, the Lyceum and Cynosarges – used for the physical and mental exercise of the city’s youth and men.

The Lyceum (first brought to light by archaeologist Effi Lygouri in 1996), was an overgrown suburb of ancient Athens named after a nearby temple dedicated to Apollo Lyceus. The archaeologists of the Third Ephorate of Classical Antiquities, which is responsible for the site, want it to become a part of Athenians’ everyday life, a place where visitors can take a walk, rest or read.

“Our reasoning is that we don’t want people to be afraid of interacting with the site,” Banou said during the tour. The Lyceum is a new archaeological destination, with free admission, which is also expected to boost visitor numbers at the nearby Byzantine and War museums.

However, a date for its formal inauguration has not been set yet, though it is slated to take place within the next couple of months, before the end of summer.