home   :    index    :    ancient Persia    :    ancient Greece    :    Alexander

Alexander and Aristotle


Detail of the Alexander mosaic, found in Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Italy). Alexander was educated by the great philosopher Aristotle of Stagira. The school at Mieza can still be visited (a little to the east and below modern Naousa). The Greek author Plutarch of Chaeronea describes the school in section 7 of his Life of Alexander.

The translation was made by Mr. Evelyn and belongs to the Dryden series.

Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine

Bust of the philosopher and scientist Aristotle. Archaeological Museum, Palermo (Italy). Photo Jona Lendering.
Aristotle (Archaeological 
Museum, Palermo)

As a place for the pursuit of their studies and exercise, he assigned the temple of the Nymphs, near Mieza, where, to this very day, they show you Aristotle's stone seats, and the shady walks which he was wont to frequent. It would appear that Alexander received from him not only his doctrines of Morals and of Politics, but also something of those more abstruse and profound theories which these philosophers, by the very names they gave them, professed to reserve for oral communication to the initiated, and did not allow many to become acquainted with. For when he was in Asia, and heard Aristotle had published some treatises of that kind, he wrote to him, using very plain language to him in behalf of philosophy, the following letter.
Alexander to Aristotle, greeting. You have not done well to publish your books of oral doctrine; for what is there now that we excel others in, if those things which we have been particularly instructed in be laid open to all? For my part, I assure you, I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion. Farewell.
 
Aristotle's school at Mieza (modern Naoussa). Photo Jona Lendering.
Aristotle's school in Mieza. In the second century CE, the building was still shown to visitors.

And Aristotle, soothing this passion for pre-eminence, speaks, in his excuse for himself, of these doctrines as in fact both published and not published: as indeed, to say the truth, his books on metaphysics are written in a style which makes them useless for ordinary teaching, and instructive only, in the way of memoranda, for those who have been already conversant in that sort of learning.

Doubtless also it was to Aristotle that he owed the inclination he had, not to the theory only, but likewise to the practice of the art of medicine. For when any of his friends were sick, he would often prescribe them their course of diet, and medicines proper to their disease, as we may find in his epistles.

He was naturally a great lover of all kinds of learning and reading; and Onesicritus informs us that he constantly laid Homer's Iliad, according to the copy corrected by Aristotle, called the casket copy, with his dagger under his pillow, declaring that he esteemed it a perfect portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge.

When he was in the upper Asia, being destitute of other books, he ordered Harpalus to send him some; who furnished him with Philistus' History, a great many of the plays of Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus, and some dithyrambic odes, composed by Telestes and Philoxenus. For a while he loved and cherished Aristotle no less, as he was wont to say himself, than if he had been his father, giving this reason for it, that as he had received life from the one, so the other had taught him to live well.

But afterwards, upon some mistrust of him, yet not so great as to make him do him any hurt, his familiarity and friendly kindness to him abated so much of its former force and affection, as to make it evident he was alienated from him. However, his violent thirst after and passion for learning, which were once implanted, still grew up with him, and never decayed.





 home   :    index    :     ancient Persia    :    ancient Greece    :    Alexander