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The School of Aristotle: One of the First ‘Universities’ in the World

school of aristotle
Ruins at the site of the School of Aristotle. Credit: Jean Housen/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 4.0

A place of universal historic and cultural interest, the ruins of the School of Aristotle are located just two miles from the contemporary town of Naoussa, in the Greek region of Macedonia.

Located in the region of Esvoria, along the foothills of Mount Vermio, the School of Aristotle is nestled in a serene setting blanketed by trees. Streams, ponds and racing waters can be found next to the deeply-shaded caves mentioned by the ancient writers.

Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity, chose this location to establish his school during the 4th century BC. His aim was to teach the greatness and breadth of scientific and philosophical knowledge derived from classical Greek thought.

The School of Aristotle

The ideals of Platonic philosophy, along with knowledge of the natural world, were taught to Alexander the Great, the son of the King of Macedonia, Philip II, alongside other nobles of the Macedonian court.

The Nymphaeum of Mieza, as it was known during the ancient times, is the place where the encounter of Aristotle with the great military commander, Alexander the Great, would impact the future of humanity and of western civilization.

Occupying an impressive landscape, Mieza’s Nymphaeum was the sanctuary dedicated to the Nymphs. It became the location that attracted ancient Greece’s most exceptional personalities.

According to Plutarch, Aristotle taught “the ethical and political word” of that era to the Macedonian nobility’s young offspring with philosophy, politics, literature, mathematics and war strategies being among the topics covered by Aristotle.

Some of the ancient stone benches remain at the site today, showing us where these two great men sat, while the shady paths reveal the places where they walked and mused about Aristotle’s teachings.

The Platonic Academy is considered the world’s first university

While the School of Aristotle was one of the earliest universities in the world, it is not the oldest. That title is owed to the Platonic Academy.

Τhe Platonic Academy, or simply, ”The Academy,” was a famous school in ancient Athens founded by Plato in 428/427 BC and located a couple of miles outside the ancient city named Akademeia, after the legendary hero, Akademos.

Plato is the one figure who must receive the credit for giving birth to this unique institution. He inherited the land on which the Academy was eventually built, and began holding informal gatherings there to discuss philosophical issues with some of his friends.

The gatherings included thinkers such as Theaetetus of Sunium, Archytas of Tarentum, Leodamas of Thasos, and Neoclides. These meetings and discussions continued for years but it was not until Eudoxus of Cnidos arrived in the mid-380’s BC that Akademeia was recognized as a formal Academy.

The Platonic Academy was not an educational institution as we know it in modern times, but because it had the characteristics of a school and covered a wide variety of topics such as philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, politics, physics and more, it is considered to be the first university in the entire world.

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