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Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Aristotle was born in 384 BC in Stagira, Chalcidice, about 55 km (34 miles) east of modern-day Thessalonika.

His name means "the best purpose".

Aristotle's father, Nichomachus, was a physician to King Amyntas III of Macedonia (the grandfather to Alexander the Great).

At the age of 18, Aristotle went to Athens, where he was taught by Plato at his school. There he had a reputation for his keen intellect and was recognized by Plato as the "Mind of the School".

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael

Whilst studying under Plato, Aristotle acquired a reputation as a dandy wearing rings on his fingers and cutting his hair reasonably.

Very little is known about Aristotle's personal appearance except from hostile sources. According to the sculptures and busts of him, Aristotle was somewhat below the average height. He had a full flock of hair, a neat beard, which got straggly and long in his older age and a long straight nose.

In later years Aristotle was losing his hair and he studied the causes of baldness to no great effect.

Aristotle was fond of pickles and he thought camel meat was the most delicate of all.

In 335BC Aristotle opened his own school, The Lyceum, where he taught, whilst pacing up and down. Because much of the discussion in his educational establishment took place while teachers and students were walking about the Lyceum grounds, it came to be known as the Peripatetic ("walking" or "strolling") school.

In 342BC Aristotle was called to Macedonia by Philip II to undertake the tuition of his then 14-year-old son Alexander. Plutarch wrote that Aristotle not only imparted to the future conqueror a knowledge of ethics and politics, but also of the most profound secrets of philosophy.

Alexander the Great sent Aristotle back flowers from his travels in Asia, but don't worry, the Macedonian conqueror sent Aristotle many other souvenirs from his travels apart from flowers such as information on the animals he encountered, he knew how much his former tutor liked classifying and listing things.

Aristotle taught that music had such an emotional effect on people that it should be censured. In Poetics he penned, "The flute is not an instrument with a good moral effect. It is too exciting."

Aristotle was the first man to own a huge personal library, which included the manuscripts of his works. He argued that literature was superior to history, because it imitates not what it is but what it ought to be. According to legend, Aristotle's private library was left to his successor Theophrastus and was later hidden to avoid confiscation or destruction.

"Aristotle" by Francesco Hayez (1791–1882)

Aristotle pioneered the study of zoology and was really in his element when he was classifying and listing all creatures great and small. His book Historia Animalium was a record of the behaviour and habits of animals.

Aristotle wasn't always right. He taught that flies had four legs and his fellow Greeks had such a high regard for him that no one corrected the great man.

Aristotle considered the brain to be a device for cooling the blood and intelligence and sensation emits from the heart. Why? Its all Greek to me.

Aristotle thought heavy objects fall faster than lighter ones. He also believed that the moon didn't fall to the ground as it was made of a very light substance called ether.

Because Aristotle didn't believe that all matter consisted of tiny particles, atomic theory remained dormant through ancient and medieval times. He criticized Democritus who'd formulated an atomic theory of the universe,

Aristotle's theory that stars move around a stationary Earth was held for centuries.

Aristotle defined space by the things inside it; according to his theories, if one removes the things then the space doesn’t exist.

All his life, Aristotle, believed men have more teeth than women. I guess he never counted Mrs Aristotle's teeth.

Aristotle was the first western man to argue that the universe owes its existence to an intelligent being eg God.

Aristotle was a believer in the Hebdomadal rule that everything goes in seven. Man has seven ages each seven years long etc. Interestingly in the Bible, seven represents the 'perfect' number and the Greek word that is used in the New Testament, 'Hepta,' generally expresses completeness.

Aristotle died at Chalcis on March 7, 322 BC one year after fleeing there. His cause of death was a gastric system disorder, from which he had long suffered. The story that his death was due to hemlock poisoning, as well as the legend that he threw himself into the sea "because he could not explain the tides," is without historical foundation.

Aristotle worked out a way of thinking at problems step by step, thereby introducing logic.

Aristotle's writing provided a framework for the discussion of biology, mathematics, logic, literary criticism, aesthetics, ethics and politics.

Aristotle was one of the first men to believe the Earth is round.

Aristotle was called "Father of Science" from his teachings that a theory was only valid if derived logically from observations of the real world.

Portrait bust of Aristotle; an Imperial Roman (1st or 2nd century AD) copy of a lost bronze sculpture made by Lysippos.

It has been suggested that Aristotle was probably the last person to know everything there was to be known in his own time.

As well as our five senses, English people in Tudor times believed we had five wits: common sense, imagination, estimation or judgment, fantasy and memory. They were derived from Aristotle’s writings and Shakespeare featured them in his plays including Romeo And Juliet and King Lear.

Readers Digest Did You Know?
Novels and Novelists
edited by Martin Seymour Smith
A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
A Lifetime's of Reading by Philip Ward
The Oxford Companion To English Literature edited by Margaret Drabble
Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2009. Helicon Publishing is division of RM

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