Found in Athens, lost in translation and in lore: Lyceum
Found in Athens on this very day, fifteen years ago, was the lost Lyceum. The old web page of the Greek Embassy in New York still has this announcement:
“Important Archaeological Sites, Aristotles’ Lyceum And Cave Of Euripides, Found in Greece Archaeologists Say / 14 January, 1997”
The opening – tentative – paragraph went like this:
Three days after archaeologists claimed they had finally found the cave where Euripides retreated to write his classic tragedies, construction works for a modern art museum unearthed a large ancient complex yesterday, complete with a central yard and a wrestling arena approximately 600 meters from Parliament – which, according to initial assessments may be the famed Lyceum where Aristotle is believed to have taught.
That and the rest you can still read here. If you visit the Lyceum site today, it looks like this:
This is downtown Athens, where the dig continues. The website where you find the photo of this now-public archeological site gives this fairly typical lore and history:
The Lyceum, named after its 6th century BC sanctuary to Apollo Lyceus (the “wolf-god”, from the word “lykos”, or wolf), had long been a place of philosophical discussion and debate, and had had been the meeting place of the Athenian assembly before the stablishment of a permanent meeting area on Pnyx hill in the 5th century BC.
But the Lyceum is mostly renowned for the philosophical school founded there by Aristotle upon his return to Athens in 335 BC after being the private tutror of the then young prince Alexander of Macedon, the future Alexander the Great, since 343 BC.
After his return to Athens in 335 BC and up to his death in 322 BC, Aristotle rented some buildings in the Lyceum and established a school there where he lectured, wrote most of his philosophical treatises and dialogues, and systematically collected books that comprised the first library in European history. Since Aristotle liked to walk around the grounds as he lectured, surrounded by his students, the philosophical school he founded was called Peripatetic (from ‘peripatos’, which means stroll or walkabout in Greek).
Similarly, the wikipediaists expand on some of these speculations and facts, to talk about the Lyceum before Aristotle (naming philosophers who taught there) and to mention the Lyceum of Aristotle after Aristotle (naming Theophrastus in particular, whose name is the pseudonym of one of the BLT bloggers here). In the historiography, the unearthed facts in the lore, I only want to recover just one thing.
This thing is something related to Euripides (whose cave coincidentally was also re-discovered 15 years ago this month): the ancient Greek word, Λύκειον, “Lykeion,” didn’t necessarily have anything to do with “Apollo Lyceus.” Now, it’s true that Aeschylus, in his play Suppliant Women (line 686), has his dancing Chorus refer to Apollos as ὁ Λύκειος. But Euripides does something else with the word. In the play Rhesus, Euripides has his character Dolon declare:
λύκειον ἀμφὶ νῶτ’ ἐνάψομαι δορὰνκαὶ χάσμα θηρὸς ἀμφ’ ἐμῷ θήσω κάρᾳ,
I will fasten a wolf-skin about my back,and over my head put the brute’s gaping jaws;