Interesting Facts about Aristotle

Aristotle Facts | Image: An oil canvas of Aristotle by Francesco Hayez (1811)

The classical Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E) made substantial and long-lasting contributions to literally every area of world knowledge, particularly Western Philosophy. Aristotle was described by many as “the Master” or “the First Teacher” because of his works in vast areas such as logic, biology, botany, ethics, dance and theater, politics, medicine, mathematics, and metaphysics. He was simply “the man who knew everything”, and has been revered in a similar fashion as his mentor, Plato (428-348 B.C.E), and Socrates (469-399 B.C.E).

As a student of Plato, Aristotle, in turn, went on to tutor Alexander the Great. Here are some very interesting facts about Aristotle. The facts are given in terms of his history, philosophical contributions and influences:

Facts about his Life and Family

  • Aristotle was born in the year 384 BCE in the Northern Greek city of Stagirus (or Stagira). His parents were the aristocrats Nicomachus and Phaestis.
  • Aristotle’s place of birth, Stagira, is very close to present-day Thessaloniki. It is only about 34 miles east of Thessaloniki.
  • His friend, Philip II of Macedon, helped restore Stagira, Aristotle’s hometown, to its former glory.
  • Aristotle’s name in ancient Greek means “the best purpose”
  • According to the Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers written by Roman historian Diogenes, Aristotle was a very well-dressed man who spoke with lisp sometimes. He also had relatively weak legs and small eyes.
  • Aristotle married twice. The first time was to Pythias, but she died 10 years into the marriage. His second marriage to Herpyllis produced a son called Nicomachus.
  • He was about 45 years younger than his master tutor, Plato.
  • Aristotle personally witnessed Athens’s and Thebe’s capitulations to Macedon under King Philip II at the battle of Chaeronea.
  • Aristotle fled Athens on two separate occasions. The first time was because some Athenians considered him a Macedon sympathizer. This was around the time that he was snubbed for the principal position at Plato’s Academy. The second time occurred after the death of Alexander the Great. Anti-Macedon sentiments were at its peak in Athens; hence several Athenians took aim at Aristotle.
  • In 323 B.C.E, Aristotle died from a bad case of stomach pain or some sort of abdominal pain. He was buried in his hometown Chalcis in Euboea, next to his dear wife, Pythia.

Facts about Aristotle’s Education, Beliefs and Works

  • At age 17 or 18, he enrolled at Plato’s Academy in Athens. He would go on to stay there for about 20 years, rising to the post of a senior member.
  • His mentor, Plato, often called him “the Mind”. Acclaimed Roman philosopher and historian Cicero (106-43 B.C.E) once tagged Aristotle’s works and prose as gold.
  • Aristotle may have lost as many as two times in the election to become headmaster of Plato’s Academy. The first defeat came to Speusippus, and the second was at the hands of Xenocrates (396-314 B.C.E).
  • After he left Plato’s Academy, Aristotle set up his own academy called the Lyceum.
  • Historians believe that the Lyceum may have received a lot of support from Alexander the Great.
  • The Lyceum came to be known as the Peripatetic School because of the manner in which Aristotle walked whenever he gave his lectures. Peripatetic comes from the Greek word peripatetikos which means “walking” or “hall for strolls and discussions”.
  • He was a good speaker and usually had his audience captivated by his speeches.
  • Theophrastus (c. 371-287 B.C.E) was Aristotle’s best and favorite student at the Lyceum. Theophrastus became the head of the school after Aristotle passed away.
  • Aristotle had some pretty much terrific ideas. However, he also had some that haven’t aged properly. For example, Aristotle believed that the heart was where all the reasoning was done and not the brain. He also held the view that a goat’s gender depended on the direction of the wind.
  • Aristotle had a very strong hatred for non-Greeks. He particularly viewed the Persians with contempt and considered them “barbarians”. His hatred for them is what may have fueled his prodigy’s (Alexander the Great) conquests of those areas in the East. This is notwithstanding the fact that there was a lot of anti-Persian movement in ancient Greece and Macedon during the time of Aristotle.
  • On some occasions, Aristotle took up the role of a mediator to soothe tensions between Macedon and some Greek cities.

 

“If Plato’s prose was silver, Aristotle’s was a flowing river of gold.” Cicero (106-43 B.C.E.)

Facts about his Contributions to World Knowledge and Science

  • Acclaimed Roman philosopher and historian Cicero (106-43 B.C.E) tagged Aristotle’s works and prose as gold.
  • He was immensely talented at synthesizing the various Presocratic schools of thoughts and making them readily applicable for generations to come.
  • Aristotle was also an avid believer in eudaimonia. The term means happiness. And he considered it a good spirit that can be achieved through the development of the mind and living a moral life.
  • As was common in his time, many of Aristotle’s books were made on papyrus scrolls.
  • The metaphysics concept and zoology, in general, were primarily influenced by Aristotle.
  • During his teaching stint in King’s Philip II’s court, Aristotle may have tutored 3 future kings of the ancient world. They were Alexander the Great (356- 323 B.C.E), Ptolemy I Soter (c. 367-c. 283 B.C.E)and Cassander (c. 355- c. 297). The former became ruler of Egypt while the later became the Hellenistic king of Macedon.
  • The works of Aristotle that survived over the centuries were mere lecture notes. They were not even meant to be published. Most of his actual writings and works that were up for publication sadly got lost over the millennia. Historians believe that those lost works were by a large margin better than those that survived.

Aristotle’s Legacy

  • Along with two other equally great philosophers (Plato and Socrates), Aristotle is widely held as the founder of Western philosophy. Collectively, the three of them are commonly referred to by philosophers the “Triad”.
  • He is considered the founder of the Peripatetic school of thought as well as the Aristotelian approach to philosophy and science.
  • Socrates’ vision of having rulers become philosophers or having philosophers becoming rulers) indirectly came to pass. One of history’s greatest philosophers in the form of Aristotle helped shape the life of one of history’s greatest rulers and conquerors in none other than Alexander the Great.
  • Over the centuries, he was commonly referred to as “the man who knew everything” or “The Philosopher”. The philosophers in the late Middle ages called him “The Master”.
  • Aristotle’s works tremendously influenced a host of religious philosophies in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Top Aristotle Quotes

Aristotle quotes

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