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date: 24 April 2024

Peripatetic schoolfree

Peripatetic schoolfree

  • David John Furley


  • Philosophy

The name belongs to a series of philosophers of whom Aristotle was the first and by far the most significant. Geographically the school was located in a sanctuary dedicated to Apollo, called the Lyceum, a public space outside the city wall of Athens but within easy walking distance (the Academy was another such place). A gymnasium was built there; by the end of the 5th cent. bce it was a favourite gathering place for young Athenian men. Visiting sophists lectured there, Socrates met his young conversational partners there. As in other similar places, there were ‘walks’ (peripatoi). The name ‘Peripatos’ stuck to the school begun there by Aristotle, formerly a member of the Academy, when he returned to Athens in 336.

The school was originally, perhaps always, a collection of people rather than a building: Aristotle, a non-Athenian with the status of metic, could not own property. His successor Theophrastus could and did, and he bequeathed real estate and a library to a group of his students, including Straton (1) who was then elected Head. Straton was succeeded by Lyco, Lyco by Ariston (2) of Ceos, who was Head until c.190. After that the succession is obscure, but there is evidence of continuous philosophical activity until the 1st cent. bce, when Athens was captured by Sulla and the Peripatetic library removed to Rome. (For detailed discussion of this period, and the complexities of the succession, see Lynch, Aristotle's School.)

In the time of Aristotle and Theophrastus, the foundations were laid for systematic, co-operative research into nearly all the branches of contemporary learning. After Theophrastus' death in 287, however, Aristotle's ‘school-treatises’—the works that have survived to this day—seem to have been mishandled: Theophrastus left the library to Neleus of Scepsis in Asia Minor, and if the story in Strabo 13. 1. 54 is to be believed it was removed from Athens. It is clear at least that Aristotle's fame then began to depend on his ‘exoteric’, more popular works. Straton continued the great tradition, especially in physics, but later members of the school devoted themselves to literary criticism, gossipy biography, and unimportant moralizing.

There was a revival in the 1st cent. bce, under the leadership of Andronicus of Rhodes. The school-treatises of Aristotle had been in some sense rediscovered (they had been sold to Apellicon of Teos and brought by him to Athens, thence taken to Rome by Sulla, passed on to Tyrannio (1) the grammarian and friend of Cicero, and from him to Andronicus; see Strabo 13. 1. 54 and Plutarch, Sulla 26), and Andronicus published an edition of them (date uncertain; probably after Cicero). In this period Peripatetic philosophy was not specifically located in Athens, and was not sharply distinguished doctrinally from the Academy and the Stoa; the Epicureans were opposed to them all.

In the 2nd cent. ceMarcus Aurelius established teachers in the four main schools, including the Peripatos, in Athens. But the inheritance of Aristotle passed to the great commentators on his work, many of whom were themselves Neoplatonists; see neoplatonism.


Fragments of Dicaearchus, Aristoxenus, Clearchus, Demetrius (3), Straton, Lyco, Ariston, Heraclides (1) Ponticus, Eudemus, Phaenias, Chamaeleon, Praxiphanes, Hieronymus (2), and Critolaus in F. Wehrli, Die Schule des Aristoteles (1944–59;Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat 2nd edn. 1967–78; texts with Ger. comm.).Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat

  • K. O. Brink, Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft Suppl. 7 (1940).
  • J. P. Lynch, Aristotle's School: A Study of a Greek Educational Institution (1972).
  • H. B. Gottschalk, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2. 36. 2 (1987).
  • R. Sorabji (ed.), Aristotle Transformed: The Ancient Commentators and their Influence (1990).
  • M. G. Sollenberger, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2. 36. 6 (1992).
  • M. Ostwald and J. P. Lynch, Cambridge Ancient History 6, 2nd edn. (1994), 614 ff.