Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alexander the Great Plutarch's account-role of Aristotle

Alexander was tutored and instructed by his teacher Aristotle and this the scholarly world well knows. Yet this passage from Plutarch reveals little known facets and fine points many have not discerned in their relationship . Stagira was a city vanquished by Philip which he repopulated for leisure and study for the purpose of providing his son with a nurturing atmosphere. He assigned for this purpose the Temple of the Nymphs near Mieza where one can view Aristotle's stone benches to this very day.The shady walks were there also.Alexander received instruction in doctrine and morals but also in the staple and fare the very "few" received in that day and in succeeding ages, in the esoteric mysteries not revealed to the great masses. These were orally communicated to the adepts for that very purpose of conserving secrecy, and Alexander was privy to that secret knowledge as thought to be meriting and worthy thereof. Aristotle later published some of these treatises and Alexander wrote him a letter criticizing him for doing so in that by doing so, he could not excel others in what is excellent if this knowledge were laid open to all/ He would rather excel in knowledge rather than in power and dominion and that is a hint of his obsessing preoccupation with "hellenizing the world", with the spread of Hellenism to spread the culture in which the mysteries were embedded. He viewed it as enriching the world. Aristotle describes his books of Metaphysics as instructive and memoranda for the initiated adepts and not for the common herd.Aristotle taught him the art of medicine which he shared.Yet a great lover of learning he was, a quality brought out by Aristotle, but, I suspect,antedated his tenure with Aristotle. Aristotle taught him to live well. Later he mistrusted and alienated himself from Aristotle, but his passion for learning never abated,as evidenced by his admiration of Anaxarchus by the present of fifty talents which he sent to Xenocrates, and his particular care and esteem of Dandamis and Calanus. (QUOTE)

  • the casket copy of Homer corrected by Aristotle was under his pillow with his dagger.(Onesicritus)

  • In Upper Asia,he ordered Harpalus to send him books-Plays of Euripides,Sophocles and Aeschylus,Philistus's History,dithyrambic odes of Telestes and Philoxenus.

After this, considering him to be of a temper easy to be led to his duty by
reason, but by no means to be compelled, he always endeavored to persuade rather
than to command or force him to anything; and now looking upon the instruction
and tuition of his youth to be of greater difficulty and importance, than to be
wholly trusted to the ordinary masters in music and poetry, and the common
school subjects, and to require, as Sophocles says,
The bridle and the rudder
he sent for Aristotle, the most learned and most cerebrated philosopher
of his time, and rewarded him with a munificence proportionable to and becoming
the care he took to instruct his son. For he repeopled his native city Stagira,
which he had caused to be demolished a little before, and restored all the
citizens who were in exile or slavery, to their habitations. As a place for the
pursuit of their studies and exercises, he assigned the temple of the Nymphs,
near Mieza, where, to this very day, they show you Aristotle's stone seats, and
the shady walks which he was wont to frequent. It would appear that Alexander
received from him not only his doctrines of Morals, and of Politics, but also
something of those more abstruse and profound theories which these philosophers,
by the very names they gave them, professed to reserve for oral communication to
the initiated, and did not allow many to become acquainted with
. For when he was
in Asia, and heard Aristotle had published some treatises of that kind, he wrote
to him, using very plain language to him in behalf of philosophy, the following
letter. "Alexander to Aristotle greeting. You have not done well to publish your
books of oral doctrine; for what is there now that we excel others in, if those
things which we have been particularly instructed in be laid open to all? For my
part, I assure you, I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is
excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion
. Farewell." And
Aristotle, soothing this passion for preeminence, speaks, in his excuse for
himself, of these doctrines, as in fact both published and not published: as
indeed, to say the truth,
his books on metaphysics are written in a style which
makes them useless for ordinary teaching, and instructive only, in the way of
memoranda, for those who have been already conversant in that sort of
Doubtless also it was to Aristotle, that he owed the inclination he
had, not to the theory only, but likewise to the practice of the art of
. For when any of his friends were sick, he would often prescribe them
their course of diet, and medicines proper to their disease, as we may find in
his epistles. He was naturally a great lover of all kinds of learning and
reading; and Onesicritus informs us, that he constantly laid Homer's Iliads,
according to the copy corrected by Aristotle, called the casket copy, with his
dagger under his pillow, declaring that he esteemed it a perfect portable
treasure of all military virtue and knowledge. When he was in the upper Asia,
being destitute of other books, he ordered Harpalus to send him some; who
furnished him with Philistus's History, a great many of the plays of Euripides,
Sophocles, and Aeschylus, and some dithyrambic odes, composed by Telestes and
Philoxenus. For awhile he loved and cherished Aristotle no less, as he was wont
to say himself, than if he had been his father, giving this reason for it, that
as he had received life from the one, so the other had taught him to live well.
But afterwards, upon some mistrust of him, yet not so great as to make him do
him any hurt, his familiarity and friendly kindness to him abated so much of its
former force and affectionateness, as to make it evident he was alienated from
However, his violent thirst after and passion for learning, which were once
implanted, still grew up with him, and never decayed; as appears by his
veneration of Anaxarchus, by the present of fifty talents which he sent to
Xenocrates, and his particular care and esteem of Dandamis and Calanus.

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