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Ancient Greek


Getting to Know ……

Greek philosophers were "seekers and lovers of wisdom". They studied and analyzed the world around them using logic and reason. Although we often think of philosophy as religion or "the meaning of life", the Greek philosophers were also scientists. Many studied mathematics and physics as well. Often the philosophers were teachers of wealthy children. Some of the more famous ones opened their own schools or academies. 


Socrates was the first major Greek philosopher. He came up with the Socratic Method. This was a way of studying issues and problems through a question and answer technique. Socrates introduced political philosophy and got the Greeks to start thinking hard about morals, good and evil, and how their society should work. Socrates didn't write a lot down, but we know what he thought from the recordings of his student, Plato. 


Plato wrote much of his philosophy in conversations called dialogues. The dialogues feature Socrates as one of the speakers. Plato's most famous work is called the Republic. In this work Socrates discusses the meaning of justice and how cities and governments should be ruled. He describes his ideal society in the conversations. This work is still studied today and has had an impact on both philosophy and political theory throughout history. 

Plato believed that no one should be rich or live in luxury. He also believed that each person should do the job that they are best suited for. He thought a philosopher-king should rule society. He founded his own school called the Academy where he taught students, such as Aristotle. 


Aristotle was a student of Plato, but didn't necessarily agree with all that Plato said. Aristotle liked to focus on more practical areas of philosophy including science. He founded his own school called the Lyceum. He thought that reason was the highest good and that it was important to have self control. Aristotle was a tutor for Alexander the Great.

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|1) What was the Socratic Method? |

|[pic] |  Something that Socrates came up |

|[pic] |  A way of studying issues and problems |

|[pic] |  A question and answer technique |

|[pic] |  All of the above |

|[pic] |  None of the above |

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|2) How do we know about Socrates and what his philosophies were? |

|[pic] |  By reading the many books he wrote |

|[pic] |  By studying the writings of Plato which recorded many of Socrates ideas |

|[pic] |  By reading the histories of Athens |

|[pic] |  By studying the paintings of Socrates |

|[pic] |  We can only guess |

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|3) What was the Republic by Plato about? |

|[pic] |  It described an ideal society and government |

|[pic] |  It described war in Ancient Greece |

|[pic] |  It was a history of the world |

|[pic] |  It told the story of the Greek heroes |

|[pic] |  It described the Greek gods powers and symbols |

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|4) Who did Plato think would be the best ruler for society? |

|[pic] |  A strong woman |

|[pic] |  A warrior-king |

|[pic] |  A group of the wealthy |

|[pic] |  An elected president |

|[pic] |  A philosopher-king |

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|5) True or False: The Greek philosophers had no interest in the real world such as science or politics. |

|[pic] |  TRUE |

|[pic] |  FALSE |

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|6) What famous leader did Aristotle tutor? |

|[pic] |  Philip of Macedonia |

|[pic] |  Pericles |

|[pic] |  Alexander the Great |

|[pic] |  Julius Caesar |

|[pic] |  Draco |

|[pic] |

|7) What famous philosopher taught Aristotle? |

|[pic] |  Socrates |

|[pic] |  Epicurus |

|[pic] |  Zeno |

|[pic] |  Plato |

|[pic] |  Pythagoras |

|[pic] |

|8) What was the name of the famous school that Plato opened? |

|[pic] |  The Academy |

|[pic] |  The University |

|[pic] |  The Institute |

|[pic] |  The College |

|[pic] |  The Lyceum |

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|Biography |

|Socrates |

|[pic]  |

|Socrates  |

|Occupation: Philosopher |

|Born: 469 BC in Athens, Greece |

|Died: 399 BC in Athens, Greece |

|Best known for: Greek philosopher who helped form the foundation of Western philosophy. |

|Biography:  |

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|How do we know about Socrates?  |

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|Unlike some other famous Greek philosophers, Socrates didn't write down his thoughts and ideas. He preferred to just speak to |

|his followers. Fortunately, two of Socrates' students, Plato and Xenophon, wrote about Socrates in their works. We learn about |

|Socrates' philosophies in many of Plato's dialogues where Socrates is a major character taking part in philosophical |

|discussions. Xenophon was a historian who wrote about the events in Socrates' life. We also learn about Socrates from the plays|

|of the Greek playwright Aristophanes.  |

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|Early Life  |

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|Not much is known about Socrates' early life. His father was a stonemason named Sophroniscus and his mother was a midwife. His |

|family was not wealthy, so he likely didn't have much of a formal education. Early on in his career, Socrates took up his |

|father's profession and worked as a stonemason.  |

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|A Soldier  |

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|Socrates lived during the time of the Peloponnesian War between the city-states of Athens and Sparta. As a male citizen of |

|Athens, Socrates was required to fight. He served as a foot soldier called a "hoplite." He would have fought using a large |

|shield and spear. Socrates fought in several battles and was noted for his courage and valor.  |

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|Philosopher and Teacher  |

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|As Socrates grew older, he began to explore philosophy. Unlike many philosophers of his time, Socrates focused on ethics and |

|how people should behave rather than on the physical world. He said that happiness came from leading a moral life rather than |

|material possessions. He encouraged people to pursue justice and goodness rather than wealth and power. His ideas were quite |

|radical for the time.  |

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|Young men and scholars in Athens began to gather around Socrates to have philosophical discussions. They would discuss ethics |

|and current political issues in Athens. Socrates chose not to give answers to questions, but instead posed questions and |

|discussed possible answers. Rather than claim he had all the answers, Socrates would say "I know that I know nothing."  |

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|The Socratic Method  |

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|Socrates had a unique way of teaching and exploring subjects. He would ask questions and then discuss possible answers. The |

|answers would lead to more questions and eventually lead to more understanding of a subject. This logical process of using |

|questions and answers to explore a subject is known today as the Socratic Method.  |

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|Trial and Death  |

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|After Athens lost to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, a group of men called the Thirty Tyrants were put into power. One of the |

|leading members of the Thirty Tyrants was a student of Socrates named Critias. The men of Athens soon rose up and replaced the |

|Thirty Tyrants with a democracy.  |

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|Because Socrates had spoken out against democracy and one of his students was a leader in the Thirty Tyrants, he was branded a |

|traitor. He went on trial for "corrupting the youth" and "failing to acknowledge the gods of the city." He was convicted by a |

|jury and was sentenced to death by drinking poison.  |

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|Legacy  |

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|Socrates is considered one of the founders of modern Western philosophy. His teachings influenced future Greek philosophers |

|such as Plato and Aristotle. His philosophies are still studied today and the Socratic Method is used in modern-day |

|universities and law schools.  |

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|Interesting Facts About Socrates |

|Unlike many other teachers of his day, Socrates didn't charge his students fees. |

|Socrates was married to Zanthippe and had three sons. |

|He could have likely escaped from Athens and avoided the death sentence, but instead chose to stay and face his accusers. |

|He once said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." |

|At his trial Socrates suggested that, instead of being given the death sentence, the city should pay him a wage and honor him |

|for his contributions. |

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|• Plato |

|[pic]  |

|Plato from The School of Athens  |

|Author: Raffaello Sanzio |

| Occupation: Philosopher and Mathematician |

|Born: 427 BC in Athens, Greece |

|Died: 347 BC in Athens, Greece |

|Best known for: Greek philosopher who helped form the foundation of Western philosophy and founded the Academy in Athens. |

|Biography:  |

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|Growing Up in Athens  |

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|Plato grew up in the Greek city-state of Athens during the Classical Period of Ancient Greece. Although historians don't know a|

|lot about Plato's early life they know he came from a wealthy family and likely had two brothers and a sister. He would have |

|been taught by the best Greek teachers about various subjects including music, gymnastics, math, grammar, and philosophy.  |

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|The Peloponnesian War  |

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|Much of Plato's youth would have been influenced by the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. It is likely that Plato |

|served in the Athenian army during his early life. The war no doubt influenced his life and his philosophy.  |

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|Meeting Socrates  |

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|As Plato grew older he became more interested in academics and philosophy. He became a student and close follower to the famous|

|philosopherSocrates. Socrates would hold conversations with his students about various aspects of politics and life. They then |

|would break down the problem and come up with theories on the subject. Socrates teachings and learning style became the |

|cornerstone of Plato's writings.  |

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|Travel and Study  |

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|In 399 BC, Socrates was executed by the leaders of Athens for corrupting the youth and for not acknowledging the gods of |

|Athens. Plato left Athens and traveled around the Mediterranean region for the next twelve years. During that time, he visited |

|places like Italy, Egypt, and North Africa. He studied all sorts of subjects including science, math, and philosophy.  |

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|The Dialogue  |

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|While Plato was traveling around the Mediterranean, he began to write. He wrote in an interesting style called a "dialogue". In|

|the dialogue, Plato would introduce several characters who would discuss a topic by asking questions of each other. This form |

|allowed Plato to explore several sides of an argument and to introduce new ideas.  |

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|Many of Plato's dialogues feature his former teacher Socrates as the main character. Most of what is known about Socrates' |

|philosophies comes from Plato's dialogues. He wrote four dialogues about Socrates' final days including The Apology in which |

|Socrates' defends himself before being sentenced to death.  |

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|The Republic  |

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|Plato's most famous writing is The Republic. In The Republic, several characters discuss the meaning of justice and how it |

|relates to happiness. Socrates is once again the main character in the dialogues and he discusses how being just or unjust can |

|affect someone's life. They discuss various aspects of government and finally present the "philosopher-king" as the ideal |

|ruler. Plato comes to the conclusion that philosophers must become kings, or kings must become philosophers.  |

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|Founding the Academy  |

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|When Plato was around 40 years old, he returned to Athens and founded a school called the Academy. Plato and other scholars |

|taught subjects such as mathematics, philosophy, biology, and astronomy at the Academy. One of Plato's students was the famous |

|scientist and philosopher Aristotle who studied at the Academy for nearly 20 years.  |

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|Death and Legacy  |

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|Plato died around the year 347 BC in Athens. Not much is known about this death, but he was 80 years old and likely died in his|

|sleep. Plato's legacy lives on in modern Western philosophy. His writings have been studied for the last 2000 years and are |

|still studied in universities today.  |

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|Interesting Facts About Plato |

|Plato's real name may have been Aristocles after his father. Plato might have been a nickname that meant "broad" or "wide." |

|He was related to the famous lawmaker and poet Solon through his mother. |

|After Athens lost the Peloponnesian War to Sparta, Plato was offered to be one of the "Thirty Tyrants" that ruled over Athens, |

|but he declined. |

|Plato was also heavily influenced by the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras. |

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Biography >> Ancient Greece

• Occupation: Philosopher and Scientist

• Born: 384 BC in Stagira, Greece

• Died: 322 BC in Euboea, Greece

• Best known for: Student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great


Aristotle by Jastrow


Where did Aristotle grow up? 

Aristotle was born in northern Greece in the city of Stagira around the year 384 BC. He grew up as part of the aristocracy as his father, Nicomachus, was the doctor to King Amyntas of Macedonia. It was at the king's court that he met his son, Philip, who would later become king. 

Growing up the son of a doctor, Aristotle became interested in nature and anatomy. He grew up putting a premium on education and the arts. 

Did Aristotle go to school? 

As a youth, Aristotle likely had tutors who taught him about all sorts of subjects. He learned to read and write Greek. He also learned about the Greek gods, philosophy, and mathematics. 

When Aristotle turned seventeen he traveled to Athens to join Plato's Academy. There he learned about philosophy and logical thinking from Plato. He stayed at the Academy for nearly 20 years, at first as a student and later as a teacher. 

What was the Academy like? 

Plato's Academy was not a school or college like we have today. They didn't have classes on specific subjects taught by teachers. What they did was challenge each other with questions and debate. One method of doing this was to have dialogues where one person would ask a question and the other person would attempt to answer it. They would then continue to discuss the question in a debate format, asking new questions as they came up in the debate. 


Plato (left) and Aristotle (right)

from The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio

Aristotle's Travels 

After leaving the Academy in 347 BC, Aristotle traveled throughout Greece and Turkey. He got married and wrote several works including The Natural History of Animals, the Reproduction of Animals, and The Parts of Animals. 

New Ideas 

Aristotle had new ideas on how the world should be studied. He liked to make detailed observations of the world, taking notes and records of what he saw. He went so far as to dissect animals to learn more about their anatomy. This was very different from the other Greek philosophers and educators of the day. They did all their work in their mind, thinking about the world, but not observing it. In this way Aristotle laid the foundation of science today. 

Aristotle spent a lot of time learning about biology. He was the first to try and classify different types of animals into different groups. He made drawings of different animal parts and tried to determine the function of different organs. Aristotle made many discoveries and interesting observations. 

Tutoring Alexander the Great 

In 343 BC, Philip II of Macedonia asked Aristotle to tutor his son Alexander. Aristotle spent the next several years teaching Alexander a wide range of subjects including philosophy, logic, and mathematics. Alexander went on to conquer much of the civilized world and became known as Alexander the Great. 

Aristotle's School 

After tutoring Alexander, Aristotle returned to Athens and opened his own school. It was called the Peripatetic School. He taught his students subjects such as logic, physics, public speaking, politics, and philosophy. 

At this point in his career Aristotle began to study logic and the process of thinking. Here are some of Aristotle's most famous ideas:

• Syllogism - Syllogism is a type of reasoning. Assuming you had three categories of things: A, B, and C. If all of the As are Bs and all of the Bs are Cs, then all of the As are Cs.

• Five elements - At the time of Aristotle, people believed that everything was made of four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Aristotle proposed that there was a fifth element called aether. He thought that aether is what heavenly bodies such as the stars and planets are made of.

• Four causes - Aristotle felt that everything that happened could be explained by one of four causes: material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause.

• Astronomy - Aristotle rightly determined that the Earth was round. However, he also thought that the Earth was stationary and the center of the universe.

• The "mean" - He believed that the best way for people to behave was to avoid any extremes. Today we call this "doing everything in moderation".

Interesting Facts about Aristotle

• The name Aristotle means "the best purpose".

• King Philip II of Macedon rebuilt Aristotle's hometown of Stagira and freed the inhabitants from slavery as a reward for his tutoring Alexander.

• It is thought that Aristotle left Plato's Academy after Plato died and his son Speusippus took over.

• Not all of Aristotle's observations were accurate. He thought the heart was the center of intelligence (not the brain). He also thought that goats could be male or female depending on which way the wind was blowing.

• Plato referred to Aristotle as "the Mind".

• Plato vs Aristotle : watch the video

• Introducing the three greatest Greek philosophers


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