The Greeks loved philosophy.
Philosophy means "Lover of Wisdom" in ancient Greek. Socrates, Plato, and
Aristotle were the best know philosophers although there were many others.
||Socrates (469 - 399 B.C.)
Socrates was one of
the most famous philosophers. He was born in Athens in 469 B. C. He was a young boy at the
time Darius I's army fought the Greeks at Marathon. Socrates' father was a stone-carver,
so Socrates learned the stone carving trade. Socrates' mother was a midwife. Socrates
became an Athenian soldier during the Peloponnesian War.
When Socrates was 40 he begin to
think about the world. He used questions to teach others. He asked questions such as
"What is wisdom?" or "What is beauty?" He had groups of people try to
answer the questions. They discussed the answers. Socrates continued to ask more and more
complicated questions. Some people became angry over this. Socrates had one faithful
student. His name was Plato. In 399 B. C. when Socrates was 70 years old he was charged in
court of not respecting the gods and corrupting the youth. He was convicted and sentenced
to death. Thirty days later, he died by drinking a cup of hemlock. After Socrates'
death Plato wrote down Socrates' philosophy. His main themes were:
||Plato (427 - 347 B. C.)
Plato was born in Athens in 427 B.
C. to a very wealthy and aristocratic family. He became a student of Socrates when he was
very young. Plato learned a lot from Socrates and was extremely upset by his death. Plato
was 30 years old at this time. After Socrates's death, Plato began to write down the
conversations he and Socrates had.
After a while Plato began to write
down his own ideas about philosophy. One of his ideas was about how Athens could form a
Republic. Plato thought there should be a few guardians to make the decisions for the
population. These ideas didn't get much attention in Athens. Plato tried to spread his
idea in Sicily, but the prince didn't listen either. Plato gave up the idea and went back
to Athens. There he built an academy to teach his philosophy. The Academy was very
Plato thought a lot about the
natural world. He wanted men to understand the world better by trying to predict or
understand the world without being able to see it.
He believed the soul was made up of
three parts: natural desires, will, and reason. Will allows people to resist their
natural desires. Reason tells people when to resist their natural desires and when to
obey. Plato believed these three parts of the soul must be balanced to live a successful
life. He thought that if one of the three parts was off that this leads to badness.
One of Plato's students at the
Academy was a man named Aristotle. Plato died at the age of 82. His students at the
Academy preserved and copied all his writings.
Aristotle was born
in Macedon in the north of Greece. His father was a doctor. When Aristotle was young when
he went to study at Plato's Academy. After Plato died, Aristotle left the Academy and went
back to Macedon to be the tutor of the young Prince Alexander who later became Alexander
After Alexander grew up, Aristotle
went to Athens and opened a school called the Lyceum. Aristotle was interested in science.
He used Socrates' logical methods to figure out how the world worked. He especially liked
biology. When Alexander the Great was traveling in Western Asia, he had messengers bring
back unusual plants for Aristotle to study.
Aristotle created a classification
system of monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies, democracies, and republics which we still
When Alexander died in 323 B. C.,
the citizens led revolts against Macedonian rule in Athens. At this time Aristotle was
accused of being secretly on the side of the Macedonians. He had to flee from Athens, and
lived the rest of his life in Macedon.