The Lyceum Of Aristotle, And The National Archaeological Museum

Today I visited the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, as well as the historical site of Aristotle’s Lyceum.  The Lyceum was the place of origin of Aristotle’s Peripatetic school of philosophy, which took shape around 335 B.C.  Like the Platonic Academy, there is not much in the way of physical remains; but this did not matter to me at all.  Just to be able to stand on this ground was to me worth the effort in coming to Greece.  It was only discovered in 1996. How often do we read of Aristotle, and yet no one bothers to link a physical location to his memory?  This is why it was important for me to take these pictures, and show them to readers here.

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Seeing The Platonic Academy

I walked to the ruins of the Platonic Academy in Athens this morning.  Founded by Plato himself around 387 B.C., it persisted through many generations under a variety of scholarchs (i.e., heads).  It finally came to an official end during the reign of the emperor Justinian in 529 A.D., who ordered the closure of all the pagan institutions of higher learning.

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Starvation On The High Seas: The Ordeal Of The “Saint Le Jacques”

Perhaps it is well that the modern traveler remains serenely unaware of the extraordinary hardships endured by his itinerant ancestors.  For if he knew what travel in the pre-modern era truly entailed, he would be rightfully consumed by a sense of shame and inadequacy.  His concerns are whether he will have the chicken or the pasta aboard Delta Flight XYZ bound for one city or another; his ancestors, however, were grateful just to get a few moldy biscuits and rum during some miserable transoceanic ordeal.  Perspective is everything, or nearly everything.

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René Caillié: To Timbuktu And Back Alive

The modern traveler has little conception of the hardships and expense that were involved in the journeys of ages past.  Surrounded by comfort, his every whim catered to by a global tourism industry, he is blissfully unaware of the suffering and danger necessarily involved in travel to remote regions of the globe before the modern consumer age.  His chief preoccupations are the adjustment of his body to new time zones, the temperature of his air-conditioning, and the quality of his accommodations.  Perhaps it is well that this is so:  for nothing so unbalances the complacent mind than the realization that its perspective is based on narrow, parochial experience.  Knowledge can both liberate and destroy.

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The Travels Of John Bell In Persia and China

John Bell was born in 1690 in Antermony, Scotland.  He seems to have decided at an early age to study medicine, but was lured into the world of adventure and travel by hearing stories of Peter the Great of Russia, who was a famous figure in Europe in the early eighteenth century.  He resolved to visit Russia for himself, and set out to St. Petersburg in July 1714.  The czar was preparing a delegation under the command of Aremy Petrovich Valenskyto travel to Persia; and Bell, with his medical background, volunteered to join the party as an attendant.

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The Life And Travels Of Leo Africanus

The diplomat and traveler now known as Leo Africanus was born Hasan Ibn Muhammad al-Wazan al-Fasi (حسن ابن محمد الوزان الفاسي‎) in the early 1490s in Spanish Grenada; of the exact date we are not certain.  This period was not a favorable one to be an Andalusian Arab in Spain, as the last vestiges of the old caliphate were being pushed off the Iberian peninsula by the nascent Castilian kingdom.  When Granada passed into Christian hands, Leo’s family found it expedient to move to Fez in Morocco, and there he received a good education.

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Johan Nieuhof’s Pioneering Travels In China

Johan Nieuhof was one of the most accomplished Dutch travelers of the seventeenth century.  Although he made separate and independently valuable explorations in Brazil, India, and China, it was his experience in China that has made his name known to history.  No serious student of Asian history and economic affairs can afford to overlook him or the implicit lessons of his travels.

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