This week everybody else under my roof returns to the halls of academia so I think it’s timely to share another extract from my forthcoming book “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” which explores the origins of eponyms and the intriguing life stories of those people who gave their name to the English language.
Extract from “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” by Grace Tierney (copyright reserved)
Academy (from the “Be a Greek, or a God, or preferably both” chapter)
Plato’s academy was a pleasure garden in suburban Athens where Plato taught his followers. He founded it in 387 B.C. and it was the first higher learning institution in the Western World. Aristotle studied there before founding his own school, the Lyceum.
The site of the academy had been sacred to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, since the Bronze age and it held a grove of sacred olive trees. Even when the Spartans conquered the area they refused to ravage these groves, although sadly the Romans chopped them to build siege engines in 86 B.C.. Torch-lit races and funeral games took place there and the road to the academy was lined with the gravestones of Athenians.
Plato’s academy, founded in this special place, was free to attend and women were amongst the students. The subjects, informally taught, included mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy with frequent debates and lectures by Plato.
The academy was named for the mythical Greek hero Akademos who had owned the land where the olive grove and later the academy was established. He was renowned for saving the city of Athens due to yet another disaster caused by Helen of Troy. This was before the Trojan War and this time it wasn’t her fault.
King Theseus, the slayer of the minotaur and the ruler of Athens was now 50 and widowed. He abducted Helen, then aged only 12. Her twin demi-god brothers Castor and Pollux threatened to destroy Athens to liberate their young sister. Akademos knew where she was hidden and revealed the location to the twins thus saving Athens.
When he died he was buried in the olive grove on his land which was long-dedicated to Athena.
Raphael’s famous fresco “The School of Athens” on the walls of the Vatican Museum depicts the students at Plato’s academy.
The site of the academy was rediscovered in the 20th century and is now a free museum.
Interested in eponyms? I’ve written a book about nearly 300 of them and the lives of the fascinating people who gave their name to English. Out now in Amazon paperback (USA and UK), and ebook for Kindle, iBooks, and on Kobo.
Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,