1902 Encyclopedia > Academy > Academies in Ancient Greece and Rome. Academies in Modern World.

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ACADEMY, Greek: akademeia, a suburb of Athens to the north, forming part of the Ceramicus, about a mile beyond the gate named Dypilum. It was said to have belonged to the hero Academus, but the derivation of the word is unknown. It was surrounded with a wall by Hipparchus, and adorned with walks, groves, and fountains by Cimon, the son of Miltiades, who at his death bequeathed it as a public pleasure-ground to his fellow-citizens. The Academy was the resort of Plato, who possessed a small estate in the neighborhood. Here he taught for nearly fifty years, till his death in 348 B.C.; and from these "groves of the Academy where Plato taught the truth," his school, as distinguished from the Peripatetics, received the name of the Academics.

The same name (Academia) was in after times given by Cicero to his villa or country-house near Puteoli. There was composed his famous fialogue, The Academic Questions.

Of the academic school of philosophy, in so far as it diverged from the doctrines of its great master (see Plato), we must treat very briefly, referring the reader for particulars to the founders of the various schools, whose names we shall have occasion to mention.

The Academy lasted from the days of Plato to those of Cicero. As to the number of successive schools, the critics are not agreed. Cicero himself and Varro recognized only two, the old and the new; Sextus Empiricus adds a third, the middle; others a fourth, that of Philo and Charmidas; and some even a fifth, the Academy of Antiochus.

Of the old Academy, the principal-leaders were Speusippus, Plato's sister's son, and his immediate successor; Xenocrates of Chalcedon, who with Speusippus accompanied Plato in his journey to Sicily; Polemo, a dissolute young Athenian, who came to laugh at Xenocrates, and remained to listen (Horace, Sat., ii. 3,253); Crates, and Crantor, the latter of whom wrote a treatise, Peri penthous, praised by Cicero. Speusippus, like the Pythagoreans, with whom Aristotle compares him, denied that the Platonic Good

Could be the first principle of things, for (he said) the Good is not like the germ which gives birth to plants and animals, but is only to be found in already existing things. He therefore derived the universe from a primeval indeterminate unit, distinct from the Good; from this unit he deduced three principles-one for numbers, one for magnitude, and one for the soul. The Deity he conceived as that living force which rules all and resides everywhere. Xenocrates, though like Speusippus infected with Pythagoreanism, was the most faithful of Plato's successors. He distinguished three essences: the sensible, the intelligible, and a third, compounded of the other two. The sphere of the first is all below the heavens, of the second all beyond the heavens, of the third heaven itself. To each of these three spheres one of our faculties corresponds. To the sensible, sense; to the intelligible, intellect or reason; to the mixed sphere, opinion. So far he closely follows the psychology and cosmogony of his master; but Cicero notes as the characteristic of both Speusippus and Xenocrates, the abandaonment of the Socratic principle of hesitancy.

Of the remaining three, the same writer (who is our principal authority for the history of the Academic school) tells us that they preserved the Platonic doctrine, but emphasized the moral part. On the old Academy he pronounces the following eulogium (De Fin. V. 3): "Their writings and method contain all liberal learning, all history, all polite discourse; and besides, they embrace such a variety of arts, that no one can undertake any noble career without their aid. . . In a word, the Academy is, as it were, the workshop of every artist." Modern criticism has not endorsed this high estimate. They preserved, it is true, and elaborated many details of the Platonic teaching, which we could ill have spared; but of Plato's originally and speculative power, of his poetry and enthusiasm, they inherited nothing; "nor amid all the learning which has been profusely lavished upon investigating their tenets, is there a single deduction calculated to elucidate distinctly the character of their progress or regression." There is a saying of Polemo's which will illustrate their virtual abandonment of philosophy proper: "We should exercises ourselves in business, not in dialectical speculation."

Arcesilaus, the successor of Crates, the disciple of Theophrastus and Polemo, was the founder of the second or middle Academy. He professed himself the strict follower of Plato, and seems to have been sincerely of opinion that his was nothing but a legitimate development of the true Platonic system. He followed the Socratic method of teaching in dialogues; and like Socrates, left no writings, - at least the ancients were not acquainted with any. But we have no evidence that he maintained the ideal theory of Plato, and from the general tendency of his teaching it is probable that he overlooked it. He affirmed that neither our senses nor our mind can attain to any certainty; in all we must suspend our judgment; probability is the guide of life. (Cicero tells us that he was more occupied in disputing the opinions of others than in advancing any of his own. Arcesilaus is, in fact, the founder of that academic skepticism which was developed and systematized by Carneades, the founder of the third or new Academy. He was the chief opponent of the Stoics and their doctrine of certitude. This is attested by a well-known saying of his: "If there had been no Chrysippus, there would have been no Carneades." To the Stoical theory of perception, the phantasia kataleptike, by which they expressed a conviction of certainty arising from impressions so strong as to amount to science, he opposed the doctrine of akatalepsia, which denied any necessary correspondence between perception and the objects perceived. But while denying the possibility of any knowledge of things in themselves, he saved himself from absolute skepticism by the doctrine of probability or verisimilitude, which may serve as a practical guide in life. Thus he announced as his criterion of truth an imagination or impression (phantasia) at once credible, irrefragable, and attested by comparison with other impressions. The wise man might be permitted to hold an opinion, though he allowed that that opinion might be false. In ethics, however, he appeared as the pure sceptic. On his visit to Rome as an ambassador from Athens, he alternately maintained and denied in his public disputations the existence of justice, to the great scandal of Cato and all honest citizens.

On the fourth and fifth Academics, we need not dwell long. Philo and Antiochus both taught Cicero, and without doubt communicated to him that mild skepticism, that eclecticism compounded of almost equal sympathy with Plato and Zeno, which is the characterized of his philosophical writings. The Academy exactly corresponded to the moral and political wants of Rome. With no genius for speculation, the better Romans of that day were content to embrace a system which, though resting on no philosophical basis, and compounded of heterogeneous dogmas, offered notwithstanding a secure retreat from religious scepticism and political troubles. "My words," says Cicero, speaking as a true Academician "do not proclaim the truth, like a Pythian priestess; but I conjecture what is probable, like a plain man; and where, I ask, am I to search for anything more than verisimilitude?" and again: "The characteristic of the Academy is never to interpose one's judgment, to approve what seems most probable, to compare together different opinions, to see what may be advanced on either side, and to leave one's listeners free to judge without pretending to dogmatise."

ACADEMY, in its modern acceptation, signifies a society or corporate body of learned men, established for the advancement of science, literature, or the arts.

The first institution of this sort we read of in history was that founded at Alexandria by Ptolemy Soter, which he named the Museum. After completing his conquest of Egypt, he turned his attention to the cultivation of letters and science, and gathered about him a large body of literary men, whom he employed in collecting books and treasures of art. This was the origin of the library of Alexandria, the most famous of the ancient world. Passing by the academies which were founded by the Moors at Grenada, Cordula, and as far east as Samarcand, the next instance of an academy is that founded by Charlemagne at the instigation of the celebrated Alcuin, for promoting the study of grammar, orthography, rhetoric, poetry, history, and mathematics. In order to equalize all ranks, each member took the pseudonym of some ancient author or celebrated person of antiquity. For instance, Charlemagne himself was David, Alcuin became Flaccus Albinus. Though none of the labours of this academy have come down to us, it undoubtedly exerted considerable influence in modeling the language and reducing it to rules.

In the following century Alfred founded an academy at Oxford. This was rather a grammar school than a society of learned men, and from it the University of Oxford originated.

But the academy which may be more justly considered as the mother of modern European academies is that of Floral Games, founded at Toulouse in the year 1325, by Clemens Isaurus. Its object was to distribute prizes and rewards to the troubadours. The prizes consisted of flowers of gold and silver. It was first recognized by the state in 1694, and confirmed by letters-patent from the king, and it snumbers limited to thirty-six. It has, except during a few years of the republic, continued to the present day, and distributes annually the following prizes: - An amaranth of gold for the best ode, a silver violet for a poem of sixty to one hundred Alexandrine lines, a silver eglantine for the best prose composition, a silver marigold for an elegy, and a silver lily presented in the last century by M. de Malpeyre for a hymn to the Virgin.

It was the Renaissance which was par excellence the era of academies, and as the Italians may be said to have discovered anew the buried world of literature, so it was in Italy that the first and by far the most numerous academies arose. The earliest of these was the Platonic Academy, founded at Florence by Cosmo de Medici for the study of the works of Plato, though subsequently they added the explanation of Dante and other Italian authors.

Marsilius Ficinus, its principal ornament, in his Theologica Platonica, develoed a system, chiefly borrowed from the later Platonics of the Alexandria school, which, as it seemed to coincide with some of the leading doctrines of Christianity, was allowed by the church. His Latin translation of Plato is at once literal, perspicuous, and correct; and as he had access to MSS. of Plato now lost, it has in several places enabled us to recover the original reading. After the expulsion of the Medici from Florence, the Platonic Academy was dissolved.

In giving some account of the principal academies of Europe, which is all that this article professes to do, we shall, as far as possible, arrange them under different heads, according to -- 1st, The object which they were designed to promote; 2d, The countries to which they belong. This classification, though, perhaps, the best available, is necessarily imperfect, inasmuch as several of those we shall mention were at once literary and scientific, and many association for similar objects were known by some other name. Thus, with the doubtful exception of the Royal Academy of Arts, England has no academies in the proper sense of the word. For those institutions in England which answer to Italian academies, we must refer the reader to the article SOCIETY.

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