One of the sites chosen as part of the green cultural routes program organized by the Culture Ministry’s Directorate of Museums, Exhibitions and Educational Programs Department was Aristotle’s Lyceum. The tour, which introduced attendees to new and exciting information about life in ancient Greece, was led by the head of the Third Ephorate of Classical Antiquities, Eleni Banou.
The walk down Rigillis Street from Vassilissis Sofias Avenue toward Vassileos Constantinou Avenue was the perfect start, accompanied by the fragrances of herbs including oregano, thyme, rosemary and lavender. On our right, separated from the Byzantine Museum’s garden by a fence, we spotted a green retreat with glass shelters protecting the discoveries on the site which has been identified as Aristotle’s school of philosophy, or Lyceum, established in 335 BC.
The Lyceum, located between the Officers Club, the Athens Conservatory and the Byzantine Museum, is poised for its grand opening. The display areas are ready, the information signs are up and the site is officially waiting for visitors. Those passing the well-tended 11,000-square meter grounds on the Culture Ministry’s tour asked Banou when the ancient philosophy school would be ready. Some of them managed to sneak in through the door on the Vassilissis Sofias side of the site to take in the ancient lyceum from up close. The signs are insightful, even if architect and site supervisor Niki Sakka is not there to provide a guided tour, informing the public about the history of the site that Aristotle rented in order to set up his Peripatetic School, a part of the Lyceum. They also provide information on the three big compounds of Ancient Athens – the Academy, the Lyceum and Cynosarges – used for the physical and mental exercise of the city’s youth and men.
The Lyceum (first brought to light by archaeologist Effi Lygouri in 1996), was an overgrown suburb of ancient Athens named after a nearby temple dedicated to Apollo Lyceus. The archaeologists of the Third Ephorate of Classical Antiquities, which is responsible for the site, want it to become a part of Athenians’ everyday life, a place where visitors can take a walk, rest or read.
“Our reasoning is that we don’t want people to be afraid of interacting with the site,” Banou said during the tour. The Lyceum is a new archaeological destination, with free admission, which is also expected to boost visitor numbers at the nearby Byzantine and War museums.
However, a date for its formal inauguration has not been set yet, though it is slated to take place within the next couple of months, before the end of summer.