Updated: Aug 5, 2021
He tutored hundreds of years ago — find out all about Aristotle in Part 2 of our series about Famous Tutors/Students.
"The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet."
Do you know who famously said this? That's right, Aristole — who also happens to be our famous tutor from history for today's post.
What did he mean by this? Quite simply that the process of learning isn't always an easy ride. It is typically characterised by hard work, and to become truly adept at something there will inevitably be periods of tedium, self-doubt and quite possibly despair! Sound familiar? Just bear in mind that the key point that Aristotle was making is that it's worth it in the end. Keep plugging away, push through the hard times, and always keep the end point (i.e. the 'sweet fruit') in sight.
Aristotle made this claim over 2000 years ago, and like most Latin and Ancient Greek tutors I find it fascinating that, no matter how many technological advancements we make as a society, the fundamentals of human experience don't really change. Aristotle's depiction of the process of education rings perfectly true today. We may look to our school teachers and private tutors to make learning more fun, and their inspiration can be a great help in easing the burden, but in the end there are no shortcuts. You have to put in the hard yards to be able to achieve your aims, and to reap the rewards you will need dedication, persistence and motivation. Aristotle also said "pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work", so he clearly entertained the possibility of pushing past those 'bitter roots' and finding enjoyment in education.
Maybe that's because he was himself educated by one of 'the greats' — Aristotle's most famous teacher was none other than Plato, founder of the Platonic Academy in Athens and one of the key influencers of Western philosophy. Aristotle studied at the Academy for 20 years (367-347 BC), and was considered to be an extraordinary scholar. He had a close relationship with Plato, and was one of his favourite pupils. For a time, Aristotle was tipped to become Plato's successor as director of the Academy, but this never came to pass as Aristotle didn't fully agree with Plato's approach to philosophy. This might sound surprising given the long stretch of time he spent at the Academy, but Aristotle did after all say that "it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it".
Although he is best known as an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, you may be interested to hear that Aristotle was also a private tutor! Arguably his highest profile client was Philip II of Macdeon, who requested that he tutor Alexander the Great. The tutoring started when Alexander was 13 years of age and continued until he was 16 (presumably once Alexander had completed his GCSEs, he was ready to stand on his own two feet!). The content of the lessons remains a bit of a mystery; a text called Rhetoric to Alexander (Τέχνη ῥητορική) has survived but unfortunately the current thinking is that it's a forgery. It can't have hurt Aristotle's CV to have influenced one of history's most successful military commanders — although if he had been a Titanium tutor, Aristotle would have known better than to claim credit for his student's successes!
A few years later, Aristotle went on to found his own school, the Lyceum. Based in Athens, the Lyceum was a temple and became famous for the particular branch of philosophical thinking which it expounded — namely the 'Peripatetic school' of philosophy, so named after the peripatoi (colonnades / covered walkways) which could be found in the Lyceum.
All in all, Aristotle was something of a mover and shaker in the world of education, and if he were around today we'd gladly have him on our books! Sadly he's no longer available for tutoring, but if you do want an inspirational tutor who can help you plough through the bitter roots of education and get you closer to that sweet fruit, be sure to get in touch...
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy the previous post in this series, Famous Tutors/Students From History — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Blog Post Crafted by Joe
Subjects Taught: Latin, Ancient Greek
Background: Joe Hytner owns and runs Titanium Tutors, managing our assessors and staff. Joe graduated from King’s College, Cambridge in 2009 with a degree in Classics and then trained as a teacher at Queens’ College, Cambridge, graduating in 2010. Whilst setting up Titanium Tutors he taught Latin on a part-time basis in three schools — Parkside Federation, Impington Village College and South Lee School (where he started up the Latin department from scratch). Joe has also taught Latin and Ancient Greek to numerous Cambridge University undergraduates.
Fun Fact: Joe has read Harry Potter in Latin from cover to cover.