The Academy of Plato (organization)
Plato probably founded the Academy in 387 BC or the following year. From the outset, Plato was put in charge of the Academy, which he directed until his twilight years, when he retired to his own house and “garden”, in order to write Laws.
Very little is known about the school rules, Plato’s seminars and the teaching methods. Plato taught orally and his students kept notes, as first step for the further research and study of the object, as he believed firmly that knowledge was not acquired by a simple teaching of “lessons”.
Plato’s teaching in the Academy should be classed into two categories: instruction to a close circle of his students and lectures to a wider audience. Purpose of his seminars was to form the setting with the protagonists of the discussion, which would lead, through dialectics, to commonly accepted values or to negative and deadlock conclusions. Aim of his lectures to the general public was to promote methods that every thinking person should follow.
One innovation in the curriculum of the Academy was the role of the “anagnostes”, which seems to have been decisive for its operation. This role was not confined to the reading aloud of philosophical works and Sophist diatribes, but extended to the actual Dialogues of Plato. However, from the time the Academy began to operate more systematically, the role of the “reader” must have been upgraded and in addition to reading aloud he must have exercised criticism, both factual and literary. Indeed, from the moment Plato entrusted this role to Aristotle, the “reader” was turned into inquisitor, with exceptionally severe criteria.
Αn important role was played in the Academy by its library, which held not only Plato’s personal book collection and copies of his Dialogues, but also works published and circulated in the market by Plato’s pupils. If we bear in mind the extent of the library of Speusippus, Plato’s successor as scholarch of the Academy, which ran to 224,239 lines, as Diogenes Laertius attests, then we can appreciate the reasons that led the Academicians to organize this library, the first in an advanced intellectual foundation in the Hellenic world.