Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/383

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359
GREEK THOUGHT AND LITERATURE

young man he could win over to the task, set himself to classify and compare things. Plato says in effect: "Let us take hold of life and remodel it;" this soberer successor: "Let us first know more of life and meanwhile serve the king." It was not so much a contradiction as an immense qualification of the master.

The peculiar relation of Aristotle to Alexander the Great enabled him to procure means for his work such as were not available again for scientific inquiry for long ages. He could command hundreds of talents (a talent = about £240) for his expenses. At one time he had at his disposal a thousand men scattered throughout Asia and Greece, collecting matter for his natural history.[1][2] They were, of course, very untrained observers, collectors of stories rather than observers; but nothing of the kind had ever been attempted, had even been thought of, so far as we know, before his time. Political as well as natural science began. The students of the Lyceum under his direction made an analysis of 158 political constitutions....

This was the first gleam of organized science in the world. The early death of Alexander and the breaking up of his empire almost before it had begun, put an end to endowments on this scale for 2000 years. Only in Egypt at the Alexandria Museum did any scientific research continue, and that only for a few generations. Fifty years after Aristotle's death the Lyceum had already dwindled to insignificance.

 

§ 7

The general drift of thought in the concluding years of the fourth century B.C. was not with Aristotle, nor towards the laborious and necessary accumulation of ordered knowledge. It is possible that without his endowments from the king he would have made but a small figure in intellectual history. Through them he was able to give his splendid intelligence substance and effect. The ordinary man prefers easy ways so long as they may

  1. Wheeler.
  2. Bauer, in Vom Griechentum zum Christentum, says that Alexander sent a mission of exploration to Abyssinia to enable Aristotle to settle the question of the cause of the Nile inundations (melting of mountain snows), and that he also had tropical flora and other material collected for him. — E. B.