by Christopher Xeneopoulos Janus

Pan Aristoforon, born Triandafelides discovered the ancient site of Plato's Academy some 75 years ago. He was my mother, Olympia's, brother, and for some reason still unknown to me, they had a life-long falling out that included me. Actually so my cousins tell me, Aristoforon thought the name Triandafelides was too common a name. Aristoforon meant aristocracy and had a high level sound to it.

Aristoforon was a man of many good deeds but he was exceedingly eccentric and vain. He had his valet who shaved him every morning save his beard shavings for posterity!

He thought a gentleman should never carry packages and he only shook hands with important people.

One of his favorite persons was Heinrich Schliemann who after making a great fortune discovered the ancient city of Troy and its golden treasures.

Aristoforon's life-long ambition was to discover Plato's ancient academy and after he made a great fortune dealing in Egyptian cotton he did discover the academy and at his own expense.

He wrote a book about his discovery of Plato's academy which was printed by the Oxford University Press and afterward he was invited to give a lecture at Oxford on Plato and the Academy.

This was in 1937 when I was a student at Oxford studying philosophy. I went to see Aristoforon after his lecture but being my mother's son, he would not see me!

Aristoforon's discovery of Plato's academy is in a suburb of Athens actually called Academy. The site was continuously inhabited from the prehistoric period until the 5th century B.C. During the 6th century B.C., one of the three famous symnasiums of Athens was founded here. Moreover it is recorded that Hippias, the son of Pedpisitratos, built a wall, and planted trees which were destroyed by Sulla. In 387 B.C. Plato founded his philosophical school, which became very famous due to the neo­platonists, and remained in use until A.D. 526 when it was finally dosed down by the Emperor Justinia.

Aristoforon's dream was to build a world university on or near the site of Plato's ancient academy.

Plato believed that one of the aims of the university was to foster world peace. It's principal aim, of course, was to teach Plato's dialogues and the philosophy of learning. He believed that the students be taught only what interested them, other studies they would eventually forget or ignore.

Plato also believed that the main purpose of a university would give the student a real zeal for learning. When a student had a real zeal for learning, he did not need a university. Another aim of Aristoforon's world university was, of course, the search for absolute truth in science, in the arts, in life. And he has his own rather skeptical view in the search for absolute truth. He denied the possibility of aiming absolute truth or at any criterion of truth. He argued that if there were any such criterion it must exist as reason or sensation or conception; but as reason depends on conception and this, in turn on sensation, and as we have no means of deciding whether our sensations really correspond to the objects that produce them, the basis of all knowledge is always uncertain. Hence, all that we can attain to is a high degree of probability. Which we must accept is the nearest possible approximation to the truth. Aristoforon married a rich widow in Kifissia , and they built an elaborate house which today has landmark status and is owned and used by the Greek Government. He died in 1955 without leaving anything in his will to his sister or any Greek relatives.

Mrs. Aristoforon dyed her hair blue and opened a successful night club in Alexandria. I spent a wonderful evening at the club and paid the bill in cash. They would not accept a credit card!

Dr. John Kalaras, Valerie Valentine and I plan to be in Athens in July during which time I will be discussing with the Academy of Athens what future plans they have for the Academy.

(Posting date 4 June 2007)

Mr. Janus is the author of numerous articles appearing on HCS. Readers are invited to view: "The Drinking Parties--Symposiums in Ancient Greece" and "The Greatest Greeks of Antiquity" as well as other fine articles by him under our archival section bearing his name: Janus Articles.

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