Aristotle's Poetics: Biography
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, the son of a doctor who retained those scientific interests throughout his life, writing on physics, poetry, logic, rhetoric, politics, ethics, biology, government, and metaphysics, among other subjects. He studied with Plato and taught Alexander the Great. He was so knowledgeable and analytically sharp that his students at Plato’s Academy called him the Brain. With Socrates and Plato, Aristotle is one of the founders of the discipline of Western Philosophy.
Born in Stageira, Chalcidice, Aristotle was born into an aristocratic family. At the age of eighteen, he left to study at Plato’s Academy, where he spent more than twenty years of study. Plato was a major figure in Aristotle’s life, a man who maintained an intense interest in poetry, and who had composed dithyrambs and tragedies from a young age. In fact, Plato, despite his admiration for poetry, believed the poets, who represented evil, had to be countered Sophocles’s belief in goodness. This laid the background for Aristotle’s defense of poetry in the Poetics. Thus, Aristotle took on the role of the defender of poetry. After Plato’s death, Aristotle traveled to the court of Hermias of Atarneus, whose daughter Pythias he eventually married, and with whom he had a daughter, also named Pythias. After Hermias’s death, Philip II of Macedon invited Aristotle to tutor Alexander the Great.
Eventually, Aristotle would return to Athens, setting up an academy in 335 BC: the Lyceum. The Lyceum, a gymnasium just outside Athens, was an academy where Aristotle famously lectured while walking with his students, giving his philosophical school the name Peripatetics. After his wife’s death, he became involved with Herpyllis of Stageira, with whom he had a son named after his father Nicomachus.
After his wife’s death, Aristotle composed many of his works, many of which were later lost. He wrote widely, according to his wide-ranging interests and expertise, works that included the Poetics, Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, and De Anima.
After the death of Alexander the Great, Aristotle faced increasingly hostility, and was denounced as for not honoring the gods. He fled to Chalcis, famously explaining: “I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy.” He died the same year, in 322 BC.