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The Last Wishes of Aristotle

Aristotle’s claim to fame was becoming a well-known ancient Greek philosopher and logician, whose scientific theories made quite the impact on Western thought. His contributions were embraced for 1,500 years after he died in 322 BC in Chalcis, Greece at the age of 62.

At a young age, Aristotle learned the ins and outs of Greek medicine and biology. When he was 17 years old, he was sent to Plato’s Academy, where he spent the next 20 years of his life. When Aristotle was alive, he made a living by tutoring the future Alexander the Great. He was also wealthy after marrying a king’s daughter. When Alexander died, Macedonia underwent a period of anarchy. Aristotle was 61 years old at the time, but he was falsely accused of impiety and was looking at a sentencing of drinking hemlock poison.

However, he was able to flee to Chalcis, where he died the next year after contracting a stomach illness. His will named three friends as executors of his estate until one of his favorite pupils, Nicanor, was old enough to oversee his wishes. He wanted Nicanor to marry his daughter Pythias when she turned 18 years old. He instructed that they watched over his son Nicomachus, who he had with a second wife, Herpyllis, who was still alive at the time of his death.

Aristotle was madly in love with Herpyllis and made sure that she never wanted for anything. He couldn’t bear the thought that she would spend the rest of her life lonely and without security. Aristotle had a last wish that his wife remarry, but she had to choose a new husband that was not below her social level. Herpyllis receive 100 silver coins and the service of three slaves for life.

Even if Herpyllis didn’t decide to remarry, she had the run of a suite of rooms adjoining a garden of herbs and flowers at the home they shared in Calchis. She also had the option of retiring to the ancestral home of Aristotle, which was located in Stagirus, Macedonia , the place where he was born and had inherited when his father died. Wherever she chose to live, the executors of the estate would furnish the home to her exact specifications.

In reading Aristotle’s will, you learn he was generous and thoughtful. This is also seen in his freeing of a female slave named Ambaracia. He gave her 500 silver coins plus a slave of her own to make sure that she did not live a life of poverty. Overall, a great deal of his will addressed the issue of slavery. With his history in the military shaping his views on slavery, Aristotle put in his will that the first-generation offspring of his slaves that faithfully served his own heirs could be freed if their service was worthy of release.

Other provisions of his will mentioned that he be buried with the remains of his first wife, who died early during their marriage. He also wanted several statures of animals that he had recently ordered cast in bronze to be dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and Zeus.