From New World Encyclopedia

This article is about Lyceum as school or as public hall. Lyceum can also be short for Lyceum Theatre.

Lyceum is a term used to refer to an educational institution (often a school of secondary education in Europe); a public hall used for cultural events like concerts; or an organization that sponsors lectures, concerts and other adult educational programs. The precise usage of the term varies among various countries.

The name “Lyceum” comes from a gymnasium near Athens in ancient Greece, named after Apollo Lyceus, Apollo “the wolf-god.” Socrates, Prodicus and Protagoras apparently taught and led philosophical discussions there during the last third of the fifth century B.C.E. In 335 B.C.E., Aristotle rented some buildings in the Lyceum and established a school there, where he lectured, wrote most of his philosophical works, and compiled the first library in European history. The school was commonly called “Peripatetic” either for the peripatos in the Lyceum grounds or from Aristotle's habit of lecturing while walking. It continued in existence until Athens was destroyed in 267 C.E., and was an important early milestone in the development of Western science and philosophy. The American lyceum movement of the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century was an early form of organized adult education. Lectures, dramatic performances, classes, and debates held in the halls of countless small towns contributed significantly to the education of adult Americans and provided a platform for the dissemination of culture and ideas.

Ancient Greek Lyceum (word origins)

The Lyceum (Λύκειον, Lykeion) was a gymnasium in ancient Athens, most famous for its association with Aristotle. Like the other famous Athenian gymnasia (the Academy and the Cynosarges), the Lyceum was more than a place for physical exercise and philosophical debate. It was named after Apollo Lyceus, Apollo “the wolf-god,” and contained shrines dedicated to Apollo, Hermes, and the Muses. Starting in at least the sixth century B.C.E., the Lyceum was the location of the office (Hesychius, "Epilykeion" and Suda, "ArchÙn") of the polemarch (head of the army), and was used for military exercises (Suda, "Lykeion") and for marshaling the troops before a campaign (Aristophanes, Peace 351-357). It was the site of cavalry displays (Xenophon, The Cavalry Commander 3.1), and was used as a meeting place for the Athenian assembly before their permanent meeting place was established on the Pnyx hill during the fifth century B.C.E. During the last third of the fifth century B.C.E., Socrates, Prodicus and Protagoras apparently taught and led philosophical discussions in the Lyceum. Isocrates taught rhetoric there during the first half of the fourth century B.C.E., along with other sophists.

When he returned to Athens in 335 B.C.E., Aristotle rented some buildings in the Lyceum and established a school there, where he lectured, wrote most of his philosophical works, and compiled the first library in European history. In 322 B.C.E., when Aristotle was forced to flee to Macedon after a charge of impiety was made against him, Theophrastus became head of the school and continued to teach and write. He purchased several buildings in the Lyceum and left them to the school in his will. From that time until 86 B.C.E. there was a continuous succession of philosophers in charge of the school, Strato of Lampsacus and Alexander of Aphrodisias. The school was commonly called “Peripatetic” either for the peripatos in the Lyceum grounds or from Aristotle's habit of lecturing while walking, and was part of the educational and military training provided to youths of the Athenian elite, the ephebeia. The reputation of the Lyceum and other Athenian schools attracted philosophers and students from all around the Mediterranean. In 86 B.C.E. the Roman General Lucius Cornelius Sulla sacked Athens and destroyed much of the Lyceum. It is thought that the school was disrupted and re-established later in the first century B.C.E. by Andronicus of Rhodes. In the second century C.E., the Lyceum flourished as a center of philosophical learning. The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius appointed teachers to all the philosophical schools in Athens. Athens was destroyed in 267 C.E. and it is unclear whether the Peripatetic philosophers ever returned to the Lyceum. Any remaining philosophical activity would have ended when the emperor Justinian closed all the philosophical schools in Athens in 529 c.e..

The actual location of the complex was lost for centuries and rediscovered in 1996, during excavations for the new Museum of Modern Art. Recovery of the site was a significant contribution to the national identity of modern Greece. "We have now, here, in Athens, the main proof about the historical continuity of the Hellenic cultural heritage," said Cultural Minister Venizelos Evangelos.

American Lyceums "Chautauquas"

The Lyceum Movement in the United States was an early form of organized adult education based on Aristotle's Lyceum in Ancient Greece. Lyceums flourished, particularly in small towns in the northeastern and midwestern U.S., during the mid-nineteenth century, and some continued until the early twentieth century. Hundreds of informal associations were established for the purpose of improving the social, intellectual, and moral fabric of society. Professional speakers would tour from town to town, lecturing on history, politics, art, and cultural topics, and often holding open discussion after the lecture. The lectures were usually held in a theater or gymnasium, and sometimes in large tents, often adjacent to or part of the Town Hall. The lectures, dramatic performances, classes, and debates contributed significantly to the education of the adult American in the nineteenth century and provided a platform for the dissemination of culture and ideas.

The first American lyceum, "Millsbury Branch, Number 1 of the American Lyceum," was founded in 826 by Josiah Holbrook, a traveling lecturer and teacher who believed that education was a lifelong experience. The Lyceum Movement reached the peak of its popularity in the antebellum (pre-Civil War) era. Public lyceums were organized as far south as Florida and as far west as Detroit. Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau endorsed the movement and lectured at many local lyceums.

After the American Civil War, lyceums were increasingly used as venues for traveling entertainers, such as vaudeville and minstrel shows. However, they continued to play an important role in the development of political ideas, such as women’s suffrage, and in exposing the public to culture and literature. Well-known public figures such as Susan B. Anthony, Mark Twain, and William Lloyd Garrison all spoke at lyceums in the late nineteenth century. The function of lyceums was gradually incorporated into the Chautauqua movement.

The speech below was given at the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, by Abraham Lincoln, when he was a 28-year old member of the Illinois State Legislature. It was one of his earliest published speeches.

The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions:
Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois
January 27, 1838

In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American People, find our account running, under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era.—We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them—they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors...(Abraham Lincoln, Sangamon Journal, February 3, 1838)

Lyceums of the Russian Empire

In Imperial Russia, a Lyceum was one of the following higher educational facilities: Demidov Lyceum of Law in Yaroslavl (1803), Alexander Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo (1810), Richelieu Lyceum in Odessa (1817), and Imperial Katkov Lyceum in Moscow (1867).

The Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum was opened on October 19, 1811, in a neoclassical building designed by Vasily Stasov and situated next to the Catherine Palace. The first graduates included Aleksandr Pushkin and Alexander Gorchakov. The opening date was celebrated each year with carousals and revels, and Pushkin composed new verses for each of those occasions. In January 1844, the Lyceum was moved to Saint Petersburg. During thirty-three years of the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum's existence, there were two-hundred-and eighty-six graduates. The most famous of these were Anton Delwig, Wilhelm Küchelbecher, Nicholas de Giers, Dmitry Tolstoy, Yakov Karlovich Grot, Nikolay Yakovlevich Danilevsky, Alexei Lobanov-Rostovsky, and Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin.

Lyceums also emerged in the former Soviet Union countries after they became independent. One typical example is Uzbekistan, where all high schools where replaced with lyceums ("litsey" is the Russian term, derived from French "lycee"), offering three-year educational programs concentrating on a specific major. Unlike Turkish lyceums, Uzbek lyceums do not hold university entrance examinations, which guarantee students the right to enter a university, but they hold a practice examination designed to test the students’ eligibility for specific universities.

Lyceums in Modern Europe

The term lyceum is still used in some (mostly European) countries when referring to a type of school. In Greece and Cyprus the word lyceum is in use for secondary education (Greek: Ενιαίο Λύκειο, Eniaio Lykeio "Unified Lyceum") specifically for the last three high school (upper secondary) classes in Greece and Cyprus. The French word for an upper secondary school, lycée, derives from Lyceum.

The concept and name lyceum (or lyseo in Finnish) entered Finland through Sweden, and was used for schools which prepared students to enter universities, as opposed to the typical, more general education. Some old schools continue to use the name lyceum, though their operations today vary; the more commonly used term for upper secondary school in Finland is lukio.

The most frequented kind of school in Italy is the lyceum, where students study Latin and English for five years between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. There are several types of lyceums, liceo classico (specializing in classical studies, including Latin and Ancient Greek), liceo scientifico (specializing in scientific studies), liceo artistico (specializing in art subjects), and liceo linguistico (specializing in foreign languages such as English, French, Latin, Spanish and German). In Malta, junior lyceums refer to state-owned schools for secondary education.

In Poland, educational reforms in 1999 implemented several new types of secondary schools. The Polish word for a secondary education facility, liceum, also derives from “lyceum.” Polish liceums are attended by children from sixteen to nineteen or twenty-one years of age. Students are subjected to a final exam called matura, which is preceded by a traditional ball called studniówka.

The Turkish word for the latest part of pre-university education is lise which is derived from the French word lycée and corresponds to "high school" in English. It lasts three to five years, at the end of which students take the ÖSS (Öğrenci Seçme Sınavı), a university entrance examination.

The Romanian term liceu represents a post-secondary, pre-university educational institution which is more specialized than secondary school. Certain specialized lyceum diplomas are qualifications for a professional job.

Lyceums as Honorifics

In honor of Aristotle's Lyceum, several other organizations and schools have used the name "lyceum." For instance, Harrisburg's elite Tuesday Club has a speaker's series which uses the name "Lyceum."

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bode, C. American Lyceum Town Meeting of the Mind. Southern Illinois University Press, 1968. ISBN 0809303191
  • Briggs, Irene, et al. Recollections of the Lyceum & Chautauqua Circuits. Bond Wheelwright, 1969. ASIN B000KVD90M
  • Lynch, John Patrick. Aristotle's School: A Study of a Greek Educational Institution Berkeley 1972 ISBN 0520021940
  • McClure, Arthur F., et al. Education for Work: The Historical Evolution of Vocational and Distributive Education in America. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985. ISBN 083863205X
  • Ray, Angela G. The Lyceum And Public Culture In The Nineteenth-Century United States. Michigan State University Press, 2005. ISBN 0870137441

External links

All links retrieved November 4, 2022.

General Philosophy Sources


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.