Saturday, 19 January 2013

Plato’s Tree

Ancient ‘Plato’s Tree’
by Sandra Rimmer

  Ancient 'Plato's Tree', under which the Greek philosopher taught his pupils 2,300 years ago, uprooted for firewood

The 3,000 year old olive tree, in whose shade Plato is said to have lectured his pupils, was uprooted on Wednesday night by Greeks desperate to find fuel to stay warm, according to the Greek media.
The ancient tree, which stood on the Sacred Way between Athens and the town of Elefsina, originally reached 15 feet in height, but was hit by a bus in 1976.  The surviving parts of the tree were replanted, took root and started growing again.
It is believed that the tree was cut down for firewood by desperate Greeks who, among their current economic woes, have been hit by a big tax hike on heating oil.  The felling of trees has been a widespread problem in woods and even city parks this winter.
Legend says that Plato, who lived from 427 to 347 BC, often sat in the shade of the tree while teaching his pupils about his philosophy of man’s role in the universe and relationship with the state.  While there is no conclusive evidence that he did, the remains of Plato’s Academy were found close to the tree during excavations in 1931.  It is thought it was among the 12 olive trees that marked the 12 gated entrances to the Academy; this part of Athens is still named ‘Eleonas’, meaning ‘olive grove’.
Having survived 3,000 years of wars, storms, earthquakes, floods, and even being smashed by a 1970s bus, the old tree was eventually no match for Athens’ modern, freezing, inhabitants.  Would Plato be spinning in his grave about its demise?  I like to think he would be content that it confirmed one of his last and most mature laws:
 “In a state which is desirous of being saved from the greatest of all plagues—not faction, but rather distraction—there should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil.“