“A wise man’s country is the world”
Aristippus of Cyrene
Arete of Cyrene, daughter of the philosopher Aristippus, was born and raised in the city of Cyrene located in North Africa in what it now the nation of Libya. In Arete’s time, Cyrene was one of the great intellectual centres of the classical world, boasting a vibrant academic community and celebrated medical school.
Aristippus, a student and close friend of Socrates, founded the philosophy school known as the Cyrenaics. Pleasure was the only good in life and pain was the only evil. Happiness was the main dynamic of existence, while virtue had little essential value. This was a clear departure from Socrates’ philosophy, which argued that virtue was the only human good, relegating happiness to a less important goal of moral action.
Arete was one of her father’s most devoted students becoming a philosopher of note in her own right. She continued in her father’s footsteps by teaching philosophy to her son, Aristippus the Younger. Known to be prudent, practical and to abhor excess of any kind, she lived the principles of her belief system. With her father’s passing, she became his successor until the rise of her son and a new generation.
Arete was beloved by her city and all through Greece. And no wonder! For thirty-five years she taught natural and moral philosophy in the schools and academies throughout Attica. She wrote forty books and taught one hundred and ten philosophers over the course of her tenure. Her mission was to spread equality throughout her world. Respected, admired and mourned at her passing, her tomb was inscribed with an epitaph that would be read down through the centuries. Arete, the splendour of Greece, who possessed the beauty of Helen, the virtue of Thirma, the soul of Socrates, and the tongue of Homer.
Arete’s life is a testament to the power of knowledge, community, and shared compassion.
“I dream of a world where there are neither masters nor slave.”
Arete of Cyrene