The Academy v Lyceum Marathon 330 BC


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The Academy v Lyceum Marathon 330 BC



In Athens of old,

As I’ve heard it told,

There were two schools of philosophy;

They were rivals in thought

And they could have fought,

But did something else, as you’ll see.


Xenocrates, head

Of t’Academy, said,

‘Our ex-pupil’s set up a Lyceum.

His name’s Aristotle,

He doesn’t lack bottle

If he thinks he can outsmart our team.


‘If Plato were here

We’d have nothing to fear;

He’d wrestle that man to the ground.

But now that he’s dead

It’s our job instead,

And our way to honour is found.


‘So who’s for a run?

Come, there must be someone,

Who can hurdle or wrestle or race?’

A silence ensued

As blushes imbued

Each chubby Academy face.


‘But sir, we’re not real!’

Was t’pupils’ appeal,

‘Our Form is not universal.

A real athlete

Escapes a defeat

By regular active rehearsal.’


‘It’s true,’ said the boss,

‘We’ll be at a loss

With our sedent’ry habits of talk

While at the Lyceum—

You really should see ‘em—

They all think and talk as they walk.’


Xenocrates then

Began chewing his pen

And the pupils each furrowed his brow.

Until one of them said

‘We could try this instead;

I’ll explain what I thought of just now:


‘I heard of a fable—

Recall, if you’re able—

That came down from Aesop the slave.

It concerned a reptile,

Achilles, with a smile,

Said he’d race if the tortoise were brave.


‘You’d think Achilles won,

But he stopped to have fun,

And the tortoise toiled steadily on.

The moral’s about

How persistence wins out

And that tortoise proved it no con.


‘Let’s run a replay

Of that fateful day

When t’Greeks beat t’Persians at Marathon;

Like the soldier who ran

With the news, so we can

Have a race from there up to t’Parthenon.’


So t’challenge was sent

To t’Lyceum and went

To its chief, the great Aristotle.

He was known to be wise,

And they told us no lies

When they’d said he had plenty of bottle.


‘See here lads’, he said.

As he nodded his head,

‘T’Academy mob’s asked us to race.

So let’s give ‘em one,

And we’ll have the most fun,

They’re unfit and we have more pace.’


A date was agreed

And they travelled with speed

To the Marathon spot they had set.

‘We’ll give you a start,

As we do have some heart.’

Said t’Lyceum team when they met.


‘Oh, we think we’ll win,’

Said Xenoc with a grin.

‘Your favours are surely misplaced.

But we’ll take the let

And make you a bet

That you’ll find yourselves badly outpaced.’


T’ Academicians began,

And they puffed as they ran,

And could hear t’Lyceum men coming after.

Those didn’t puff,

And if that weren’t enough,

They were sure they could also hear laughter.


But t’Lyceum team

Said ‘Our run’s a dream

For motion is just a chimera;

Despite all our pain

We won’t make a gain

And so we can never get nearer.


‘When they have begun,

The distance they run,

We need to run after, that’s clear.

By then they’ve run more

And they still go before

While we remain back in the rear.’


‘Ah, that’s from old Zeno

I know that it seems so

Unlikely, as we know we travel’.

Aristotle slowed down

As he said with a frown,

‘It’s a problem for us to unravel.’


They slowed to a walk

To continue their talk,

While t’Academy team stumbled on;

Those were now distant specks

And when they looked next,

By Achilles and Zeus, they were gone.


Aristotle said, ‘Team,

You know it would seem

That our rivals will reach Athens first;

But fear not nor fret

For while we lose t’bet

We gain that for which all of us thirst.


‘Our goal is the kind

That enriches the mind:

To live life as well as we’re able,

And there’s more to this race

Than a fast running pace

As Aesop revealed in his fable.


‘The tortoise has won,

But did he have fun

As he plodded the length of the track?

While we will have time

Those green hills to climb,

And enjoy t’view ‘ere we go back’.


So the moral, you ask?

Is, for ev’ry task,

Look for t’value in just taking part;

We don’t have to win

(Though to do so’s no sin),

Find fulfilment right from the start.

© Sarah Rochelle 2020