A lyceum can be
an educational institution (often a school of secondary education in Europe), or
Ancient Greek Lyceum (word origins)
The Lyceum (Lykeion) was a gymnasium in ancient Greece, most famous for its association with Aristotle. The Lyceum is the birthplace of Western science and philosophy. The complex itself, named for its sanctuary to Lycian Apollo, dates from before the 6th century BC, while Aristotle founded his famous school there in 335 BC. Aristotle walked in the lyceum's stoas and grounds as he lectured, surrounded by a throng of students, so the philosophical school he founded was called the Peripatetics.
Aristotle was the head of his school until 323 BC when he fled to Macedonia after a charge of impiety was made against him. Theophrastus served as the second head of the school. Later heads include Strato of Lampsacus and Alexander of Aphrodisias.
The school was sacked by Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 86 BC, but it was later rebuilt. The precise date at which the Lyceum ceased to be used is not known. The actual location of the complex was lost for centuries, until it was rediscovered in 1996, during excavations for the new Museum of Modern Art. Recovery of the site was a goal for modern Greek national identity. "We have now, here, in Athens, the main proof about the historical continuity of the Hellenic cultural heritage," said Cultural Minister Venizelos Evangelos.
Lyceums of the Russian Empire
In imperial Russia, a Lyceum was one of the following high educational facilities: Demidov Lyceum of Law in Yaroslavl (1801), Alexander Lyceum in Tsarskoe Selo (1810), and Imperial Katkov Lyceum in Moscow (1867).
The Tsarskoe Selo Lyceum was opened on October 19, 1811 in the Neoclassical building designed by Vasily Stasov and situated next to the Catherine Palace. The first graduates were all brilliant and included Alexander 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 St Petersburg.
During 33 years of the Tsarskoselsky Lyceum's existence, there were 286 graduates. The most famous of these were Anton Delwig, Wilhelm Kuchelbecker, Nicholas de Giers, Dmitriy Tolstoy, Jacob Grot, Nikolay Danilevsky, Aleksey Lobanov-Rostovsky and Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin.
Lyceums in today's education
The term lyceum is still used in some (mostly European) countries when referring to a type of school.
The word lyceum is in use for secondary education (Greek: Ενιαίο Λύκειο), specifically for the last three high school classes.
The French word for secondary education, lycée, derives from Lyceum.
The Chilean word for a secondary school, liceo, is taken from lycée.
The Polish word for a secondary education facility, liceum, also derives from that term. Polish liceums are attended by children ages from 16 to 19 or 21 (see list below). At their end students are subject to a final exam called matura. The matura is preceded by a traditional ball called studniówka.
Polish liceums can be divided into several types:
The word liceums is widely used in Russian school system
In the late 1800s and early 1900s there was an informal network of lyceums in the United States, usually in small towns. Professional speakers would tour from town to town, lecturing on history, politics, art, and cultural topics in general, usually holding open discussion after the lecture.
The structures were usually a theater or gymnasium space, often adjacent to or part of the Town Hall.
The best description of this mostly forgotten phenomenon might be a cross between the European coffeehouse of the 17th and 18th centuries with the organizational aspects of vaudeville.
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--George Soros has been the most prominent to date--which uses the name "Lyceum."
Article on The Lyceum at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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