A mosaic from Pompeii, kept today at the Museum of Naples, depicts Plato, who is talking to other philosophers under the big trees of the Academy in Athens. Some of the philosophers are holding papyrus and are seated on a bench in a semicircle. Next to them a casket can be seen, which served to keep the papyrus. At the bottom right are depicted the walls of Athens with the Parthenon, which shows how far the Academy was from the city of Athens. "Data from the excavations conducted to date indicate that the borders of the ancient Academy, with the sacred olive grove in honour of the goddess Athena and with the sacrificial altars where Plato founded his school of thought, were not only within the borders of the present archaeological site "Academy ". In ancient times this place must have been quite wider to the west (towards Ipios Kolonos) near the riverbanks of Kifisos. Despite the excavations, however, the issue of identification and dating of the monuments found remains open". This is what the archaeologist Effi Linguri stated in a lecture on "The Ancient Academy. History of the archaeological sites and the excavations", delivered before the Society of the Greek archaeologists.
The history of the excavations holds interesting moments, as it reveals the difficulties, but also the success of the first archaeologists who studied the Academy in the early 20th century. Equally important, however, are also the efforts for the expropriation of the property falling within the archaeological site. In the past, the site was divided into parts and now through a programme of the Ministry of Culture attempts are made to unite the site. Because the truth is that today's appearance of the region is hardly reminiscent of the place where the Academy of Plato was founded and operated, the spiritual centre of ancient Athens, which has laid its mark on the philosophical thought of the modern world.
Few people know today, said Effi Linguri, that the person who found the Academy was a Greek born in Egypt, an admirer of Plato - Panagiotis Aristofron. He has donated much of his property to the Greek Academy of Sciences, which he considered to be the heir of the ancient Academy, so as to enable the expropriation of property and for the excavations to be carried out. At that time the area, where the excavations took place under the direction of the archaeologist Konstantinos Kourouniotis, with the help of archaeologists from the Academy in Athens and the personal assistance of the very sponsor himself, was called Bitulas or Vitulas.
These excavations unearthed nearly all of the preserved to this day ancient monuments from the Academy. Excavations were terminated in 1940 because of World War II and in 1944 Aristofron passed away. He left behind, however, an exceptional, in terms of its importance, work and a large plot purchased in order for the excavations to continue. Since then the troubles began at the archaeological site.
"In the attempts to complete the process of expropriation of property archeologists faced many problems, social and political, because of the protests of the residents," says Effie Linguri, adding that: "The boundaries of the archaeological site since 1937 have been steadily decreasing."
Today, after 150 expropriated properties and fencing of large areas of the forest, so as for the preserved monuments not to be located in close proximity to private property, it seems that the Academy of Plato, which is now located on an area of 135 acres, has acquired a new look.
As Effe Linguri stated, this is a chance for the first scientific and philosophical Academy, which today is a model for all the research centers, to be revealed to the world in its entirety.