Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
What do you believe is the significance of Pythias' note to Aristotle their first night in Pella, "warm, dry" (p. 12)? What does it reveal about Pythias' nature and her relationship with Aristotle?
At their first meeting, Alexander accuses Aristotle of using Arrhidaeus as another "laurel leaf," as proof that Aristotle is a great teacher. Is there truth in Alexander's words? What do you believe are the motives behind Aristotle's interest in Alexander's brother?
How do Aristotle's relationships with the two brothers and their father, Philip, influence one another? How do they rank in Aristotle's affections?
Although they enjoy a relationship of love and respect, Alexander and Aristotle maintain their roles of ruler and subject. In one instance, however, Alexander breaks the rules that govern that relationship to visit Aristotle and Pythias at their home, even staying the night. What accounts for his visit? What might motivate his keen interest in Pythias?
Aristotle describes Alexander's relationship with Olympias, his mother, as having a "grotesque intimacy." Why do you believe Aristotle would characterize their relationship in this way? How might he describe Alexander's relationship with his father? How do Alexander's relationships with his parents influence him?
Contrast Aristotle's relationships with Pythias and Herpyllis and the ways in which he recounts those relationships. In what ways, if any, do these relationships contribute to Aristotle's life as a teacher, philosopher, husband and father?
What is the "golden mean"? In what ways does Aristotle embody that idea? In what ways is he a contradiction?
Aristotle's cool, rational, and almost unfeeling character contrasts sharply with Alexander's passionate one. To temper his student, and to lead Alexander to the happiness that seems to elude him, Aristotle works to convince Alexander of the idea of the "golden mean." Alexander rejects the idea and accuses Aristotle of prizing mediocrity. In the end, who do you believe wins the argument, student or teacher?
Describe the effects of the battlefield on a young Alexander, what is referred to as "soldier's heart." What do you believe accounts for Alexander's propensity to suffer from it?
What are your impressions of Lyon's choice for her characters to use the vernacular, specifically contemporary profanity? Discuss what might have motivated that decision and why.
A review of The Golden Mean enthused that, "in Lyon's clever hands, more than two thousand years of difference are made to disappear and Aristotle feels as real and accessible as the man next door." Do you agree? Why or why not?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Vintage.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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