ACADEMIES. The word "academy" is derived from "the olive grove of Academe, Plato's retirement" (see under ACADEMY, GREEK). The schools of Athens after the model of the Academy continued to flourish almost without a break for nine centuries till they were abolished by a decree of Justinian. "Academy," in its modern acceptation, may be defined as a society or corporate body having for its object the cultivation and promotion of litera ture, of science and of art, either severally or in combination, undertaken for the pure love of these pursuits, with no interested motive. Modern academies, moreover, have, almost without ex ception, some form of public recognition; they are either founded, endowed or subsidized, or at least patronized, by the supreme head of the State. The term "academy" has been loosely used in modern times. In the 18th century it was frequently adopted by schools run by dissenters, and the name is often found attached to the public schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We are only concerned here, however, with those institutions which are of historical importance in their various spheres.
The first academy, as thus defined, though it might with equal justice claim to be the first of universities, was the museum of Alexandria founded at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. by the first of the Ptolemies. There all the sciences then known were pur sued, and the most learned men of Greece and of the East gathered. Here, too, was the nucleus of the famous library of Alexandria. Modern literary academies may be said to trace their lineage in direct descent from the troubadours of the early i4th century. The first floral games were held at Toulouse in May, 1324, at the summons of a gild of troubadours, who invited "honourable lords, friends and companions who possess the science whence spring joy, pleasure, good sense, merit and politeness" to assemble in their garden of the "gay science" and recite their works. These floral games survived till about the year 1500. In 1694 the Academie des Jeux Floraux was constituted an academy by letters patent of Louis XIV. Suppressed during the Revolution it was revived in 18°6, and still continues to award amaranths of gold and silver lilies, for which there is keen competition.
Provence led the way, but Italy of the Renaissance is the soil in which academies most grew and flourished. The Accademia Pontaniana, to give it its subsequent title, was founded at Florence in 1433 by Antonio Beccadelli of Palermo and fostered by Lauren tius Valla. Far more famous was the Accademia Platonica, founded c. 1442 by Cosimo de' Medici, which numbered among its members Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Machiavelli and Angelo Poliziano. It was, as the name implies, chiefly occu pied with Plato, but it added to its objects the study of Dante and the purification of the Italian language, and though it lived for barely half a century yet its influence as a model for similar learned societies was great and lasting.