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Fig 5.1 – School of Athens

Text: Pages 154-155

The School of Athens is based in a temple-like structure in the shape of a cross, symbolizing the harmony of “pagan” classical Greek philosophy with Christian theology. Raphael, linked to neo-Platonic ideas, exhorts students to embrace metaphysics. Reigning above the school are two statues of the Greek gods Apollo and Athena. Apollo holds a Greek lyre and implores “Renaissance students” to integrate knowledge with the arts. Athena calls upon students to learn psychology, the internal wisdom that leads to justice, especially in warfare. In the center of the picture, Plato, the Elder, looks away from the younger Aristotle, which symbolizes the divergence of their philosophical schools. Socrates reaches out to the diplomat Aeschines, whose fate is unlike that of Socrates, cleared of treason, reminding students that scientific inquiry can be dangerous, and even lead to death.

The painting includes many of the philosophers and thinkers who laid the foundation of classical Greek philosophy: Epicurus, Anaximander, Empedocles, Alexander the Great, Zeno of Citium, Diogenes, Xenophon, Antisthenes, Parmenides, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Heraclitus, Plotinus, Euclid, Hypatia, and Photogenes. Also, the Axial Age Zoroaster, the Muslim Averroes, and the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo.

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