Raphael’s School of Athens Explained for Philosophers

Raphael’s School of Athens Explained for Philosophers

The painting above is Scuola di Atene (“School of Athens”) by Raphael. Raphael likely painted it in 1511 in one of the rooms in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican.

Many believe that the hand gestures of Plato and Aristotle (in the center of the painting) denote two ways of doing metaphysics. Plato points to the heavens–Aristotle to the earth. If look closely, Plato is holding a book: Timaeus, one of his most celestial and abstract dialogues. Aristotle is holding his Nichomachean Ethics, a rather terrestrial treatise.


Here are the philosophers featured by Raphael in the Scuola di Atene by number:

1: Zeno of Citium 2: Epicurus 3: Federico II of Mantua? 4: Boethius or Anaximander or Empedocles?

5: Averroes 6: Pythagoras 7: Alcibiades or Alexander the Great? 8: Antisthenes or Xenophon? 9: Hypatia 10: Aeschines or Xenophon?

11: Parmenides? 12: Socrates 13: Heraclitus (as Michelangelo) 14: Plato (as Leonardo da Vinci) 15: Aristotle

16: Diogenes of Sinope? 17: Plotinus? 18: Euclid or Archimedes with students 19: Strabo or Zoroaster? 20: Ptolemy? R: Apelles (as Raphael) 21: Protogenes

For the all the ladies, the only woman to make it into the painting was Hypatia who is located at #9.

About the Author

Taylor Marshall is the Adjunct Instructor in Philosophy at the University of Dallas.