Talk:The School of Athens

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Uclides - The Key to Geometry[edit]

Proclus Lycaeus "Wherever there is number, there is beauty."
Hypatia Raphael Sanzio detail.jpg

C.K. Raju, who has done considerable historiographical research on mathematics, suggests that the attibution of Elements to Euclid rose from a translation error from the Arabic uclides, literally ucli (key) + des (direction, space), or "the key to geometry"[1]. Raju goes further in showing that Elements and Proclus' Commentary was edited by the Vatican to make it "theologically correct". Ideas such as "irrefragible demonstration" were added to Commentary, though it did not align with Proclus' philosophy of mathematics, which held that proofs "vary with the kind of being". Interestingly, according to Raju, Proclus, in the same tradition of Theon of Alexandria and Hypatia of Alexandria , believed that mathematics was a window on the soul, being a meditative process, whereas the Church wanted to create a "universal means of persuasion", and mathematics was thus divorced from the empirical, which continues to this day.

It is this “theologification” that has made mathematics difficult to learn or teach. The remedy is to “de-theologify” or secularize mathematics and teach it in the cultural and practical context in which it developed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tales23 (talkcontribs) 14:12, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Tales - this is not what Raju meant by the use of images. He was saying that pre-Niocene scholars in the school Hypatia and others belonged to, images were used to awaken the soul. Raphael's painting has nothing to do with that. Is this what you were trying to show?

Also, please use your own wording, and don't make your own conjectures - that is not what wikipedia is for. You can only cite other peoples ideas at the most. NittyG (talk) 18:03, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Nitty G, the point is that the painting shows euclid, which as we know for some certainties (and this certainties rule the current facts) ... so this perspective in aspect to the paint is a major information. Though has it right to been presented the user who studies the image. --Tales23 (talk) 07:18, 16 January 2009 (UTC)


Pythagoras has a slate showing his idea that all complex phenomena must reduce to simple ones, he uses a variable x = complex.

Euclid/Uclides slate shows The geometrical system described in the Elements was long known simply as geometry, and was considered to be the only geometry possible. Today, however, that system is often referred to as Euclidean geometry to distinguish it from other so-called Non-Euclidean geometries that modern mathematicians discovered in the 19th century. (Tales23 (talk) 14:50, 12 January 2009 (UTC))

Identification of Zoroaster[edit]

The person on the lower right holding a celestial globe and looking at Rafael, is usually identified as Zoroaster (Zarathustra), as is repeated on this page. However, I believe this is wrong:

  • Zoroaster was a Persian profet: but as a Persian he has no business among Greek filosofers, and as a pagan profet he has no business in the personal quarters of the pope of Rome.
  • He appears in conversation with another, younger, man, seen at the back, wearing a crown, and holding a terrestial globe. That other man is identified as Claudius Ptolemaeus. I endorse that: Ptolemy was famous for his Geography (as well as his astronomical works), and in medieval iconography he is often depicted with a crown because of his association by name to the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt. But then why would Ptolemy talk with Zoroaster?

The two man clearly form a couple. I think the most likely identification for the elder man is: Hipparchos. Ptolemy relied much on his work. Also Hipparchos is known to have made a celestial globe.

I should add that an arts historian that I asked about the question, does not like such identification games, and doubts that most of the figures were meant to represent any particular filosofer.

Tom Peters 10:54, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

It is probably true that for many of the figures in the painting the identification game is of dubious value, but scholars have been playing it for centuries and the article should reflect that. The idea that Zoroaster is there in the picture is very widespread and goes at least back to Giorgio Vasari's The Lives of the Artists: "una figura che (...) ha una palla del cielo in mano è il ritratto di Zoroastro" ("a figure who holds a celestial globe in his hand is Zoroaster"; Vasari mistakenly says he has his back turned, though). I don't think it's very strange by the way, that a Persian prophet is in a discussion with Greek philosophers; the idea of translatio artium, of art and wisdom passing from one culture to another, is an important theme of the fresco (note how Averroes is looking over the shoulder of Pythagoras). But if you know of a source that claims it's Hipparchos, please do add that to the article; it's good to suitly emphazi that most of the identifications are merely educated guesses. Skarioffszky 15:10, 9 October 2006 (UTC) P.S.: Interestingly, this Who is Who says it's Strabo...
Which I think is silly: Strabo was mostly a geographer, giving him a celestial globe because he believed in a heaven-earth connection sounds far-fatched. Hipparchos according to classical tradition had a celestial globe and was a most competent astronomer; also he was and is at least as well paired up with Ptolemy as Strabo. As for a source to claim the identification of Hipparchos: I just did, above. What are the compelling arguments to identify the figure with Zoroaster (or Strabo, for that matter)? Because Vasari said so? Could he have been wrong? Tom Peters 20:28, 9 October 2006 (UTC)
Oh yes, I certainly think Vasari could be wrong. I also think your suggestion makes sense. But Vasari was living and working in Rome at a time when many of Raphael's friends an associates were still alive, he was the first Italian art historian, and four centuries of renaissance scholars have relied on him; that gives his views the notability that the ideas - no matter how sensible - of wikipedia users do not have. No original research and all that... This article makes the case that it is Strabo, but unfortunately I can't access it. Skarioffszky 20:54, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

One thing which seems odd in the initial poster's comments is how Zarathustra/Zoroaster would be considered inappropriate for such a piece of art for being a 'pagan profet' (which one might assume means 'pagan prophet') when one considers how the religion which Zarathustra espoused is closer in its theological leanings to that more commonly associated with the Vatican than that which the ancient Greeks would have practiced... --Nerroth 19:16, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

In response to Peters, if we look at figure 5, we see that the man depicted is Averroes or Ibn Rushd, a famous Persian philosopher, whom according to Peters criteria, would not be suitable within the fresco's Athenian context, yet, there he is. I'm not sure whether his depiction is contested, but from what I've gathered, it has been agreed that the man represented as number 5 is indeed Ibn Rushd, a Persian (non-Greek) scientist and philosopher. Based on this, Peters' assertion that "a Persian...has no business among Greek filosofers [sic]" would seem false. afakirani 10:34, 26 July 2007

Everything I've read on the subject of this painting identifies Zoroaster as the one with his back to us and Ptolemy as the one facing us; ie, I am fairly certain this page has the two mixed up. If anybody else has seen this and find it dubious or true, do tell. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:17, 14 February 2011 (UTC)


Greek Zōroástrēs appears[2] to have arisen from an association of ástra “stars” with the leading zōrós meaning “undiluted.” This is the oldest attested Greek form of the name, attested in the mid-fifth century BCE Lydiaka of Xanthus (frag. 32) and in (Pseudo-)Plato’s Alcibiades Maior (122a1). This old form appears subsequently as Latin Zoroastres and - as a secondary development - Greek Zōroástris. And there is the connection with plato

Among the named works attributed to "Zoroaster" is a treatise On Nature (Peri physeos), which appears to have originally constituted four volumes (i.e. papyrus rolls). The framework is a retelling of Plato's Myth of Er, with Zoroaster taking the place of the original hero. While Porphyry imagined Pythagoras listening to Zoroaster's discourse, On Nature has the sun in middle position, which was how it was understood in the 3rd century. In contrast, Plato's 4th century BCE version had the sun in second place above the moon. Ironically, Colotes accused Plato of plagiarizing Zoroaster,[29][30] and Heraclides Ponticus wrote a text titled Zoroaster based on (what the author considered) "Zoroastrian" philosophy in order to express his disagreement with Plato on natural philosophy.[31] With respect to substance and content in On Nature only two facts are known: that it was crammed with astrological speculations, and that Necessity (Ananké) was mentioned by name and that she was in the air. AND Zoroaster is rarely depicted as looking directly at the viewer; instead, he appears to be looking slightly upwards, as if beseeching God. Zoroaster is almost always depicted with a beard, usually brown. His complexion is pale, and this along with other factors bear similarities to nineteenth century portraits of Jesus.

Furthermore everyone should be aware that the Greeks had a connection to Babylon/Alexandria/Black Sea Area. And that a lot of work been done there and the Greeks learned and adopted those wisdom.

While the theorem that now bears his name was known and previously utilized by the Babylonians and Indians, he, or his students, are often said to have constructed the first proof. It must, however, be stressed that the way in which the Babylonians handled Pythagorean numbers, implies that they knew that the principle was generally applicable, and knew some kind of proof, which has not yet been found in the (still largely unpublished) cuneiform sources.[5] Because of the secretive nature of his school and the custom of its students to attribute everything to their teacher, there is no evidence that Pythagoras himself worked on or proved this theorem. For that matter, there is no evidence that he worked on any mathematical or meta-mathematical problems. Some attribute it as a carefully constructed myth by followers of Plato over two centuries after the death of Pythagoras, mainly to bolster the case for Platonic meta-physics, which resonate well with the ideas they attributed to Pythagoras. This attribution has stuck, down the centuries up to modern times.[6] The earliest known mention of Pythagoras's name in connection with the theorem occurred five centuries after his death, in the writings of Cicero and Plutarch.

  1. ^ There are about 100,000 unpublished cuneiform sources in the British Museum alone. Babylonian knowledge of proof of the Pythagorean Theorem is discussed by J. Høyrup, 'The Pythagorean "Rule" and "Theorem" - Mirror of the Relation between Babylonian and Greek Mathematics,' in: J. Renger (red.): Babylon. Focus mesopotamischer Geschichte, Wiege früher Gelehrsamkeit, Mythos in der Moderne (1999).
  2. ^ From Christoph Riedweg , Pythagoras, His Life, Teaching and Influence, Cornell: Cornell University Press, 2005: "Had Pythagoras and his teachings not been since the early Academy overwritten with Plato’s philosophy, and had this ‘palimpsest’ not in the course of the Roman Empire achieved unchallenged authority among Platonists, it would be scarcely conceivable that scholars from the Middle Ages and modernity down to the present would have found the Presocratic charismatic from Samos so fascinating. In fact, as a rule it was the image of Pythagoras elaborated by Neopythagoreans and Neoplatonists that determined the idea of what was Pythagorean over the centuries."

ressource Apuleius also writes about Pythagoras in Apologia, including a story of him being taught by Babylonian disciples of Zoroaster, c. 150 AD

leading zōrós meaning “undiluted”

Define undiluted. (Tales23 (talk) 10:50, 12 January 2009 (UTC))


Why are so few covered here? I don't see a problem with "John Doe or John Smith style entries". And how about some information about their forms, why Plato's pointing to the sky for example. Why not be more comprehensive? Kansaikiwi 12:21, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

A fan of Zeno of Citium has had some fun with the identifications key. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:53, 13 October 2010 (UTC)


It refers to Aristotle's "Four Elements theory". Empedocles first decribed these more than 70 years before Aristotle was born. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:07, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

Gun's N' Roses[edit]

Is it worth mentioning the character two people to the left of number 17 features on the album artwork for Use your Illusion 1 & 2 by Guns and Roses? Andythrax 20:17, 24 November 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

No. Pollinosisss (talk) 21:00, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
Absolutely it is. Snobbishness aside, use in popular culture is a regular feature on Wiki articles. (talk) 16:42, 23 April 2011 (UTC)

Why Isn't There an Article on the School of Athens?[edit]

Why is there no article on the School of Athens? All there is this essential meaningless painting on the historical event without any information on the historical event itself... Makes the artistic depiction of the event quite useless. This article should be moved to another article simply on the painting so that an article on the school can actually evolve, otherwise it doesn't even merit inclusion as a separate article in an encyclopedia... Maybe we should remove the article on the Holocaust and just leave up photographs...Stevenmitchell (talk) 05:21, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

If you want to make an article on the actual school and then move this article to "The School of Athens (painting)", be my guest. Remember (talk) 14:48, 18 April 2010 (UTC)
If by "historical event" you mean the group of Athenian philosophers, I don't believe "School of Athens" is a commonly used modern term for them. Try Ancient Greek philosophy etc; A new article, if needed, would be better given another title. Johnbod (talk) 14:58, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

Are you thinking of the Platonic Academy? -Pollinosisss (talk) 15:27, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

Sort of - but that only includes a few of the figuures shown surely? Johnbod (talk) 19:30, 20 January 2011 (UTC)


To the IP's who keep swapping the names of figures in the gallery section. Stop. If you have some legitimate reason to think that contemporary art analysis is wrong and think that Diogenes is actually Socrates in this painting, explain please. --Pstanton (talk) 20:14, 21 April 2010 (UTC)

Identifications in the School[edit]

The problem, as I see it, of the inability to properly identify the figures stems from an incorrect assumption: that all of the figures are somehow ancient philosophers.

At the upper left are (clearly visible) Virgil and Dante Alighieri. The image of Dante appears to be "quoted" from a ca.1450 portrait by Castagno.

Dante and Virgil are also visible in Parnassus, and Dante continues on to complete the trilogy in La Disputa del Sacramento. The Divine Comedy is actually the unifying theme of all three works.

The presence of Dante within the School of Athens clearly demonstrates that the major premise of the work, as handed down by art historians, is fundamentally incorrect. Once this is understood, correct identifications can be made, although with some difficulty.

There are no less than three separate distinct patterns of composition and organization. All the major figures can be correctly identified.

(Broken link removed).

--T. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tobias316 (talkcontribs) 22:16, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

thanks for the link, I appreciate your work. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 20:08, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

Tobias: And I certainly appreciate your kind words, as well.

There indeed are, concealed within the work itself, "patterns" that aid correct identification of the figures.

One of these is rather straightforward and simple, easily understood once recognized.

Tobias316 (talk) 04:17, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

I recognize that this may not be the most appropriate place to make this point...but it does go to the accuracy of the information contained in the article, and I think that it is time to say that the "Emperor has no clothes". (Did anyone, for instance, ever notice that the figure, lower right, holding the earth, supposedly the geographer Ptolemy, has a CROWN on his head)?

The figures are very painstakingly arranged according to several patterns. This allows a great deal of confidence in the identifications. The patterns simply need to be recognized. Once they are recognized, the matter is similar to a sort of mathematical or algebraic "proof".

These figures, then, are correct: Aristotle. Plato. Socrates. Diogenes. Averroes. Raphael. The reclining figure on the steps is most definitely Diogenes. The figure holding the celestial globe is Zoroaster.

The rest are incorrect.

There are right or wrong answers.

T. Tobias316 (talk) 13:49, 17 September 2010 (UTC)

I haven't found the 'key' yet.


I would be more than happy to discuss the "key" with you, or anyone interested. I find communicating on this page, though, rather difficult and hard-to-follow.

Only reason I hesitate to explain further here... it requires some explanation and might be more impressive if the viewer comes to the same conclusion independently, rather than being told.

Something further, if I might, on this previous comment, as the links I had posted are now 'broken'...and my comments concerning a built-in identification 'key' are now rendered even more obscure...

The simplest of the 'keys' is a grouping of the figures by initials of their names. The major figures are paired, have a mate somewhere within the work, usually immediately adjacent. (There are no 'repeats').

In addition, other figures, particularly the sybils, are grouped nearby in agreement to aid identification. For instance, in the upper right, the Tiburtine sybil, next to Thales and Tiresias.

Peter next to Paul, lower right. Archimedes next to Aristotle. Plotinus next to Plato. And...Pythagoras, right center, near the Delphic sybil, (head down, sitting, writing)...or Pythia.

So...realizing that there is a 'mate' actually helps ID the remaining figures by process of elimination. Once all other possibles are removed...the more difficult figures can be more easily resolved.

Not absolutely, completely, 'idiot-proof', I have proven to myself on more than one occasion. But, reliable enough to correct mistakes. As an example, I also originally ID'ed the figure, lower left, peering around St. Paul's shoulder as being St. Luke...and mentioned that here. Should be St. Jerome. (Image apparently taken from portrait of St. Jerome by Jacopo Bellini).

Most of the figures should have a recognizable source. That is, they are being "qouted" from other works of art, whether ancient or contemporary. And, one can see now, hopefully, how the proper ID of the grouping of the Saints makes sense in context...Peter and Paul writing...Jerome, copying, translating.

Again, my point is that the traditional interpretation as presented in the article, is fundamentally and rather hopelessly flawed.

Tobias316 (talk) 16:33, 2 August 2014 (UTC)

Tobias316 (talk) 22:07, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

As to the presence of the evangelists, which is now generally dismissed, but is found in Vasari, and for him is relevant to the main theme of the work, which is the continuation of ancient philosophy in christianity, let me add this quotation:

The name of ‘School of Athens’ originated with G. P. Bellori, 1695, who entitled his detailed account of this mural: ‘Ginnasio di Atene, ovvero la Filosofia’. Since then the name has been generally and correctly retained, although even in recent years H. Grimme’s erroneous interpretation of the picture as ‘St. Paul’s speech before the Greek philosophers on the Areopagus’ has led to renewed attempts at justifying the confused description given by Vasari, who considered the foremost group on the left (Pythagoras and surrounding figures) to represent the Evangelists. Neither this theory, which indicates a complete misunderstanding of the theme, nor an interpretation based on the writings of St. Bonaventura, put forward by Gutman, requires refutation.

Luitpold Dussler: Raphael. A Critical Catalogue of his Pictures, Wall-Paintings and Tapestries, London New York, 1971, p. 73
The reference is to Hubert Grimme: Raffaels Schule von Athen in Dantescher Beleuchtung. In: Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft XLVII, 1926, p. 94 ff. "Raffael's School of Athens in the light of Dante"
This is probably the closest to your interpretation in scientific literature. (Haven't read it though) Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 21:11, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

Tobias says:

I maintain that Sts. Peter, Paul, John and James are depicted within the 'School'.

I think, hope, that my approach to the problem involves direct interpretation and evaluation of primary source materials, only. Therefore, I don't personally consider secondary sources, such as the "scientific" literature to be particularly helpful, and even distracting and counter-productive.

Good, though, to hear that this position doesn't "require refutation", as I can only assume that means that the non-refutation doesn't require refutation, either. (Just joking).Tobias316 (talk) 14:28, 23 January 2011 (UTC)

Tobias316 (talk) 01:53, 22 January 2011 (UTC)

I won't contradict you. I was just trying to be helpful, for if your goal is to introduce your theory into the article, you'll need secondary sources for it. I don't understand either why this position 'requires no refutation' Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 15:20, 23 January 2011 (UTC)

Tobias says: Oh, thanks very much, again, but honestly, I have very little hope of gaining any, let alone widespread scholarly acceptance of what I am saying... the notion of the school is now just too permanently embedded. The opinion evidence traditionally advanced has become so familiar that it has garnered a sort of de facto presumptive status as being correct. And it is far from that.

And I do apologize, again, as I said, this isn't probably the best or most appropriate place to make my point. I just felt this might be a place where interested parties could take note. I am just trying to encourage those with a good eye and open mind to look and think for themselves. The collected wisdom of the experts and scholars is actually an obstacle, a hurdle to overcome.

And that, the fact that I have virtually no chance of these thoughts being seriously considered, is, in my opinion, unfortunate, as what I am saying is correct. I understand the skepticism. When I first saw the "key" develop (it's more like a guideline, an aid, or set of rules)...I didn't believe it, myself. Too simple. And yet, so reliable that I have used it to correct mistakes I had previously made. As to "contradicting" me about the disciples/evangelists... I would say in reply, just decide for yourself.

How can I say that? How do I know that I am right? Because if you identify all figures (or most all of them) correctly, you should, then, see the point of the exercise.

And that... the point of it absolutely, utterly amazing.

But the proof, as they say... is in the painting.

Tobias316 (talk) 22:00, 25 January 2011 (UTC)Tobias316 (talk) 01:54, 10 October 2013 (UTC)

"I'm not following you completely. I like your method to look for set types (in the physiognomical sense); especially your identification of St. Paul as the standing figure in the middle next to 'Pythagoras'...

Tobias: No. The standing figure is St. Peter. From Michelangelo's statue, Siena Cathedral. The seated figure, traditonally identified as Pythagoras, is actually St. Paul. Erato, the muse, is holding the tablet of Pythagorean teachings. It identifies her, not the figure assumed (incorrectly) to be Pythagoras. Pythagoras stands, right of center, pointing.

Tobias316 (talk) 17:47, 2 February 2011 (UTC)Tobias316 (talk) 01:54, 10 October 2013 (UTC)

G-spiel, cont'd: ... (he is indeed very similar to say the St. Paul in the tapestry cartoon of St. Paul's speech) and maybe you're right in seeing Dante in the old man in the background on the left with the red hat". I'm not convinced, however, that there needs be a single 'key' to explain everything in the painting (I think you said it was to be found in Dante somewhere)".

Tobias: No. I said that it was NOT contained in Dante. There are several "patterns". The figures are arranged in careful relation to one another. Once you recognize what the pattern is... the easier to identify the figures. The patterns help confirm identities, particularly when the patterns overlap, as in the case of St. Peter. One of these methods is extremely simple. The others are more complex and demanding. There certainly is no, one, simple "key". But ALL the figures can be properly identified!

G: Raphael had many different sources to his disposal, and I'm sure he has used more than one. 'varietas' was an ideal in its own right with the goal to engage (and not to bore) the spectator. There are 58 (if I'm right) figures in the painting, and I find it unbelievable that they could be deducted analytically from one key.

Tobias: Right. Not one, solitary "key". I am utilizing several methods of organization. But the fact that these patterns exist... suggests that clues were purposefully left to aid identification. I can't reconcile any other logical conclusion. The overall index as to the figures' identities exists within the work, itself.

G: I'm not sure whether Raphael himself knew exactly for each of them who they were representing (for instance, whether he had particular individuals in mind for the 'pupils' in the foreground, or whether they were just 'pupils', 'angels', or even whether they were male or female).

Tobias: the "students" are the muses.

Tobias316 (talk) 17:23, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 22:15, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Cool, thanks, I've answered on your talkpage, because this is not about the article anymore. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 18:18, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

In Our Time[edit]

The BBC programme In Our Time presented by Melvyn Bragg has an episode which may be about this subject (if not moving this note to the appropriate talk page earns cookies). You can add it to "External links" by pasting {{In Our Time|The School of Athens|b00j7txt|The_School_of_Athens}}. Rich Farmbrough, 03:22, 16 September 2010 (UTC).

The models for the figures[edit]

There is speculation that the figures are modeled after the artists living at the time, notably Plato being an image of Da Vinci. The article should be updated to reflect this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:49, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

It is there already. Johnbod (talk) 19:32, 20 January 2011 (UTC)


Someone took a paragraph from a novel about Raphael (maybe she wrote the novel herself) and published it on the internet. The scene from the novel shows Raphael being reprimanded by a bishop for including Hypatia in a draft for the "School of Athens". Pure phantasy. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 17:38, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

as already discussed, the identification is much better established than this. If the ancient identification is not Hypatia, which teenage male philosopher is intended? 19:34, 20 January 2011 (UTC)
Where has this been discussed, could you provide link? as to your question, I don't know who was intended. What I found, however, is that the claim of it being Hypatia has never been discussed in serious literature. I'm pretty sure of this. There are several hypotheses: Francesco Maria della Rovere (already Bellori, 1695, said that), no portrait at all (Luitpold Dussler in his critical catalogue, 1966), embodiment of the greek ideal of the beautiful and good (Konrad Oberhuber, 1983, and Giovanni Reale, see Italian wikipedia entry for the 'School of Athens' [1]), also Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (Joost-Gaugier, 2002, according to this review: [2]). Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 20:01, 20 January 2011 (UTC)
Where you raised it at the art project. For the last time, that it is also, like many other figures, a portrait of a contemporary figure, does not in any way mean it does not also represent an ancient figure. Your list of sources is very far from complete & the identification with Hypatia is mentioned in many books going back several years. I don't know where it starts - personally, unlike most readers of this page, I find identifying exactly who is who trivial & of little interest - but I would be surprised it does not have considerable support from specialists. Johnbod (talk) 21:27, 20 January 2011 (UTC)
No, there aren't many books; the two books that use this identification are in no way reliable sources for it, as shown here [3]. It's a fringe theory based on a fabrication. And it doesn't have any support from specialists: that's my point exactly.
Please also look at this discussion at the Hypatia talk-page Talk:Hypatia#Hypatia_to_Hipparchia, where it was finally acknowledged, and the picture removed. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 22:03, 20 January 2011 (UTC)
I grant that my list of theories is very likely not complete and that the possibility that one character is a portrait of two persons at the same time (one antique, one contemporary, as has been proposed for Plato being modelled after da Vinci) can't be excluded: but it's a start, and all of them can be attributed to specialists who have espoused them. I also grant that beyond Plato, Aristoteles, the statues of Apollo and Athene, and maybe Socrates, the identifications are to some, often considerable, degree speculative, but at least they can be traced to citeable sources (and not just to private internet sites). Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 00:05, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

If anyone doesn't believe that the Hypatia-theory is dubious (to say the least) I ask them to examine the anecdote that serves as its main support and which is presented as if it was historical:

Upon Raphael's submission of a draft of the fresco to the church fathers, the Bishop is alleged to have inquired as to the identity of a woman depicted at the bottom (front) and center of the sketch, between the figures of Heraclitus and Diogenes, “Who is this woman in the middle?” “Hypatia, the most famous student of the School of Athens,” replied the artist. “Remove her. Knowledge of her runs counter to the belief of the faithful! Otherwise, the work is acceptable,” cautioned the Vatican's high priest.

[4] (, April 2002)

It would be interesting to know where that was alleged, or by whom. Also note that Raphael's alleged answer to the bishop: "Hypatia, the most famous student of the School of Athens" apparently seemed too improbable to the second promulgator of this story, Rudy d’Alembert (?, in fact the article is unsigned), so that in his version [5] it is changed to: “Ipazia di Alessandria,” rispose Raffaello: “studiosa di matematica, filosofia, astronomia in Alessandria, e certamente uno dei maggiori pensatori di tutti i tempi.” ("Hypatia of Alexandria," Raphael answered, "student of mathematics, philosophy, astronomy in Alexandria, and surely one of the greatest thinkers of all times.") Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 22:32, 23 January 2011 (UTC)

A possible inspiration for this fabrication may have been a passage from a book about women scientists, published in 1913, where the author deplores the fact that Hypatia is not in Raphael's School of Athens and goes on to say, if Raphael had known about her, it is believable that he "would have found a place for her in this masterpiece with the matchless form and features of his beloved Fornarina". At any rate, that is the only cite I could find (with the help of Google) that brings Hypatia in any connection with Raphael's painting before 2002. It's in H. J. Mozans (=John Augustine Zahm): Women in Science(1913), p. 141. [6] Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 01:14, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

I've deleted the identification of this figure as Hypatia now, because
  1. it's based on a hoax
  2. it can be traced only to 2 anonymous articles on the internet (see WP:RS)

Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 11:19, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

You keep saying this, but there are other much earlier references (than 2002) in non-specialist but serious books easily found in gbooks - some I think linked to somewhere above. I won't revert the removal, but please don't start adding your own identifications. Johnbod (talk) 14:27, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
Please find those serious books, I'd be interested, really; I only became interested in this last month, because I realized that there is something fishy about the Hypatia-portrait here, so I investigated. I have no vested interest in any indentifications, so I won't add any. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 16:02, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

Indeed Hypatia is a hoax! There is scientific research that discusses it in "Conjecture and Proof: A Case of Shifting Identities in Raphael’s School of Athens" ( In fact "Hypatia" is not even a women, but an adolescent boy, Francesco Maria, "Instead, we have Francesco Maria, who is depicted like many other male youths of his day: hair down, somewhat ephemeral gaze focused out on the viewer, and swathed in a cloak of impressive proportions." Please add this reference. The Hypatia identity is complete fantasy, a hoax. (talk) 17:48, 18 July 2013 (UTC)

Double identities[edit]

Johnbod, double identities cannot be found in Vasari, or do you have a source that claims otherwise? Here's Vasari's text:

...Raphael received a hearty welcome from Pope Julius, and in the chamber of the Segnatura he painted the theologians reconciling Philosophy and Astrology with Theology, including portraits of all the wise men of the world in disputation. Some astrologers there have drawn figures of their science and various characters on tablets, carried by angels to the Evangelists, who explain them. Among these is Diogenes with a pensive air, lying on the steps, a figure admirable for its beauty and the disordered drapery. There also are Aristotle and Plato, with the Ethics and Timaeus respectively, and a group of philosophers in a ring about them. Indescribably fine are those astrologers and geometricians drawing figures and characters with their sextants. Among them is a youth of remarakble beauty with his arms spread in astonishment and head bent. This is a portrait of Federigo II., Duke of Mantua, who was then in Rome. Another figure bends towards the ground, holding a pair of compasses in his hand and turning them on a board. This is said to be a life-like portrait of Bramante the architect. The next figure, with his back turned and a globe in his hand is a portrait of Zoroaster. Beside him is Raphael himself, drawn with the help of a mirror. He is a very modest looking young man, of graceful and pleasant mien, wearing a black cap on his head. The beauty and excellence of the heads of the Evangelists are inexpressible, as he has given them an air of attention and carefulness which is most natural, especially in those who are writing. Behind St. Matthew, as he is copying the characters from tablets, held by an angel, is an old man with paper on his knees copying what Matthew dictates. As he stands in that uncomfortable position, he seems to move his lips and head to follow the pen. The minor considerations, which are numerous, are well thought out, and the composition of the entire scene, which is admirably portioned out, show Raphael's determination to hold the field, without a rival, against all who wielded the brush. He further adorned this work with a perspective and many figures, so delicately and finely finished that Pope Julius caused all the other works of the other masters, both old and new, to be destroyed, that Raphael alone might have the glory of replacing what had been done.

There are contemporary persons mixed among the ancient ones, but not the two in one figure.

I was surprised, however, to find a double identity proposed as early as 1695, by Bellori. He identifies the man that draws a mathematical figure on a table on the ground as an ancient mathematician, Archimedes. That fits with his idea that the programme of the painting is the couse of philosophy from the sensible to the purely intellectual, from left to right. But he doesn't let go the older idea, confirmed by Vasari, that it's a portrait of Bramante.

Tobias says:

For what it is worth, (and using the identification methods that I maintain are contained within the work), the figure traditionally identified as Bramante/Euclid is much more likely to have been that of Luca Pacioli, his image included, not as a reference to Euclid, but to the "golden ratio", to Phi.

Again, for what it is worth, this identification does fit neatly within the afore-mentioned "key".

I also assume that the image in la Disputa, linked here, is Pacioli, or Luca di Borgo. Very confident on this one. Tobias316 (talk) 20:05, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

Volgendoci ora dall'altro lato sinistro del Ginnasio, perchè alla Filosofia, ed alle scienze, come loro principi, ed elementi, devono procedere le Matematiche, trapassandosi dalle cose sensibili alle intellettuali, vi è però figurato avanti Archimede intento alle sue dimostrazioni, nella cui persone è ritratto Bramante Architetto.

Giovanni Pietro Bellori: Descrizione delle quatro immagini dipinte da Raffaelle d'Urbino, Rome 1821, p. 32f. [7]

The idea that Plato could be a portrait of Leonardo is much later. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 19:29, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

Are you suggesting that the fresco should be retitled "The School of Athens and some of Raphael's friends, patrons and colleagues"? This is getting very silly! The use of donor portraits and other depictions to stand for historic and religious figures was long established by Raphael's time. It is certainly significant that Vasari did not know who the majority of the figures represented, but there is no reason to say that because a figure has an ancient identity they cannot be a portrait of a contemporary or vice versa. The actual text of the article makes clear the very conjectural nature of most of the identifications. The comparison with the Disputa opposite is relevant, where some figures are identified by inscriptions or attributes, but many are not, and contemporary and recent portraits are again mixed in. For this fresco it is recorded that expert advice was received and that Raphael did his own researches among other images. But this will not have got him far with the Greek philosophers. The Panassus gives a similar situation. Like Jones & Penny I think that a relatively high proportion of the figures in all the paintings were intended to represent specific figures, but those intentions were not recorded and it is now impossible to be sure, and very tedious to argue about it. Johnbod (talk) 03:51, 22 January 2011 (UTC)
Oh, yes, I think you're right. I probably shouldn't have said I was surprised to find the proposition of a double identity in Bellori. Still, it wasn't correct, in my opinion, to state that Vasari was the first to do so, as he didn't explicitly. Maybe it was implied in his identification of Bramante. The first to explicitly give such an interpretation with respect to the "School of Athens" was obviously Bellori. On the other hand, Vasari also identifies the self-portrait of Raphael, but has it ever been argued that this could intend to be anyone else than Raphael himself (i.e. an ancient philospher, painter, with the traits of Raphael)? So ancient and contemporary figures were in fact mixed anachronistically to a certain degree. Yes, it's tedious to argue about it; but I think it's still diserable to clearly say in the article when and by whom certain attempts at identification were made. And for that matter, I'm not at all happy that there's a big list sourced to a private internet site (, that just happens to be the longest such list. It seems it was chosen, in a sort of horror vacui, because it leaves the least number of heads unnamed, although it's completely unreferenced. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 09:56, 22 January 2011 (UTC)
Well that Raphael intended either himself or one of the other painter-portraits as Apelles seems more likely than some of the identifications of philosophers, but of course we have no way of knowing. Perhaps the "health warning" language around the key should be strengthened, & stuff added on early identifications higher up. Jones & Penny have a passage that could be quoted. But I suspect that if the more conjectural IDs were removed it would be a constant battle to keep them out, & most/all of this stuff has been proposed by a reputable scholar at some point, even if there is little consensus. Better refs would certainly be good. It's a pity he didn't just label one of his drawings! Johnbod (talk) 13:29, 22 January 2011 (UTC)
It would be quite a bit of work to find secondary sources for all of the identifications. But as it is now, it gives the reader the impression that Michael Leharas is some kind of authority on Raphael which he clearly isn't. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 15:37, 23 January 2011 (UTC)
I've introduced Luitpold Dussler with what according to him are the certain identifications into the main text now and credited Lehanas in the footnotes for the longer list. I think this is ok now. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 18:23, 2 February 2011 (UTC)


I cannot begin to imagine how the identification of the figure, lower right, holding the earth,(as Ptolemy) could possibly be considered to be "incontrovertible" when that figure is very clearly wearing a CROWN. Ask any school child who is it that typically wears a CROWN and they will most assuredly NOT answer, "geographers". I am also not sure what purpose is served in repeating this sort of thing. (talk) 16:01, 14 February 2011 (UTC) Tobias316 (talk) 16:10, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

Ptolemy was thought to be one of the Ptolemaic Kings of Egypt, this explains the crown. Gesellschaftsspiel (talk) 16:23, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

Tobias: Different Ptolemy altogether, of course. (As I'm sure you're no doubt aware).


So, the "incontrovertible" identification is somehow based upon an assumption that Raphael got it all wrong? Isn't it much more logical, to adopt, as a working hypothesis, that Raphael actually meant to portray a king? It would seem as though the would-be interpreters have created an expectation, a mold of ancient philosophers, if you will, and then try to compress the figures into it...whether they fit...or not. (I note that your cited explanation carries no citation, reference).

Kind of an inkblot effect...they have seen what they wanted and expected to see...and if it doesn't necessarily fit...well, then, poor Raphael must have been mistaken. And they have contorted and twisted identifcations to fit their mold when it is the mold, or theory that is incorrect. In the Inferno, Canto IV, (Limbo), Dante meets with a similar "school" of philosophers. This missed reference, I believe, accounts for the difficulties in proper identification. The rather free-flowing, allegorical nature of the Divine Comedy, where ancient figures are freely mixed with contemporaries, seems to have been deliberately emulated here, by Raphael...(and probably accounts for the perception problems some have, as reflected in the above comment in regard to "Raphael and friends"). The problem, as I see it, the error in interpretation, has been in not identifying the figures, and then determining the overall structure from those identifications. The would-be interpreters have first determined structure, and tried to impose that structure on identifications. After all, the Divine Comedy consists, largely, of philosophy and theology as expressed through the means of poetry.

Especially when an image of Solomon is directly overhead, and Athena, goddess of wisdom...(as in the "wisdom of Solomon") also directly overhead? This is what I mean when I question the value of repeating this sort of thing. The mentioned attempted identification is based upon an extremely weak and questionable assumption, in my opinion. And, assuming that the goal is to advance knowledge and understanding, I'm not at all sure that repeating what various commentators or "experts", misunderstood is at all helpful.

Hardly "incontrovertible". And I would suggest that a continuing problem with some of these purported identifications lies in not giving adequate consideration to the ceiling panels, as well as Parnassus and Disputa. (The book cited, for instance, refers to the muse holding the Pythagorean tablet as a "young man". Might, there, have considered the muses as depicted in Parnassus). Likewise, the "incontrovertible' identification of the figure to Raphael's right, unfortunately bears little resemblance to Sodoma. (And is not Sodoma).

The figure wearing the crown is Solomon. There is an image of Solomon, on the ceiling panels, directly above, wearing the same type of crown, same robes. As I have said elsewhere, Raffaelo Sanzio, standing next to Rex Solomon.

Not a coincidence.

What I am wondering, however, is if the attempt to catalogue all the various opinions is actually providing information...or misinformation?

Tobias316 (talk) 16:44, 14 February 2011 (UTC) Tobias316 (talk) 16:39, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

Appearance in other works[edit]

According to Martha Hollander in her book Entrance for the Eyes, A portion of The School of Athens is visible in the work by Samuel van Hoogstraten, The Anemic Lady of 1665 (Rijksmuseum). It would be worth mentioning that. Djamorpheus 18:00, 18 March 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Djamorpheus (talkcontribs)

Dante--the Divine Comedy and the 'School'[edit]

In the upper left, is what appears to be an image, taken from a Castagno portrait of Dante. (See image I have provided). Altered somewhat, but the source is, I would suggest, still easily recognizable. (And, according to the 'key' I have mentioned here previously, the figure's name begins with 'D'. No other possibles. Mate to Diogenes).

Tobias316 (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2014 (UTC)

Comparison: Detail from "School of Athens", Raphael, to:Detail, Portrait of Dante Alighieri, Andrea Castagno

From the Inferno, Circle 1, Canto 4:

"There I beheld both Socrates and Plato, Who nearer him before the others stand; Democritus, who puts the world on chance, Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales, Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus; Of qualities I saw the good collector, Hight Dioscorides; and Orpheus saw I, Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca, Euclid, geometrician, and Ptolemy, Galen, Hippocrates, and Avicenna, Averroes, who the great Comment made. I cannot all of them pourtray in full, Because so drives me onward the long theme, That many times the word comes short of fact".

This is what, I would suggest, simply has been missed and misunderstood.

Just to be clear, here, I do NOT mean to suggest that the 'School of Athens' should be literally considered to be an illustration from the 'Limbo' portion of the Divine Comedy...or that all the images of the philosophers listed within the above quotation are present in the 'School'. But, what I am suggesting is that Dante and Virgil do appear in the twice in Parnassus...and Dante continues on alone to appear in the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament. This fact, should, hopefully, help identify the image of Dante in the 'School' that I have displayed here. All three panels need to be considered as part of a whole. Raphael is very clearly alluding to the structure of the Divine Comedy.

Tobias316 (talk) 01:07, 5 August 2014 (UTC)

Tobias316 (talk) 18:41, 4 August 2014 (UTC)

(Citation from first discussion section of this page seems to want to appear here. I don't know why. Not mine).


Tobias316 (talk) 18:28, 4 August 2014 (UTC)

  1. ^ Raju, C.K. Towards Equity in Mathematics Education 1. Goodbye Euclid! Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Dehli. 2008. [8]