Know Your School of Athens Gods: Apollo

7:00 AM

Domeninchino, The Judgement of Midas, 1918

Apollo the sun archer. Many stories have been written about him: his birth, the slaying of Python, Hermes stealing Apollo's sacred cows. But today I am going to recount the story of the competition between Apollo and Pan.

One day in Ancient Greece, Apollo and Pan were arguing who was the better musician. Apollo, being the God of music, said that he was superior due to his lyre. Pan argued that his pipes were musically better. Refusing to back down, they agreed on consulting an outside party to judge who was the better musician.  They asked the renowned king Midas to judge the contest.  

For the competition, Apollo played the most graceful tune on his lyre.  Pan played a quick and flighty tune on his pipes.  Unable to decide who was the superior musician, Midas made both of them perform again, but this time with their instruments upside down.  Pan did so and his music closely resembled that of before.  But when Apollo played his piece with his lyre upside down, the music sounded garbled and discordant.  Midas decreed Pan to be the winner.  Apollo, infuriated by this, shouted, "You have the ears of an ass to think Pan the winner" and thus Midas's ears become those of a donkey.  Midas attempted to hide them by wearing a large cap, but his ears were eventually known to all after his barber blabbed.

In The School of Athens, Raphael attempts to unite the arts and the sciences.  On the left half of the painting, a statue of Apollo resides in an alcove in the wall while Athena sits on an alcove on the right half.  Apollo, the  god of music, contrasts in essence that of Athena as she was the goddess of knowledge and therefore science. Raphael pays tribute to both gods through his depiction of them.  

You Might Also Like