Know Your School of Athens Goddesses: Athena

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        Raphael, School of Athens, 1511                                            Unknown, Athena Giustiniani, 17th Century

In Raphael's School of Athens, the phenomenal painter purposefully segregates the painting by categorizing the left side as philosophers of mathematics, science, poetry, and music, while the right side is composed of masters in realism, logic, and ethics. To further demonstrate this division in philosophy, Raphael juxtaposes Apollo on the left side to Athena on the right side.

As the goddess of war, wisdom, courage, law, and justice, Athena is most certainly dignified as the one of powerful female figureheads in history. Placing the talented goddess in her war attire, Athena embodies fierceness and strength, which is something you don't see everyday in the Renaissance. In Raphael's School of Athens, Athena also carries the shield with Medusas' head as a display of her victory; one look at the shield will turn any human into stone, and if that doesn't scare you that I don't what does.

Being one of few goddesses who aren't associated with fertility or love, Athena is actually depicted as righteous and fair. In almost all her tales, Athena demonstrates intelligence and selflessness, as she sought to aid Greek society in times of turmoil and rid of men's arrogance and dehumanization of women. Moreover, Athena became an icon of resilience for the women of Athens through extraordinary courage and refusal to lose a battle.

In Raphael's School of Athens, I believe that the artist is taking note and praising Athena and the other female figures in the composition for their fierce behavior and the wisdom that has earned them public appreciation. As the 16th century still juggles with a division in female and male dynamics as well as the equality of human rights, Raphael moreover utilizes their presence in the painting as an advocation for a movement of female patrons in the Renaissance time period. With Athena's statue illustrated to overlook the crowd of philosophers, the significance of the other figures become minuscule, conclusively suggesting that their intelligence derives from the impacts of Apollo and Athena through the introduction of wisdom to the human race.

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