The depiction of Ancient Greek Philosophers in Orthodox Churches

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Ancient Greek philosophers depicted in iconographic fashion in one of Meteora’s monasteries. Each is holding a quote from his work that seems to foreshadow Christ.¬†Shown from left to right are: Homer, Thucydides, Aristotle, Plato and Plutarch.





As outlined by numerous Fathers of the Church, Christ was the expectation of all the nations, and as such, many of the writings from disperate cultures throughout the world tell of and indicate the great Redeemer of the whole world Who was to come: Jesus Christ.

Many of the philosophers of ancient Greece seem to point towards Christ in their writings, and thus many Greeks were primed, in a certain sense, to accept the teachings of Christ’s apostles. The picture above is part of a series of icons from the Great Meteora Monastery that depict St. Paul and St. Justin the Philosopher leading Greeks to Christ while citing Greek Philosophy. On either side are depicted many ancient Greek philosophers, and quotes from their writings that seem to point to Christ. (It is worth noting that they put a small fence around these icons, most likely that they might not be venerated like icons of the Saints.)

These are newly-painted icons, but they are by no means out of tradition. The “Hermenia” or Painter’s Manual by Monk Dionysios of Fourna mentions the names, descriptions and quotes of such philosophers. The Monasteries of Megiste Lavra and Vatopedi on Mount Athos (as examples) also have depictions of such philosophers.

We can see vividly how God works to lead all nations to the Truth. Though their examples pale in comparison to the love, grace and sacrifice of Christ and His Saints, these philosophers help us understand the human condition, and how our longing can only be satiated by Christ.