Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 29: Florence, Part 9

March 1, 2023


National Academy of Fine Arts, Florence

(Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze)


This place used to be a monastery that also served as a sanatorium.

In the late 18th century, Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of Tuscany consolidated several art schools in Florence and established a public art school and an affiliated art museum in the present location.

This marked the beginning of the Florence Academy of Fine Arts and the Accademia Gallery.

Naturally, the art school and the art museum are connected within the same building, so we can come and go freely between them.

The art school, much like the Accademia Gallery, displays numerous interesting artworks.

For instance, there are various exhibits such as a relief sculpture depicting a deathbed scene, "Sigismund Krasiński (poet) in his childhood and the death of his mother Maria," a mourning female statue accompanying the Pisa Cemetery, and a statue of the goddess Athena, representing wisdom, justice, and the battle.

Athena was born as the daughter of the almighty god Zeus and the goddess Metis of the Titans.

Moreover, she emerged from Zeus's head, fully armed with a spear and wearing a helmet.

With a father who was an all-powerful god and a mother known as a wise goddess, Athena became the "goddess of wisdom and justice."

She is one of the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses.

Athena is not only a "goddess of war," but unlike the brutal, bloodthirsty war god Ares, she presides over the intellectual domains of strategy and tactics, inventing war chariots and weaponry.

Athena generously bestowed her wisdom to make humanity wiser and to advance civilization.

As the goddess of various skills such as craftsmanship, medicine, navigation, spinning, architecture, and shipbuilding, she bestowed blessings upon the lives of humans.

Furthermore, Athena provided assistance, advice, and weapons to heroes, and sometimes accompanied them into battle.

For example, she assisted Perseus in slaying Medusa who was one of the three Gorgon sisters.

Besides, Athena was always present behind the scenes of Hercules' triumphs.

Needless to say, the name of Greece's capital, Athens, derives from its guardian deity, Athena.

I will also share another item related to Athena.

In Greek mythology, the armor given to Athena by Zeus is called the "Aigis."

The Aigis is adorned with snakes and possesses magical power that repels all misfortunes and evils.

The hero Perseus naturally borrowed it from Athena to defeat Medusa.

The English pronunciation of Aigis is "Aegis."

It is the origin of the name for the United States Navy's fleet defense system, the "Aegis System.”

It translates to a "solid shield" that defends against all attacks.

And by Athena's side, Nike always accompanied her.

Nike is the goddess of victory and she has a pair of wings.

The global sports brand "Nike" takes its name from the goddess of victory in Greek mythology.

The company's logo is inspired by the wings of this goddess.

In Roman mythology, the goddess of victory, Nike, is known as Victoria.


This, of course, is the origin of the English word "victory."