Plate with Seated Philosophers
Byzantine (Eastern Mediterranean), 500 - 600
Silver, 45 × 28 cm
Two seated philosophers, labeled Ptolemy and Hermes, engage in a spirited discussion on this fragmentary plate. A woman stands behind each man, gesturing and partaking in the exchange. The woman on the left is identified as Skepsis. Above the two seated men, an unidentified enthroned man is partially preserved. The scene on this plate has been interpreted as an allegory of the debate between Myth and Science: Ptolemy, the founder of the Alexandrian school of scientific thought, debating Hermes Trismegistos, a deity supporting the side of myth.
On technical, iconographic, and stylistic grounds, some scholars had questioned the authenticity of this plate and suggested that it may date instead to the 1500s AD. More recent, detailed study of the plate, however, has confirmed its antiquity.