Pope Julius II commissioned Raffaelo Sanzio to redecorate his living appartments with new frescos between 1508 and 1511. In the library, La Stanza della Segnatura, one of the paintings was 'The School of Athens'. It was painted over previous artists' works which Julius decided were expendable.
The common theme of the painting and the others in the room is the synthesis of Greek worldly thinking and Christian spiritual thought. It is a Renaissance fusion of the traditional philosophical themes of the horizontal vs. vertical worldviews held since Homer's epics. This work of art was sponsored by the Papacy so the oppositions were portrayed as Greek and Christian but in fact Greek philosophy itself was already split between the metaphysical and the physical from the outset.