The Apotheosis of Washington


Dome of the U.S. Capitol building, Washington, DC.

“The Apotheosis of Washington” by Constantino Brumidi, fresco, 1865

Fun Facts!

  • In the center is George Washington. 
  • To his left is Victory and to his right is Liberty. 
  • The thirteen girls between them each have a star over their head, and represent the original 13 colonies.
  • Below Washington, the woman wielding sword and shield, is Freedom (or Columbia). She represents war. She’s fighting symbols of Tyranny and Kingly Power.
  • To her left is Minerva (or Athena), goddess of crafts and wisdom. She represents science, and you can see an electric generator and a printing press. Ben Franklin, Samuel Morse, and Robert Fulton are also seen.
  • To her left is Neptune (or Poseidon), god of the sea, representing Marine. Not seen here is Venus (Aphrodite) helping lay the transatlantic telegraph cable, as well as an ironclad warship.
  • To his left is Mercury (or Hermes), messenger of the gods, representing Commerce. Out of this view, he is giving a bag of gold to Robert Morris, a financier of the American Revolution.
  • To his left is Vulcan (or Hephaestus), god of fire and the forge, representing Mechanics. Unseen, his foot is propped on a cannon surrounded by cannonballs. The black, smoking cylinder is part of a steam engine.
  • To his left is the final section. It’s Ceres (or Demeter), goddess of agriculture, and representing it. She’s sitting on a McCormick Reaper, and a personification of Young America is holding the reins of its horses.

In ancient Rome, deification of an Emperor was a posthumous honor conferred by Senate vote. The deified Emperor was considered to have been welcomed to the home of the gods by Jupiter, but had a lower divine status, that of an intermediary.

Of course, Washington was never officially deified by the U.S. Senate. Still, as Father of his country, he can be accorded the status of genius, or guardian spirit, of the United States.

Today is the official national holiday celebrating his birth, although he was actually born on February 22. Washington was fond enough of alcohol that don’t think he would be insulted by a toast offered to him today.


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