Athena (or Athene) is the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, reason, strategic warfare, diplomacy, commerce, weaving, crafts and cities. She is the daughter of Zeus and his first wife Metis, and was his eldest and favorite daughter. At her birth she sprang from the head of Zeus, split by Hephaestus, fully grown and armored. She favored and helped many mythical heroes, such as PerseusAchillesOdysseus and Jason, and was the patron goddess of Athens. Athena was a virgin goddess without a consort.

Sacred to Athene was the owl, her animal, and olive trees. Athena's main weapon was her shield, the Aegis, given to her by its former owner Zeus. Athena had Medusa's head mounted on Aegis after Perseus used it to kill Medusa.

Athena's Roman counterpart is Minerva.

In Mythology


The Oracle prophesied that Metis would give birth to a child, in some myths a son, more powerful than Zeus, so Zeus swallowed Metis after it was know she had conceived a child. Some time later Zeus suffered from a terrible headache and summoned Hephaestus and Apollo. Hephaestus tried to split open Zeus' head whilst Apollo brushed Zeus's hair; from the head of Zeus sprang Athena (fully grown and in battle dress). Due to Athene's unusual conception/birth Zeus favored her above, not only all his own children, but above all other gods or goddesses; Athene was the only other god to wield the thunderbolt, his buckler, and the Aegis shield.[1]


To win the patronage of Athens, she engaged in a contest with Poseidon. Poseidon gave the city a salt-water spring, and Athena gave them the first olive tree, which the people of the city could have olive and their oil for consumption and trade. She gained the king's favour with this gift, thus winning the competition and becoming patron of the city.


Athena had taught men to make tools, and she had taught women how to weave. The mortal woman Arachne claimed herself to be the best weaver, even greater than Athena herself; she declared that a contest should be held to see who was the better weaver. Athena then transformed into an old woman to try and talk Arachne out of the contest and to beg forgiveness from the goddess for her misconduct, but Arachne only scorned the old woman and took nothing back. Outraged by the maiden's stubborn arrogance and ungratefulness, Athena emerged from her disguise and accepted the challenge. Arachne remained fearless, but still stubborn; determined to win the contest, she hastened to her fate.

Athena's tapestry had four corners that were decorated with miniature scenes showing the terrible fate of arrogant men and women who were disrespectful to the gods. With these, Athena hoped to warn the maiden about what she could expect from her pride and presumption. Arachne's tapestry was decorated with miniature scenes as well, but she had done so to ridicule the immortal gods. They illustrated the many love affairs of Zeus, as well as the many romantic exploits of Poseidon, Apollo, and Dionysus.

Once the contest was finished, Athena admired the mortal woman's talent, but couldn't tolerate her disrespect. Athena tore apart the tapestry and struck Arachne three times on her forehead with the shuttle. Distraught with defeat, Arachne knit a rope around her neck and tried to hang herself, but Athena showed pity on her by catching her. She, however, couldn't release her from her punishment; she said, "Live, wicked wretch, but hang forevermore. Let my curse remain even upon your children and their children to the end of all your race." Athena then sprinkled some juice from the leaves of a poisonous plant onto Arachne, and she transformed into a spider.

Medusa & the Gorgons

Medusa, originally a beautiful woman and a priestess of Athena, was caught having sexual intercourse with Poseidon in Athena's temple. Athena, outraged with this insult, turned Medusa and her two sisters, Stheno and Euryale into Gorgons, and cursed them so that whoever looked at them would turn to stone.

The Iliad

The Odyssey

Athena appears as a supporting character in Homer's Odyssey, briefly appearing as herself but also taking on the guise of mortals. She serves as Odysseus' protector and appears to his son Telemachus in the form of Mentes, King of the Taphians. Mentes stays in the house of Odysseus and urges Telemachus to search for his father. At night she later disguises herself as Telemachus, finding him a ship and crew. She then takes on the disguise of Mentor, to whom Odysseus entrusted the care of Telemachus. Mentor accompanies Telemachus to visit Nestor.

Athena also disguises Odysseus as a beggar, upon his return to Ithaca, and inspired Penelope to trick her suitors. While she helps Odysseus, Telemachus, Eumaeus and Philoteus to kill Penelope's suitors, she intervenes in order to reconcile Odysseus with the families of the suitors and re-establishes peace in Ithaca.


Image gallery of Athena


See Also

External Links


  1.  (Hamilton 1998, p. 30)


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