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Athena or Athene
This marble Greek copy signed "Antiokhos" is a first century BC copy of Phidias' fifth-century original that stood on the Acropolis
This marble Greek copy signed "Antiokhos" is a first century BC copy of Phidias' fifth-century original that stood on the Acropolis
Goddess of wisdom, warfare and crafts[1]
Patron goddess of Athens[1]
Abode Mount Olympus
Symbol Owl
Parents Zeus and Metis
Siblings None
Roman equivalent Minerva

Athena (pronounced /əˈθiːnə/) or Athene (/əˈθiːniː/; Attic: Ἀθηνᾶ, Athēnā or Ἀθηναία, Athēnaia; Epic: Ἀθηναίη, Athēnaiē; Ionic: Ἀθήνη, Athēnē; Doric: Ἀθάνα, Athana; Latin: Minerva), also referred to as Pallas Athena (Παλλάς Αθηνά; pronounced /ˈpæləs/), is the goddess of civilization, wisdom, strength, strategy, craft, justice and skill in Greek mythology. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes.[2] Athena is also a shrewd companion of heroes and the goddess of heroic endeavour. She is the virgin patron of Athens. The Athenians built the Parthenon on the Acropolis of her namesake city, Athens, in her honour (Athena Parthenos).[2]



Athena's cult as the patron of Athens seems to have existed from very early times and was so persistent that archaic myths about her were recast to adapt to cultural changes. The Greek philosopher, Plato (429–347 BC), identified her with the Libyan deity, Neith, the war-goddess and huntress deity of the Egyptians since the ancient predynastic period, also identified with weaving. This is sensible as some Greeks identified Athena's birthplace, in certain mythological renditions, as being beside Libya's Triton River.[3] Classicist Martin Bernal created the "Black Athena Theory" to explain this associated origin by claiming that the conception of Neith was brought over to Greece from Egypt with "an enormous number of features of civilization and culture in the third and second millennia."[4] Athena the goddess as philosophy became a part of the cult in the later fifth century and Classical Greece.[5] She was the patroness of weaving, especially, and other crafts (Athena Ergane); the metalwork of weapons also fell under her patronage. She led battles (Athena Promachos or the warrior maiden Athena Parthenos)[6] as the disciplined, strategic side of war, in contrast to her brother Ares, the patron of violence, bloodlust and slaughter-"the raw force of war"[7]. Athena's wisdom includes the cunning intelligence (metis) of such figures as Odysseus. Not only was this version of Athena the opposite of Ares in combat, it was also the polar opposite of the serene earth goddess version, Athena Polias.[8], earning the title Athena Parthenos. A remnant of archaic myth depicts her as the adoptive mother of Erechtheus/Erichthonius by the foiled rape by Hephaestus.[9] Other variants relate that the serpent who accompanied Athena, also called Erichthonius, was born to Gaia when the rape failed and the semen landed on Gaia, impregnating her, and that after the birth he was given to Athena by Gaia.

Though Athena was a goddess of war strategy, she disliked fighting without a purpose and preferred using wisdom to settle predicaments.[10] The goddess would only encourage fighting if it was for a reasonable cause or to solve conflict.

In her role as a protector of the city, many people throughout the Greek world worshiped Athena as Athena Polias ("Athena of the city"). Athens and Athena bear etymologically connected names.[11]



In The Greek Myths (8.a, ff.), Robert Graves notes early myths about the birth of Athena whose worship began in Crete after arriving there as early as 4,000 BC. According to Graves, Hesiod (c. 700 BC) relates that Athena was a parthenogenous daughter of Metis, wisdom or knowledge, a Titan who ruled the fourth day and the planet Mercury. Other variants relate that although Metis was of an earlier generation of the Titans, Zeus became her consort when his cult gained dominance. In order to avoid a prophecy made when that change occurred, that any offspring of his union with Metis would be greater than he, Zeus swallowed Metis to prevent her from having offspring, but she already was pregnant with Athena. Metis gave birth to Athena and nurtured her inside Zeus until Zeus complained of headaches and called for Hephaestus to split open his head with his smithing tools. Athena burst forth from his forehead fully armed with weapons given by her mother. She famously wields the thunderbolt and the Aegis, which she and Zeus share exclusively.

The story of her birth from the head of Zeus was adapted by Christianity to parallel the emergence of arts and inventions from the mind of God. Plato, in Cratylus(407B) gave the etymology of her name as signifying "the mind of god", theou noesis. The Christian apologist of the second century Justin Martyr takes issue with those pagans who erect at springs images of Kore, whom he interprets as Athena:

"They said that Athena was the daughter of Zeus not from intercourse, but when the god had in mind the making of a world through a word (logos) his first thought was Athena"[12]

On the other hand, John Milton's Paradise Lost interprets this myth as a model for the birth of Sin from the head of Satan.[13]

The Olympian version

After he swallowed her pregnant mother, Metis, Athena is "born" from Zeus' forehead as he grasps the clothing of Eileithyia on the right —black-figured amphora, 550–525 BC, Louvre.

Although at Mycenaean Knossos Athena appears before Zeus does —in Linear B, as a-ta-na po-ti-ni-ja, "Mistress Athena"—[14] in the Classical Olympian pantheon, Athena was remade as the favorite daughter of Zeus, born fully armed from his forehead.[15] The story of her birth comes in several versions. In the one most commonly cited, Zeus lay with Metis, the goddess of crafty thought and wisdom, but he immediately feared the consequences. It had been prophesied that Metis would bear children more powerful than the sire,[16] even Zeus himself. In order to forestall these dire consequences, after lying with Metis, Zeus "put her away inside his own belly;" he "swallowed her down all of a sudden."[17] He was too late: Metis already conceived.

Eventually Zeus experienced an enormous headache; Prometheus, Hephaestus, Hermes, or Palaemon (depending on the sources examined) cleaved Zeus's head with the double-headed Minoan axe, the labrys. Athena leaped from Zeus's head, fully grown and armed — with a shout, "and pealed to the broad sky her clarion cry of war. And Ouranos trembled to hear, and Mother Gaia..." (Pindar, Seventh Olympian Ode). Plato, in the Laws, attributes the cult of Athena to the culture of Crete, introduced, he thought, from Libya during the dawn of Greek culture.

Classical myths thereafter note that Hera was so annoyed at Zeus producing a child that she conceived and bore Hephaestus by herself.

Other origin tales

Fragments attributed by the Christian Eusebius of Caesarea to the semi-legendary Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon, which Eusebius thought had been written before the Trojan war, make Athena instead, the daughter of Cronus, a king of Byblos who visited 'the inhabitable world' and bequeathed Attica to Athena.[18] Sanchuniathon's account would make Athena the sister of Zeus and Hera, not Zeus' daughter.

Pallas Athena

The major competing tradition regarding Athena's parentage involves some of her more mysterious epithets: Pallas, as in Ancient Greek Παλλάς Άθήνη (also Pallantias) and Tritogeneia (also Trito, Tritonis, Tritoneia, Tritogenes). A separate entity named Pallas is invoked—whether Athena's father, sister, foster-sister, companion, or opponent in battle. In every case, Athena kills Pallas, accidentally, and thereby gains the name for herself.

When Pallas is Athena's father the events, including her birth, are located near a body of water named Triton or Tritonis, the result of an etymology of Tritogeneia from Tritonis. When Pallas is Athena's sister or foster-sister, Athena's father or foster-father is Triton, the son and herald of Poseidon. But Athena may be called the daughter of Poseidon and a nymph named Tritonis, without involving Pallas. Likewise, Pallas may be Athena's father or opponent, without involving Triton.[19] On this topic, Walter Burkert says "she is the Pallas of Athens, Pallas Athenaie, just as Hera of Argos is Here Argeie.[20] For the Athenians, Burkert notes, Athena was simply "the Goddess", he thea, certainly an ancient title.

Athena Parthenos: Virgin Athena

Athena never had a consort or lover and thus, also was known as Athena Parthenos, "Virgin Athena". Her most famous temple, the Parthenon, on the Acropolis in Athens takes its name from this title. It was not merely an observation of her virginity, but a recognition of her role as enforcer of rules of sexual modesty and ritual mystery. Even beyond recognition, the Athenians allotted the goddess value based on this pureness of virginity as it upheld a rudiment of female behavior in the patriarchal society. Kerenyi's study and theory of Athena accredits her virginal toponym to be a result of the relationship to her father Zeus and a vital, cohesive piece of her character throughout the ages.[21] This role is expressed in a number of stories about Athena. Marinus reports that when Christians removed the statue of the Goddess from the Parthenon, a beautiful woman appeared in a dream to Proclus, a devotee of Athena, and announced that the "Athenian Lady" wished to dwell with him.[22]


Hephaestus attempted to rape Athena, but she eluded him. His semen fell on the ground, and Erichthonius was born from the Earth, Gaia. Athena then raised the baby as a foster mother.[23]

Athena put the infant Erichthonius in a small box (cista) which she entrusted to the care of three sisters, Herse, Pandrosus, and Aglaulus of Athens. The goddess did not tell them what the box contained, but warned them not to open it until she returned. One or two sisters opened the cista to reveal Erichthonius, in the form (or embrace) of a serpent. The serpent, or insanity induced by the sight, drove Herse and Pandrosus to throw themselves off the Acropolis.[24] Jane Harrison (Prolegomena) finds this to be a simple cautionary tale directed at young girls carrying the cista in the Thesmophoria rituals, to discourage them from opening it outside the proper context.

Another version of the myth of the Athenian maidens is told in Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD); in this late variant Hermes falls in love with Herse. Herse, Aglaulus, and Pandrosus go to the temple to offer sacrifices to Athena. Hermes demands help from Aglaulus to seduce Herse. Aglaulus demands money in exchange. Hermes gives her the money the sisters had already offered to Athena. As punishment for Aglaulus's greed, Athena asks the goddess Envy to make Aglaulus jealous of Herse. When Hermes arrives to seduce Herse, Aglaulus stands in his way instead of helping him as she had agreed. He turns her to stone.[25]

With this mythic origin, Erichthonius became the founder-king of Athens, where many beneficial changes to Athenian culture were ascribed to him. During this time, Athena frequently protected him.

Medusa and Tiresias

In a late myth, Medusa, unlike her two sister-Gorgons, came to be thought of by the Classical Greeks during the fifth century as mortal and extremely beautiful, but she was raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athena and Hephasteus.[26] Upon discovering the desecration of her temple, Athena changed Medusa's form to match that of her sister Gorgons as punishment. Medusa's hair turned into snakes, her lower body was transformed also, and meeting her gaze would turn any living creature to stone. In the earliest of myths there is but one Gorgon and the only snakes were two wrapped around her waist as a belt.

In one version of the Tiresias myth, Tiresias stumbled upon Athena bathing, and she blinded him because she was nude.[27] To compensate him for his loss, she sent serpents to lick his ears, which gave him the gift of prophecy.

Lady of Athens

Athena competed with Poseidon to be the patron deity of Athens, which was yet unnamed, in a version of one founding myth. They agreed that each would give the Athenians one gift and that the Athenians would choose the gift they preferred. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a spring sprang up; this gave them a means of trade and water —Athens at its height was a significant sea power, defeating the Persian fleet at the Battle of Salamis— but the water was salty and not very good for drinking. Athena, however, offered them the first domesticated olive tree. The Athenians (or their king, Cecrops) accepted the olive tree and with it the patronage of Athena, for the olive tree brought wood, oil, and food. Robert Graves was of the opinion that "Poseidon's attempts to take possession of certain cities are political myths" which reflect the conflict between matriarchical and patriarchical religions.[28]

Other sites of cult

Athena also was the patron goddess of several other Greek cities, notably Sparta, where the archaic cult of Athena Alea had its sanctuaries in the surrounding villages of at Alea, Mantineia and, notably, Tegea. Tegea was an important religious center of ancient Greece,[29] containing the Temple of Athena Alea. The temenos was founded by Aleus, Pausanias was informed.[30] Votive bronzes at the site from the Geometric and Archaic periods take the forms of horses and deer; there are sealstones and fibulae. In the Archaic period the nine villages that underlie Tegea banded together in a synoecism to form one city.[31] Tegea was listed in Homer's Catalogue of Ships as one of the cities that contributed ships and men for the Achaean assault on Troy.

Helmeted Athena, of the Velletri type; a Roman copy (first century) of a Greek original by Kresilas, c. 430 BC.
Athena and Herakles on an Attic red-figure kylix, 480–470 BCE.


Later myths of the Classical Greeks relate that Athena guided Perseus in his quest to behead Medusa. She instructed Heracles to skin the Nemean Lion by using its own claws to cut through its thick hide. She also helped Heracles to defeat the Stymphalian Birds, and to navigate the underworld so as to capture Cerberus.

In The Odyssey, Odysseus' cunning and shrewd nature quickly won Athena's favour. In the realistic epic mode, however, she largely is confined to aiding him only from afar, as by implanting thoughts in his head during his journey home from Troy. Her guiding actions reinforce her role as the "protectress of heroes" or as mythologian Walter Friedrich Otto dubbed her the "goddess of nearness" due to her mentoring and motherly probing.[32] It is not until he washes up on the shore of an island where Nausicaa is washing her clothes that Athena arrives personally to provide more tangible assistance. She appears in Nausicaa's dreams to ensure that the princess rescues Odysseus and plays a role in his eventual escort to Ithaca.

Athena appears in disguise to Odysseus upon his arrival, initially lying and telling him that Penelope, his wife, has remarried and that he is believed to be dead; but Odysseus lies back to her, employing skillful prevarications to protect himself.[33] Impressed by his resolve and shrewdness, she reveals herself and tells him what he needs to know in order to win back his kingdom. She disguises him as an elderly man or beggar so that he cannot be noticed by the suitors or Penelope, and helps him to defeat the suitors. She also plays a role in ending the resultant feud against the suitors' relatives, although she seems strange to readers. She instructs Laertes to throw his spear and to kill the father of Antinous, Eupeithes. But she must have forgotten her task of bringing peace to Ithaca and wiping the thought of slaughter from the suitors' families, because she suddenly told them to stop fighting.

Roman fable of Arachne

The fable of Arachne is a late Roman addition to Classical Greek mythology[34] but does not appear in the myth repertoire of the Attic vase-painters. Arachne's name simply means spider (αράχνη). Arachne was the daughter of a famous dyer in Tyrian purple in Hypaipa of Lydia, and a weaving student of Athena. She became so conceited of her skill as a weaver that she began claiming that her skill was greater than that of Athena herself.

Athena gave Arachne a chance to redeem herself by assuming the form of an old woman and warning Arachne not to offend the deities. Arachne scoffed and wished for a weaving contest, so she could prove her skill.

Athena wove the scene of her victory over Poseidon that had inspired her patronage of Athens. According to the Latin narrative, Arachne's tapestry featured twenty-one episodes of the infidelity of the deities, including Zeus being unfaithful with Leda, with Europa, and with Danaë. Athena admitted that Arachne's work was flawless, but was outraged at Arachne's disrespectful choice of subjects that displayed the failings and transgressions of the deities. Finally, losing her temper, Athena destroyed Arachne's tapestry and loom, striking it with her shuttle. Athena then struck Arachne with her staff, which changed her into a spider.

The fable suggests that the origin of weaving lay in imitation of spiders and that it was considered to have been perfected first in Asia Minor.[citation needed]

Cult and attributes

Athena with the cista
Helmeted Athena with the cista and Erichthonius in his serpent form. Roman, first century (Louvre Museum).

Athena's epithets include Άτρυτώνη, Atrytone (= the unwearying), Παρθένος, Parthénos (= virgin), and Ή Πρόμαχος, Promachos (the First Fighter, i. e. she who fights in front).

In poetry from Homer, an oral tradition of the eighth or seventh century BC, onward, Athena's most common epithet is glaukopis (γλαυκώπις), which usually is translated as, bright-eyed or with gleaming eyes.[35] The word is a combination of glaukos (γλαύκος, meaning gleaming, silvery, and later, bluish-green or gray) and ops (ώψ, eye, or sometimes, face). It is interesting to note that glaux (γλαύξ, "owl") is from the same root, presumably because of the bird's own distinctive eyes. The bird which sees well in the night is closely associated with the goddess of wisdom: in archaic images, Athena is frequently depicted with an owl perched on her head. This pairing evolved in tangent so that even in present day the owl is upheld as a symbol of perspicacity and erudition.[2] Unsurprisingly, the owl became a sort of Athenian mascot. The olive tree is likewise sacred to her. In earlier times, Athena may well have been a bird goddess, similar to the unknown goddess depicted with owls, wings, and bird talons on the Burney relief, a Mesopotamian terracotta relief of the early second millennium BC.[citation needed]

Other epithets include: Aethyta under which she was worshiped in Megara.[36] The word aithyia (αίθυια) signifies a diver, and figuratively, a ship, so the name must reference Athena teaching the art of shipbuilding or navigation.[37][38] In a temple at Phrixa in Elis, which was reportedly built by Clymenus, she was known as Cydonia.[39]

The various Athena subgroups, or cults, all branching from the central goddess herself often proctored various initiation rites of Grecian youth. For example, the passage into citizenship by young men and for women the elevation to the status of citizen wife. Her various cults were portals of a uniform socialization, even beyond mainland Greece.[40]


In the Iliad (4.514), the Homeric Hymns, and in Hesiod's Theogony, Athena is given the curious epithet Tritogeneia. The meaning of this term is unclear. It seems to mean "Triton-born", perhaps indicating that the sea-deity was her parent according to some early myths,[41] In Ovid's Metamorphoses Athena is occasionally referred to as "Tritonia."

Another possible meaning may be triple-born or third-born, which may refer to a triad or to her status as the third daughter of Zeus or the fact she was born from Metis, Zeus, and herself; various legends list her as being the first child after Artemis and Apollo, though other legends[citation needed] identify her as Zeus' first child. The latter would have to be drawn from Classical myths, however, rather than earlier ones.

In her role as judge at Orestes' trial on the murder of his mother, Clytemnestra (which he won), Athena won the epithet Athena Areia.

A new peplos was woven for Athena and ceremonially brought to dress her cult image (British Museum).

Other epithets were Ageleia and Itonia.

The Parthenon, Temple of Athena Parthenos.

Athena was given many other cult titles. She had the epithet Athena Ergane as the patron of craftsmen and artisans. With the epithet Athena Parthenos ("virgin")she was especially worshipped in the festivals of the Panathenaea and Pamboeotia where both militaristic and athletic displays took place.[42] With the epithet Athena Promachos she led in battle. With the epithet Athena Polias ("of the city"), Athena was the protector of not only Athens but also of many other cities, including Argos, Sparta, Gortyn, Lindos, and Larisa.

She was given the epithet Athena Hippeia or Athena Hippia, horse as the inventor of the chariot, and was worshipped under this title at Athens, Tegea and Olympia. As Athena Hippeia she was given an alternative parentage: Poseidon and Polyphe, daughter of Oceanus.[43][44]. In each of these cities her temple frequently was the major temple on the acropolis.[45]

Athena often was equated with Aphaea, a local goddess of the island of Aegina, located near Athens, once Aegina was under Athenian's power. The Greek historian Plutarch (46 AD–120 AD) also refers to an instance during the Parthenon's construction of her being called Athena Hygieia ("healer"):

A strange accident happened in the course of building, which showed that the goddess was not averse to the work, but was aiding and co-operating to bring it to perfection. One of the artificers, the quickest and the handiest workman among them all, with a slip of his foot fell down from a great height, and lay in a miserable condition, the physicians having no hope of his recovery. When Pericles was in distress about this, the goddess [Athena] appeared to him at night in a dream, and ordered a course of treatment, which he applied, and in a short time and with great ease cured the man. And upon this occasion it was that he set up a brass statue of Athena Hygeia, in the citadel near the altar, which they say was there before. But it was Phidias who wrought the goddess's image in gold, and he has his name inscribed on the pedestal as the workman of it.[46]

In classical times the Plynteria, or “Feast of Adorning”, was observed every May, it was a festival lasting five days. During this period the Priestesses of Athena, or “Plyntrides”, performed a cleansing ritual within “the Erecththeum”, the personal sanctuary of the goddess. Here Athena's statue was undressed, her clothes washed, and body purified.

In Arcadia, she was assimilated with the ancient goddess Alea and worshiped as Athena Alea.

In Classical art

The Athena Giustiniani, a Roman copy of a Greek statue of Pallas Athena with her serpent, Erichthonius.
Athena depicted on a coin of Attalus I, ruler of Pergamon —c. 200 BC.

Classically, Athena is portrayed wearing full armor, with her helmet raised high on the forehead to reveal the image of Nike. Her shield bears at its centre the gorgoneion, the head of the gorgon, as does her aegis. It is in this standing posture that she was depicted in Phidias's famous lost gold and ivory statue of her, 36 m tall, the Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon. Athena also often is depicted with an owl sitting on one of her shoulders.[47] The Mourning Athena is a relief sculpture that dates around 460 BC and portrays a weary Athena resting on a staff. In earlier, archaic portraits of Athena in Black-figure pottery, the goddess retains some of her Minoan-Mycenaean character, such as great bird wings although this is not true of archaic sculpture such as those of Aphaean Athena, where Athena has subsumed an earlier, invisibly numinous —Aphaea— goddess with Cretan connections in her mythos.

Other commonly received and repeated types of Athena in sculpture may be found in this list.

Apart from her attributes, there seems to be a relative consensus in late sculpture from the Classical period, the fifth century onward, as to what Athena looked like. Most noticeable in the face is perhaps the full round strong chin with a high nose that has a high bridge as a natural extension of the forehead. The eyes typically are somewhat deeply set. The unsmiling lips are usually full, but the mouth is fairly narrow, usually just slightly wider than the nose. The neck is somewhat long. The net result is a serene, serious, somewhat aloof beauty.

Name, etymology, and origin

Athena had a special relationship with Athens, as is shown by the etymological connection of the names of the goddess and the city. The citizens of Athens built a statue of Athena as a temple to the goddess, which had piercing eyes, a helmet on her head, attired with an aegis or cuirass, and an extremely long spear. It also had a crystal shield with the head of the Gorgon on it. A large snake accompanied her and she held the goddess of victory in her hand.

Bust of Athena in the Munich Glyptothek

Athena is associated with Athens, a plural name because it was the place where she presided over her sisterhood, the Athenai, in earliest times: "[Mycenae] was the city where the Goddess was called Mykene, and Mycenae is named in the plural for the sisterhood of females who tended her there.At Thebes she was called Thebe, and the city again a plural, Thebae (or Thebes, where the "s" is the plural formation). Similarly, at Athens she was called Athena, and the city Athenae (or Athens, again a plural)."[48] Whether her name is attested in Eteocretan or not will have to wait for decipherment of Linear A.

Günther Neumann has suggested that Athena's name is possibly of Lydian origin;[49] it may be a compound word derived in part from Tyrrhenian "ati", meaning mother and the name of the Hurrian goddess "Hannahannah" shortened in various places to "Ana"[citation needed]. In Mycenaean Greek, at Knossos a single inscription A-ta-na po-ti-ni-ja /Athana potniya/ appears in the Linear B tablets from the Late Minoan II-era "Room of the Chariot Tablets"; these comprise the earliest Linear B archive anywhere.[50] Although Athana potniya often is translated Mistress Athena, it literally means "the potnia of At(h)ana", which perhaps, means the Lady of Athens;[51] Any connection to the city of Athens in the Knossos inscription is uncertain.[52] We also find A-ta-no-dju-wa-ja /Athana diwya/, the final part being the Linear B spelling of what we know from Ancient Greek as Diwia (Mycenaean di-u-ja or di-wi-ja): divine Athena also was a weaver and the deity of crafts. (see dyeus).[53]

In his dialogue Cratylus, the Greek philosopher Plato, 428/427 BC – 348/347 BC, gives the etymology of Athena's name, based on the view of the ancient Athenians:

That is a graver matter, and there, my friend, the modern interpreters of Homer may, I think, assist in explaining the view of the ancients. For most of these in their explanations of the poet, assert that he meant by Athena "mind" [nous] and "intelligence" [dianoia], and the maker of names appears to have had a singular notion about her; and indeed calls her by a still higher title, "divine intelligence" [Thou noesis], as though he would say: This is she who has the mind better than others. Nor shall we be far wrong in supposing that the author of it wished to identify this Goddess with moral intelligence [en ethei noesin], and therefore gave her the name ethonoe; which, however, either he or his successors have altered into what they thought a nicer form, and called her Athena.
—Plato, Cratylus, 407b

Thus for Plato her name was to be derived from Greek Ἀθεονόα, Atheonóa —which the later Greeks rationalised as from the deity's (theos) mind (nous).

The Greek historian, Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC), noted that the Egyptian citizens of Sais in Egypt worshipped a goddess whose Egyptian name was Neith;[54] and they identified her with Athena. (Timaeus 21e), (Histories 2:170–175).

Some authors[citation needed] believe that, in early times, Athena was either an owl herself or a bird goddess in general: in Book 3 of the Odyssey, she takes the form of a sea-eagle. These authors argue that she dropped her prophylactic owl-mask before she lost her wings. "Athena, by the time she appears in art," Jane Ellen Harrison had remarked, "has completely shed her animal form, has reduced the shapes she once wore of snake and bird to attributes, but occasionally in black-figure vase-paintings she still appears with wings."[55] Some authors claim that her tasselled aegis may be the remnants of wings. Others believe that it is scaly, indicating that it is snakeskin.

Some Greek authors have derived natural symbols from the etymological roots of Athena's names to be aether, air, earth, and moon. This was one of the primary developments of scholarly exploration in the ancient world.[56]

Post-classical culture

A neoclassical variant of Athena Promachos stands in front of the Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna.

A brief summary of Athena's evolution of myriad motifs after her dominance in Greece may be seen as follows: The rise of Christianity in Greece ended the worship of Greek deities and polytheism in general, but she resurfaced in the Middle Ages as a defender of sagacity and virtue so that her masculine warrior status was still intact. (She may be found on some family crests of nobility.) During the Renaissance she donned the mantle of patron of the arts and human endeavor and finally although not ultimately, Athena personified the miracles of freedom and republic during the French Revolution. (A statue of the goddess was centered on the Place de la Revolution in Paris.)[2]

For over a century a full-scale replica of the Parthenon has stood in Nashville, Tennessee, which is known as the Athens of the South. In 1990, a gilded 41 feet (12.5 m) tall replica of Phidias' statue of Athena Parthenos was added. The state seal of California features an image of Athena (or Minerva) kneeling next to a brown grizzly bear.[57]

Athena is a natural patron of universities: she is the symbol of the Darmstadt University of Technology, in Germany, and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. Her image can be found in the shields of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters and the Faculty of Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico., where her owl is the symbol of the Faculty of Chemistry. At Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania a statue of Athena (a replica of the original bronze one in the arts and archaeology library) resides in the Great Hall. It is traditional at exam time for students to leave offerings to the goddess with a note asking for good luck, or to repent for accidentally breaking any of the college's numerous other traditions. Athena's owl also serves as the mascot of the college, and one of the college hymns is "Pallas Athena."Pallas Athena is the tutelary goddess of the international social fraternity Phi Delta Theta.[58] Her owl is also a symbol of the fraternity.[58]

The title character in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" famously sits upon "a Bust of Pallas".

She is the symbol of the United States Women's Navy and was depicted on their Unit Crest. A medal awarded to women who served in the Women Army Auxiliary Corps from 10 July 1942 to 31 August 1943, and to the Women Army Corps from 1 September 1943 to 2 September 1945 featured Athena on the front.

Jean Boucher's statue of Ernest Renan in Tréguier.

Athena's Helmet is the central feature on the United States Military Academy crest.

Athena is reported as a source of influence for feminist theologians such as Carol P. Christ.

Jean Boucher's statue of the seated skeptical thinker Ernest Renan, shown to the left, caused great controversy when it was installed in Tréguier, Brittany in 1902. Renan's 1862 biography of Jesus had denied his divinity, and he had written the "Prayer on the Acropolis" addressed to the goddess Athena. The statue was placed in the square fronted by the cathedral. Renan's head was turned away from the building, while Athena, beside him, was depicted raising her arm, which was interpreted as indicating a challenge to the church during an anti-clerical phase in French official culture. The installation was accompanied by a mass protest from local Roman Catholics and a religious service against the growth of skepticism and secularism.[59]

Athena has been used numerous times as a symbol of a republic by different countries and appears on currency as she did on the ancient drachma of Athens. Athena (Minerva) is the subject of the $50 1915-S Panama-Pacific commemorative coin. At 2.5 troy oz (78 g) gold, this is the largest (by weight) coin ever produced by the U.S. Mint. This was the first $50 coin issued by the U.S. Mint and no higher was produced until the production of the $100 platinum coins in 1997. Of course, in terms of face-value in adjusted dollars, the 1915 is the highest denomination ever issued by the U.S. Mint.

Athena was depicted on the obverse of the Greek 100 drachmas banknote of 1978-2001.[60] Another recent example is the 60 Years of the Second Republic commemorative coin issued by Austria in 2005. Athena is depicted in the obverse of the coin, representing the Austrian Republic.

Masculinity and feminism

Athena had an "androgynous compromise" that allowed her traits and what she stood for to be attributed to male and female rulers alike over the course of history (such as Marie de Medici, Anne of Austria, Christina of Sweden, and Catherine the Great).[61]

J.J. Bachofen advocated that Athena was originally a maternal figure stable in her security and poise but was caught up and perverted by a patriarchal society; this was especially the case in Athens. The goddess adapted but could very easily be seen as a god. He viewed it as "motherless paternity in the place of fatherless maternity" where once altered, Athena's character was to be crystallized as that of a patriarch.[62]

Whereas Bachofen saw the switch to paternity on Athena's behalf as an increase of power, Freud perceived Athena as an "original mother goddess divested of her power". Instead, Athena was denoted to only be known as Zeus's daughter never to be allowed to expression of motherhood rather but most different from Bachofen's perspective is the lack of role permanency. Freud knew that time and cultures would mold Athena to stand for what was necessary.[63]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Athena". Myths Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-11-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d Deacy, Susan, and Alexandra Villing. Athena in the Classical World. 1st ed. Koninklijke Brill NV,Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001. Print.
  3. ^ Aesch. Eum. 292-293. Cf. the tradition that she was the daughter of Neilos: see, e.g. Clem. Alex. Protr. 2.28.2; Cic. Nat. D. 3.59.
  4. ^ M.Bernal,Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization(New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987),21,51-53.
  5. ^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion 1985:VII "Philosophical Religion" treats these transformations.
  6. ^ C.J. Herrington, Athena Parthenos and Athena Polias. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1955.
  7. ^ Darmon."Athena and Ares".Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
  8. ^ S.Goldhill.Reading Greek Tragedy(Aesch.Eum.737).Cambrdige:Cambridge University Press,1986.
  9. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke 3.14.6.
  10. ^ Loewen, Nancy. Athena. 
  11. ^ "Whether the goddess was named after the city or the city after the goddess is an ancient dispute" (Burkert 1985:139)
  12. ^ Justin, Apology 64.5. quoted in Robert McQueen Grant, Gods and the One God, vol 1 :155, who observes that it is Porphyry "who similarly identifies Athena with "forethought".
  13. ^ B.Spaanstra-Polak,"The Birth of Athena: An Emblematic Representation"-Album Amicorum J.G. van Gelder, ed. J.Bruyn, J. Emmens, et al. The Hague:Martinus Nijhoff, 1973.293-305.
  14. ^ Knossos tablet V 52 (John Chadwick, The Mycenaean World [Cambridge] 1976:88 fig 37.) Athana Potnia does not appear at Mycenaean Pylos, where the mistress goddess is ma-te-re te-i-ja, Mater Theia, literally "Mother Goddess".
  15. ^ Jane Ellen Harrison's famous characterisation of this myth-element as, "a desperate theological expedient to rid an earth-born Kore of her matriarchal conditions" has never been refuted (Harrison 1922:302).
  16. ^ Compare the prophecy concerning Thetis.
  17. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 890ff and 924ff.
  18. ^ Sacred Texts: Ancient Fragments, ed. and trans. I. P. Cory, 1832: "The Theology of the Phœnicians from Sanchoniatho"
  19. ^ Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths I, "The Birth of Athena", 8.a., p. 51. The story comes from Libyan (modern Berbers) where the Greek Athena and the Egyptian Neith blend into one deity. The story is not so often referenced because some facts contradict other better-documented facts. Frazer, vol. 2 p.41
  20. ^ Burkert, p. 139.
  21. ^ K.Kerenyi,Die Jungfrau und Mutter der griechischen Religion. Eine Studie uber Pallas Athene.Zurich:Rhein Verlag, 1952.
  22. ^ Marinus of Samaria, "The Life of Proclus or Concerning Happiness", Translated by Kenneth S. Guthrie (1925), pp.15–55:30, retrieved 21 May 2007.Marinus, Life of Proclus
  23. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke 3.14.6.
  24. ^ Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths I, "The Nature and Deeds of Athena" 25.d.
  25. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses, X. Aglaura, Book II, 708–751; XI. The Envy, Book II, 752–832.
  26. ^ "Medusa in Myth and Literary History". Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  27. ^ Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths I",The Nature and Deeds of Athena" 25.g. The myth of Actaeon is a doublet of this element.
  28. ^ Graves 1960:16.3p 62.
  29. ^ "This sanctuary had been respected from early days by all the Peloponnesians, and afforded peculiar safety to its suppliants" (Pausanias, Description of Greece iii.5.6)
  30. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece viii.4.8.
  31. ^ Compare the origin of Sparta.
  32. ^ W.F.Otto,Die Gotter Griechenlands(55-77).Bonn:F.Cohen,1929
  33. ^ Trahman in Phoenix, p. 35.
  34. ^ which is recorded in Ovid's Metamorphoses ( (vi.5-54 and 129-145) and mentioned in Virgil's Georgics, iv, 246.
  35. ^ Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, 1940, A Greek-English Lexicon, ISBN 0-19-864226-1, online version at the Perseus Project.
  36. ^ Pausanias, i. 5. § 3; 41. § 6
  37. ^ John Tzetzes, ad Lycophr., l.c.
  38. ^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Aethyta". in Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1. Boston, MA. pp. 51. 
  39. ^ Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
  40. ^ P.Schmitt,"Athena Apatouria et la ceinture: Les aspects feminis des apatouries a Athenes"in Annales:Economies, Societies, Civilisations(1059-1073).London:Thames and Hudson,2000.
  41. ^ Karl Kerenyi suggests that "Tritogeneia did not mean that she came into the world on any particular river or lake, but that she was born of the water itself; for the name Triton seems to be associated with water generally." (Kerenyi, p. 128).
  42. ^ Robertson,Noel.Festivals and Legends:The Formation of Greek Cities in the Light of Public Ritual.Toronto:University of Toronto Press,1992.
  43. ^ POLYPHE: Oceanid nymph of Rhodes in the Aegean; Greek mythology
  44. ^ TITLES OF ATHENA: Ancient Greek religion
  45. ^ Burkert, p. 140.
  46. ^ Plutarch, Life of Pericles, 13.8
  47. ^ The owl's role as a symbol of wisdom originates in this association with Athena.
  48. ^ Ruck and Staples 1994:24.
  49. ^ Günther Neumann, "Der lydische Name der Athena. Neulesung der lydischen Inschrift Nr. 40" Kadmos 6 (1967).
  50. ^ Kn V 52 (text 208 in Ventris and Chadwick).
  51. ^ Palaima, p. 444.
  52. ^ Burkert, p. 44.
  53. ^ Ventris and Chadwick [page missing]
  54. ^ "The citizens have a deity for their foundress; she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, and is asserted by them to be the same whom the Hellenes call Athena; they are great lovers of the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them". ( Timaeus 21e)
  55. ^ Harrison 1922:306. (Harrison 1922:307 fig. 84: detail of a cup in the Faina collection).
  56. ^ Johrens.Athenahymnus,438-452.
  57. ^ - Symbols of the Seal of California
  58. ^ a b "Phi Delta Theta International - Symbols". Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  59. ^ Musee Virtuel Jean Boucher
  60. ^ Bank of Greece. Drachma Banknotes & Coins: 100 drachmas. – Retrieved on 27 March 2009.
  61. ^ F.Zeitlin,"The Dynamics of Misogyny:Myth and Mythmaking in the Oresteia",Arethusa15(1978), 182.
  62. ^ J.J. Bachofen."Mother Right:An investigation of religious and juridicial character of matriarchy in the ancient world",Myth, Religion and Mother Right.London:Routledge and Kegan Paul,1967.
  63. ^ Shearer,Athene,224-235.


Ancient Greek Religion

Main doctrines
Polytheism · Mythology · Hubris · Orthopraxy · Reciprocity · Virtue

Amphidromia · Iatromantis · Pharmakos · Temples · Votive Offerings · Animal sacrifice

Twelve Olympians:
Aphrodite · Apollo · Ares · Artemis · Athena · Demeter · Dionysus · Hades · Hestia · Hera · Hermes · Hephaestus · Poseidon · Zeus
Primordial deities:
Aether · Chaos · Cronos · Erebus · Gaia · Hemera · Nyx · Tartarus · Uranus
Lesser gods:
Eros · Hebe · Hecate · Helios · Herakles · Iris · Selene · Pan · Nike
Iliad · Odyssey · Theogony · Works and Days · Bibliotheca · Argonautica
See also:
Decline of Hellenistic polytheism · Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism · Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes

Ancient sources

  • Augustine, De civitate dei xviii.8–9
  • Cicero, De natura deorum iii.21.53, 23.59
  • Eusebius, Chronicon 30.21–26, 42.11–14
  • Lactantius, Divinae institutions i.17.12–13, 18.22–23
  • Livy, Ad urbe condita libri vii.3.7
  • Lucan, Bellum civile ix.350

Modern sources

  • Burkert, Walter, 1985. Greek Religion (Harvard).
  • Graves, Robert, (1955) 1960. The Greek Myths revised edition.
  • Kerenyi, Karl, 1951. The Gods of the Greeks (Thames and Hudson).
  • Harrison, Jane Ellen, 1903. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion.
  • Palaima, Thomas, 2004. "Appendix One: Linear B Sources." In Trzaskoma, Stephen, et al., eds., Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation (Hackett).
  • Ruck, Carl A.P. and Danny Staples, 1994. The World of Classical Myth: Gods and Goddesses, Heroines and Heroes (Durham, NC).
  • Telenius, Seppo Sakari, 2005 and 2006. Athena-Artemis.
  • Trahman, C.R., 1952. "Odysseus' Lies ('Odyssey', Books 13-19)" in Phoenix, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Classical Association of Canada), pp. 31–43.
  • Ventris, Michael and John Chadwick, 1973. Documents in Mycenaean Greek (Cambridge).
  • Friel, Brian, 1980. Translations

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

It has been suggested that this article or section should be merged with Greek myths. (Discuss)

Milton, in his Comus, thus alludes to the Aegis:

"What was that snaky-headed Gorgon-shield
That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace that dashed brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe!"

Iliad 5: 841-857 (Fagles translation)

"Then Athena, child of Zeus whose shield is thunder,
letting fall her supple robe at the Father's threshold -
rich brocade, stitched with her own hand's labor-
donned the battle-shirt of the lord of lightning,
buckled her breastplate geared for wrenching war
and over her shoulders slung her shield, all tassels
flaring terror - Panic mounted high in a crown around it,
Hate and Defense across it, Assault to freeze the blood
and right in their midst the Gorgon's monstrous head,
that rippling dragon horror, sign of storming Zeus.
Then over her brows Athena placed her golden helmet
fronted with four knobs and forked with twin horns,
engraved with the fighting men of a hundred towns.
The onto the flaming chariot Pallas set her feet
and seized her spear - weighted, heavy, the massive shaft
she wields to break the battle lines of heroes
the mighty Father's daughter storms against."

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ATHENA (the Attic form of the Homeric Athene, also called Athenaia, Pallas Athene, Pallas), one of the most important goddesses in Greek mythology. With Zeus and Apollo, she forms a triad which represents the embodiment of all divine power. No satisfactory derivation of the name Athena has been given 1; Pallas, at first an epithet, but after Pindar used 1 0. Gruppe (Griechische Mythologie, ii. p. 1194) thinks that it probably means "without mother's milk," either in an active or in a passive sense - "not giving suck," or "unsuckled," in her character as the virgin goddess, or as springing from the head of Zeus. In support of this view he refers to Hesychius (Oi vcov yaXa) and a passage in Athenagoras (Legatio pro Christianis, 17), where it is by itself, may possibly be connected with 7raXXaKr ("maiden"). Athena has been variously described as the pure aether, the storm-cloud, the dawn, the twilight; but there is little evidence that she was regarded as representing any of the physical powers of nature, and it is better to endeavour to form an idea of her character and attributes from a consideration of her cultepithets and ritual. According to the legend, her father Zeus swallowed his wife Metis ("counsel"), when pregnant with Athena, since he had been warned that his children by her might prove stronger than himself and dethrone him. Hephaestus (or Prometheus) subsequently split open his head with a hatchet, and Athena sprang forth fully armed, uttering a loud shout of victory (Hesiod, Theogony, 886; Pindar, Olympia, vii. 35). In Crete she was said to have issued from a cloud burst asunder by Zeus. According to Roscher, the manner of her birth represents the storm-cloud split by lightning; Farnell (Cults of the Greek States, i. p. 285) sees in it an indication that, as the daughter of Metis, Athena was already invested with a mental and moral character, and explains the swallowing of Metis (for which compare the story of Cronus and his children) by the desire to attribute an extraordinary birth to one in whom masculine traits predominated. In another account (as T ptTo-y vECa) she is the daughter of the river Triton, to which various localities were assigned, and wherever there was a river (or lake) of that name, the inhabitants claimed that she was born there. It is. probable that the name originated in Boeotia (C. O. Muller, Geschichten hellenischer Stdmme, i. pp. but see Magian on Herodotus, iv. 180), whence it was conveyed by colonists to Cyrene and thence to Libya, where there was a river Triton. Here some local divinity, a daughter of Poseidon, connected with the water and also of a warlike character, was identified by the colonists with their own Athena. In any case, it is fairly certain that Tritogeneia means "water-born," although an old interpretation derived it from TpcTCO, a supposed Boeotian word meaning "head," which further points to the name having originated in Boeotia. Roscher suggests that the localization of her birthplace in the extreme west points to the western sea, the home of cloud and storm.

In Homer Athena already appears as the goddess of counsel, of war, of female arts and industries, and the protectress of Greek cities, this last aspect of her character being the most important and pronounced. Hence she is called 7roXuis,. 7roXcou os, in many Greek states, and is frequently associated with Zeus 7roXtcbs. The most celebrated festival of the citygoddess was the Panathenaea at Athens and other places. Other titles of kindred meaning are ap X 77yfLS (" founder") and 7ravaXais, the protectress of the Achaean league. At Athens she presided over the phratries or clans, and was known as airarovpia and 4paTpia, and sacrifice was offered to her at the festival Apaturia. The title µi T17p, given her by the inhabitants. of Elis, whose women, according to the legend, she had blessed with abundance of children, seems at variance with the generallyrecognized conception of her as 7rapOEvo; but µ17T17P may bear the same meaning as taw pmpochos, the fosterer of the young, in harmony with her aspect as protectress of civic and family life. At Alalcomenae, near the Tritonian lake in Boeotia, she was aXaXKoyeinfis ("defender"). Her temple, which was pillaged by Sulla, contained an ivory image, which was said to have fallen from heaven. The inhabitants claimed that the goddess was born there and brought up by a local hero Alalcomeneus. Her images, called Palladia, which guarded the heights (cf. her epithets aKpia, Kpavaia), represented her with shield uplifted, brandishing her spear to keep off the foe. The cult of Athena Itonia, whose earliest seat appears to have been amongst the Thessalians, who used her name as a battle-cry, made its way to Coronea in Boeotia, where her sanctuary was the seat of the Pamboeotian confederacy. The meaning of Itonia is obscure: Dummler connects it with iTEwves, the "willow-beds" on the banks of the river Coralios (the river stated that Athena was sometimes called or 'Aeon. For Pallas, he prefers the old etymology from ,raXXw (to "shake"), rather in the sense of "earth-shaker" than "` lance-brandisher." of the maiden, i.e. Athena); Jebb (on Bacchylides, fr. xi. 2) suggests a derivation from L vat, the goddess of the "onset." At Thebes she was worshipped as Athena Onka or Onga, of equally uncertain derivation (possibly from 6yKos, " a height"). Peculiar to Arcadia is the title Athena Alea, probably = "warder off of evil," although others explain it as = "warmth," and see in it an allusion to her physical nature as one of the powers of light. Farnell (Cults, p. 275) points out that at the same time she is certainly looked upon as in some way connected with the health-divinities, since in her temple she is grouped with Asclepius and Hygieia (see Hygieia).

She already appears as the goddess of counsel (iroXv)30vXos) in the Iliad and in Hesiod. The Attic bouleutae took the oath by Athena Boulaia; at Sparta she was ayopaia, presiding over the popular assemblies in the market-place; in Arcadia µnXavZTts, the discoverer of devices. The epithet rrpovoia (" forethought") is due, according to Farnell, to a confusion with irpovaLa, referring to a statue of the goddess standing "before a shrine," and arose later (probably spreading from Delphi), some time after the Persian wars, in which she repelled a Persian attack on the temples "by divine forethought"; another legend attributes the name to her skill in assisting Leto at the birth of Apollo and Artemis. With this aspect of her character may be compared the Hesiodic legend, according to which she was the daughter of Metis. Her connexion with the trial of Orestes, the introduction of a milder form of punishment for justifiable homicide, and the institution of the court TO HaXXa54, show the important part played by her in the development of legal ideas.

The protectress of cities was naturally also a goddess of war. As Such she appears in Homer and Hesiod and in post-Homeric legend as the slayer of the Gorgon and taking part in the battle of the giants. On numerous monuments she is represented as apeia, "the warlike," vuoicb6pos, " bringer of victory," holding an image of Nike (q.v.) in her outstretched hand (for other similar epithets see Roscher's Lexikon). She was also the goddess of the arts of war in general; rTotXEia, she who draws up the ranks for battle, c,.)QTnpia, she who girds herself for the fray. Martial music (cp. 'ABi i vn vaXorty,, "trumpet") and the Pyrrhic dance, in which she herself is said to have taken part to commemorate the victory over the giants, and the building of war-ships were attributed to her. She instructed certain of her favourites in gymnastics and athletics, as a useful training for war. The epithets i-rriria, XaXtviTts, 5a t ta6t7r7r-os, usually referred to her as goddess of war-horses, may perhaps be reminiscences of an older religion in which the horse was sacred to her. As a war-goddess, she is the embodiment of prudent and intelligent tactics, entirely different from Ares, the personification of brute force and rashness, who is fitly represented as suffering defeat at her hands. She is the patroness and protectress of those heroes who are distinguished for their prudence and caution, and in the Trojan War she sides with the more civilized Greeks.

The goddess of war develops into the goddess of peace and the pursuits connected with it. She is prominent as the promoter of agriculture in Attic legend. The Athenian hero Erechtheus (Erichthonius), originally an earth-god, is her foster-son, with whom she was honoured in the Erechtheum on the Acropolis. Her oldest priestesses, the dew-sisters - Aglauros, Herse, Pandrosos - signify the fertilization of the earth by the dew, and were probably at one time identified with Athena, as surnames of whom both Aglauros and Pandrosos are found. The story of the voluntary sacrifice of the Attic maiden Aglauros on behalf of her country in time of war (commemorated by the ephebi taking the oath of loyalty to their country in her temple), and of the leap of the three sisters over the Acropolis rock (see Erechtheus), probably points to an old human sacrifice. Athena also gave the Athenians the olive-tree, which was supposed to have sprung from the bare soil of the Acropolis, when smitten by her spear, close to the horse (or spring of water) produced by the trident of Poseidon, to which he appealed in support of his claim to the lordship of Athens. She is also connected with Poseidon in the legend of Erechtheus, not as being in any way akin to the former in nature or character, but as indicating the contest between an old and a new religion. This god, whose worship was introduced into Athens at a later date by the Ionian immigrants, was identified with ErechtheusErichthonius (for whose birth Athena was in a certain sense responsible), and thus was brought into connexion with the goddess, in order to effect a reconciliation of the two cults. Athena was said to have invented the plough, and to have taught men to tame horses and yoke oxen. Various arts were attributed to her - shipbuilding, the goldsmith's craft, fulling, shoemaking and other branches of industry. As early as Homer she takes especial interest in the occupations of women; she makes Hera's robe and her own peplus, and spinning and weaving are often called "the works of Athena." The custom of offering a beautifully woven peplus at the Panathenaic festival is connected with her character as Ergane the goddess of industry.' As patroness of the arts, she is associated with Hephaestus (one of her titles is `H4at6Tia) and Prometheus, and in Boeotia she was regarded as the inventress of the flute. According to Pindar, she imitated on the flute the dismal wail of the two surviving Gorgons after the death of Medusa. The legend that Athena, observing in the water the distortion of her features caused by playing that instrument, flung it away, probably indicates that the Boeotians whom the Athenians regarded with contempt, used the flute in their worship of the Boeotian Athena. The story of the slaying of Medusa by Athena, in which there is no certain evidence that she played a direct part, explained by Roscher as the scattering of the storm-cloud, probably arose from the fact that she is represented as wearing the Gorgon's head as a badge.

As in the case of Aphrodite and Apollo, Roscher in his Lexikon deduces all the characteristics of Athena from a single conception - that of the goddess of the storm or the thunder-cloud (for a discussion of such attempts see Farnell, Cults, i. pp. 3, 263). There seems little reason for regarding her as a nature-goddess at all, but rather as the presiding divinity of states and cities, of the arts and industries - in short, as the goddess of the whole intellectual side of human. life.

Except at Athens, little is known of the ceremonies or festivals which attended her worship. There we have the following. (r) The ceremony of the Three Sacred Ploughs, by which the signal for seed-time was given, apparently dating from a period when agriculture was one of the chief occupations of her worshippers. (2) The Procharisteria at the end of winter, at which thanks were offered for the germination of the seed. (3) The Scirophoria, with a procession from the Acropolis to the village of Skiron, in the height of summer, the priests who were to entreat her to keep off the summer heat walking under the shade of parasols (aKipov) held over them; others, however, connect the name with crKipos (" gypsum"), perhaps used for smearing the image of the goddess. (4) The Oschophoria, at the vintage season, with races among boys, and a procession, with songs in praise of Dionysus and Ariadne. (5) The Chalkeia (feast of smiths), at which the birth of Erechtheus and the invention. of the plough were celebrated. (6) The Plynteria and Callynteria, at which her ancient image and peplus in the Erechtheum and the temple itself were cleaned, with a procession in which bunches of figs (frequently used in lustrations) were carried. (7) The Arrhephoria or Errephoria (perhaps =-- "dew-bearing"), at which four girls, between seven and eleven years of age, selected from noble families, carried certain unknown sacred objects to and from the temple of Aphrodite "in tie gardens" '(see' J. E. Harrison, Classical Review, April 1880). (8) The Panathenaea, at which the new robes for the image of the goddess were carried through the city, spread like a sail on a mast. The reliefs of the frieze of the cella of the Parthenon enable us to form an idea of the procession. Athletic games, open to all who traced their nationality to Athens, were part of this festival. Mention should also be made of the Argive ' According to J. E. Harrison in Classical Review (June 1894), Athena Ergane is the goddess of the fruits of the field and the procreation of children.

ceremony, at which the xoanon (ancient wooden statue) of Athena was washed in the river Inachus, a symbol of her purification after the Gigantomachia.

The usual attributes of Athena were the helmet, the aegis, the round shield with the head of Medusa in the centre, the lance, an olive branch, the owl, the cock and the snake. Of these the aegis, usually explained as a storm-cloud, is probably intended as a battle-charm, like the Gorgon's head on the shield and the faces on the shields of Chinese soldiers; the owl probably represents the form under which she was worshipped in primitive times, and subsequently became her favourite bird (the epithet -yXavK6.)7rts, meaning "keen-eyed" in Homer, may have originally signified "owl-faced"); the snake, a common companion of the earth deities, probably refers to her connexion with ErechtheusErichthonius.

As to artistic representations of the goddess, we have first the rude figure which seems to be a copy of the Palladium; secondly, the still rude, but otherwise more interesting, figures of her, as e.g. when accompanying heroes, on the early painted vases; and thirdly, the type of her as produced by Pheidias, from which little variation appears to have been made. Of his numerous statues of her, the three most celebrated were set up on the Acropolis. (1) Athena Parthenos, in the Parthenon. It was in ivory and gold, and 30 ft. high. She was represented standing, in a long tunic; on her head was a helmet, ornamented with sphinxes and griffins; on her breast was the aegis, fringed with serpents and the Gorgon's head in centre. In her right hand was a Nike or winged victory, while her left held a spear, which rested on a shield on which were represented the battles of the Amazons with the giants. (2) A colossal statue said to have been formed from the spoils taken at Marathon, the so-called Athena Promachos. (3) Athena Lemnia, so called because it had been dedicated by the Athenian cleruchies in Lemnos. In this she was represented without arms, as a brilliant type of virgin beauty. The two last statues were of bronze. From the time of Pheidias calm earnestness, self-conscious might, and clearness of intellect were the main characteristics of the goddess. The eyes, slightly cast down, betoken an attitude of thoughtfulness; the forehead is clear and open; the mouth indicates firmness and resolution. The whole suggests a masculine rather than a feminine form.

From Greece the worship of Athena extended to Magna Graecia, where a number of temples were erected to her in various places. In Italy proper she was identified with Minerva.

See articles in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopadie; W. H. Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie; Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquite's (s.v. " Minerva"); L. Preller, Griechische Mythologie; W. H. Roscher, "Die Grundbedeutung der Athene," in Nektar and Ambrosia (1883); F. A. Voigt, "Beitrage zur Mythologie des Ares and Athena," in Leipziger Studien, iv. (1881); L. R. Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States, i. (1896); J. E. Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903), for the festivals especially; O. Gruppe, Griechische Mythologie, ii. (1907). In the article GREEK ART, fig. 21 represents Athena in the act of striking a prostrate giant; fig. 38 a statuette of Athena Parthenos, a replica of the work of Pheidias. (J. H. F.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Athéna




  • enPR: ə-thēʹnə, IPA: /əˈθinə/, SAMPA: /@"Tin@/
  • AHD: /ăthēnä/

Proper noun




Wikipedia has an article on:


  1. (Greek mythology) The goddess of wisdom, especially strategic warfare, the arts, and especially crafts, in particular, weaving; daughter of Zeus and Hera

Derived terms

  • Athena Polias


See also


Strategy wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From StrategyWiki, the free strategy guide and walkthrough wiki

Box artwork for Athena.
Developer(s) SNK
Publisher(s) SNK
Japanese title アテナ
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action
System(s) Arcade, NES, Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Players 1-2

Athena is a platform arcade game, produced and published in 1986 by SNK. The game features traditional role-playing game elements. Princess Athena has to beat the boss of each stage by using miscellaneous mythological weapons, equipments and items. Without some items, she can not make it through the adventures. Everything in the game is inspired by Greek mythology or ancient Roman culture including weapons, equipments, items and enemy designs.

The game was ported to the Famicom and NES platform by Micronics. This port of Athena is considered one of the most difficult to finish in the NES library, due to its length, lack of mid-level checkpoints, and unforgiving play control. Conversions were also done for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 in 1987 by Ocean Software under their Imagine label, published only for the European market. (Despite popular belief, a conversion was never released for the Amstrad CPC.)


Athena (based on the Greek goddess of the same name) is a selfish princess of the Kingdom of Victory, which inhabits a mysterious world. She grows bored with the monotonous life day by day in her castle and desires exciting adventures. One day she opened the Door Which Shouldn't Be Opened in the basement of Castle Victory, and fell to another world called Fantasy World which was dominated by an evil emperor Dante, a creature based on Cerberus.


  • 1999: Athena appears in the SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash trading card game series, as an SNK character card and as an Action/Counter card.
  • 2000: After the first adventure, Princess Athena faded out of SNK's stages until fourteen years later, she appears as Athena Asamiya's "Another Striker" in KOF 2000.
  • 2003: She is a secret boss in SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom as an angelic being guarding the entrance to the Heaven World, which is supposed to be one of the stages of this game. (Contrarily, the Capcom character Red Arremer as another secret boss guards the entrance to the Hell World.)
  • 2005: After being defeated in SVC Chaos, she is sent to Earth, the human world, by Kamisama for further training through the fighting tournament summoned by WAREZ in SNK Playmore's next dream match game NeoGeo Battle Coliseum as a playable hidden character.
  • 2006: Athena: Full Throttle is a platform mobile game, produced and published SNK Playmore for the i-mode on FOMA90x platform, as a real sequel of the original Athena video game. After Princess Athena defeats Dante, she becomes bored once again with peaceful days without adventures. This time she opens the Door Which Shouldn't Be Opened: B, disregarding the advice from her loyal maid Helene, and they both fall to the Elysium World to face a bunch of new villains.

Table of Contents


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!


Developer(s) SNK
Publisher(s) SNK
Release date Arcade:
Commodore 64:
1987 (NA)
1987 (EU)
June 5, 1987 (JP)
1987 (NA)
Genre 2D platformer
Mode(s) Single player
Age rating(s) N/A
Platform(s) Arcade
Commodore 64
Nintendo Entertainment System
Media Cartridge
Input NES Controller
Credits | Soundtrack | Codes | Walkthrough


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