ATHENE (or Athena) was the great Olympian goddess of wise counsel, war, the defence of towns, heroic endeavour, weaving, pottery and other crafts. She was depicted crowned with a crested helm, armed with shield and spear, and wearing the snake-trimmed aigis cloak wrapped around her breast and arm, adorned with the monstrous head of the Gorgon.
The more famous myths featuring the goddess Athene include:
- Her birth from the head of Zeus
- Her contest with Poseidon for dominion of Athens
- The War of the Giants
- The assisting of Perseus in his quest
- The assisting of Herakles with his twelve labours;
- The weaving contest with Arakhne
- The blinding of Teiresias for viewing her naked in the bath;
- The Judgement of Paris
In Greek mythology, Athena is the goddess of arts and battle. Daughter of Zeus, and only by him, the Goddess Athena was not generated by any woman. She leaped from the head of Zeus, already adult, dressed with her armour. But the mother is not completely missing from the miraculous birth of Pallas Athena. According to Hesiod's account of the weddings of Zeus, the King of the Gods chose Metis as his first wife. She was of all beings "the most knowing" (as the word metis is interpreted), or "of many counsels" as translated in the sense of the Homeric epithet polymetis.
As she was about to give birth to the Goddess Athena, Zeus deceived his pregnant wife with cunning words and assimilated her into his own body. Mother Earth and Father Sky had advised him to do this so as to prevent any of his descendants from robbing him of his kingly rank. For it was destined that the most brilliant children were to be born to the Goddess Metis: first, the daughter Athena, and later a son, the future King of Gods and men.
In the most ancient account, the Iliad, Athena is the Goddess of ferocious and implacable fight, but, wherever she can be found, she only is a warrior to defend the State and the native land against the enemies coming from outside. She is, above all, the Goddess of the City, the protectress of civilized life, of artesian activities, and of agriculture. She also invented the horse-bit, which, for the first time, tamed horses, allowing men to use them.
She is the favourite daughter of Zeus; and that's why he let her use his insignia: the terrible shield, the aegis and his devastating weapon, the ray. The most used expression to describe her is "the bright eyed". She is the first of the three virgin Goddesses, also known as Maiden, Parthenos, and from this name was taken the name to the most important Temple dedicated to her, the Parthenon. In poetry she is the incarnation of Wisdom, Reason and Purity.
Athena is the Greek word for . She had many temples spread accross Ancient Greece, the most famous being Athens, the capital of the Greek Empire. Her temples were holy ground and people came from miles to worship at her feet. She had many cults dedicated to her image but the most famous are Phokis, Malis, Thessalia, Keos, Khios, Samos and Krete.
In Roman mythology Minerva she virgin goddess of wisdom, poetry, medicine, commerce, weaving, and crafts and is much less powerful than her Greek version.
Previously the Goddess had already shown particular benevolence to the land of Athens. In the days of King Cecrops a dispute had arisen between her and Poseidon for the possession of Attica. To affirm his rights Poseidon struck the rock of the Acropolis with his trident and a salt water spring gushed forth. According to another tradition it was a horse which appeared under Poseidon's trident. Athena, in her turn, caused an olive tree to sprout on the Acropolis, a tree which could be seen in the time of Pericles, still alive in spite of having been burned by the Persians during the invasion of Xerxes. Asked to settle the dispute the Gods, on the evidence of Cecrops, pronounced in favor of Athena.
The manner in which Athena made her first appearance revealed her warlike proclivities. And, indeed, she delights above all in battle. She took part in the war against the giants, killing Pallas and hurling her chariot against Enceladus whom she finally crushed under the island of Sicily.
We find her again, equally belligerent and ardent, in the battles which raged beneath the ramparts of Troy. Not satisfied with stimulating the ardor of the Greeks - whom she favoured - she entered the skirmish herself. She put on her head a helmet of gold with jutting crest vast enough to cover the foot-soldiers of a hundred towns. Over her shoulder she slung the aegis which she had fashioned, according to some, from the skin of the giant Pallas or which - as was more generally held - was made from the hide of the goat Amaltheia. Zeus had used it for the first time during the war with the Titans and afterwards presented it to his daughter. It is a sort of cuirass or breastplate, fringed and bordered with snakes and bearing in the center the horrifying head of the Gorgon. Thus armed, Athena mounted on to the chariot of Diomedes, seized the whip and reins herself, and flung the horses against Ares, whom she stretched on the ground with a blow of her spear.
The memory of Athena's warlike prowess was perpetuated in Libya in annual festivals during which girls, divided into two camps, would stage a furious battle with sticks and stones.