Athena – Goddess of Wisdom and Patron of Athens
Athena, the goddess of wisdom and military victory, was also the patron of the city of Athens. She was Hercules’ half-sister and her parents were Zeus and Metis, a nymph. Her birth is unique in that she did not have a mother. Accordingly, when Metis was pregnant, Zeus swallowed her, and Athena sprang full grown and clad in armour from Zeus’ forehead after experiencing an enormous headache.
Athena has a special attraction for me. Out of all the gods and goddesses, she is the one that draws my attention and admiration.
Athena is known as the Greek virgin goddess of reason, intelligent activity, arts and literature. She is also known most specifically for her strategic skill in warfare and is often portrayed as companion of heroes. Athena is the patron goddess of heroic endeavour. She was, perhaps, the wisest, most courageous, and certainly the most resourceful of the Olympian gods.
Epithets of Athena include Pallas (girl) and Parthenos (virgin), and she lived up to these as she was conspicuous amongst the other gods for not indulging in illicit relationships with any other divinities, demigods, or mortals. Other epithets were Promachos (of war) – perhaps referring to more patriotic, defensive, and strategic warfare rather than attacking. Ergane (of the crafts), and Nike (victory).
The goddess was not to be trifled with – she was quite fierce! Just think about her transformation of Medusa into a Gorgon. Her sense of justice was strong and such that acts of impiety were swiftly avenged. Another example is with the Archaean heroes following their capture of Troy and desecration of the goddess’ sanctuary.
She is closely associated with Athens, which was named in her honour after the people of Attica chose her as their patron following her gift of the olive tree, symbol of peace and plenty. The temple of Parthenon, on the site of the Acropolis, was built in her honour. Athena is also associated with household crafts, giving mortals the gifts of cooking and sewing.
Objects associated with the goddess include an owl —symbol of wisdom— and the olive tree. She is often depicted in art with armour, a golden helmet, a shield, and holding a spear. Images of the Greek goddess Athena tell us something about “the feminine”, and so have relevance to our current debates on gender and the nature of women and men.
What does Athena mean to you? Some say that you can call upon Athena’s energy when you need to remain impartial in an emotional situation, or if circumstances are making it difficult for you to stay true to yourself and your own beliefs. If you are being pressured by others to do something that doesn’t seem completely ethical to you, think of Athena’s unyielding confidence and sense of right and wrong.
What about you, what is your favourite mythology story? I would love to hear from you. Post your comments below. Why don’t you share this with your friends and family by clicking the Facebook icon? Or try following us on Twitter?
About the Author: Carole Langman works behind the scenes at Bowerland Cottage Holidays and Devon Dogs as the Business Manager. Her office is always a hive of activity, and with the vast amounts of work Carole has, we never really know how she gets through it all! To unwind, she loves gardening, hikes around Bowerland, travelling and writing.