Athena: The Greek Goddess of Beautiful Inspiration and Warfare
Athena, goddess of inspiration, warfare, and wisdom, is one of the 12 main deities on Mount Olympus. She is also one of the most important and respected deities in the Ancient Greek tradition. She is the goddess of inspiration, warfare, and creativity, and her Roman version is Minerva. Read this article to find out how she entered the world through unusual means.
Who Is Athena in Greek Mythology?
Athena is the goddess of inspiration, logic, wisdom and warfare in Greek mythology. She is the embodiment of logical thought and cold calculation. She was brilliant, strategic, and a planner. Even though she was a woman, she was revered by men in Ancient Greece as a leader in warfare.
She was worshipped throughout Greece, but her main cult resided in Athens, hence the name. It was her place because that was the intellectual center of the Ancient Greeks. They built many buildings in her name: most famously, the Parthenon. Because of her existence, it showed the value of intelligence, strategy, and wisdom in Greek culture.
Athena, as a daughter of Zeus, had a unique beginning. She burst out of his forehead, and that makes sense for what she came to represent. It was a rough beginning, but she eventually became Zeus’ favorite child. She took part in many myths, and she had a role in many important aspects of Greek culture and history.
Etymology of the Goddess Athena: What’s in a Name?
There is some confusion and debate about the origin of the name Athena. Plato offered the idea that Homer’s thoughts on the name might have been correct. The latter, in fact, suggested that Athena came from the combination “mind” or “noũs” and “intelligence” or “diánoia.” But that was later decided not to be the case.
Most believe that her name comes from “Athênai” which is the Greek name for Athens. Deities were usually named for the places for which they were known. She went by many epithets which described characteristics of Athena. These epithets included:
- Parthenos, meaning “virgin”
- Pallas, meaning “girl”
- Promachos, meaning “of war”
- Ergane, meaning “of the crafts”
- Athena Nike, meaning “victorious Athena”
- In other stories she was also described as “bright-eyed,” “goddess of spoil,” and the “lovely-haired goddess”
What Is Athena Known For?
Athena is known for emerging from the head of her father. She is also known for representing inspiration and warfare. She is also known for being a patron and champion of heroes, such as the famed Hercules.
– What Is Athena’s Symbol?
Athena is most often portrayed as wearing a whole suit of armor and carrying a sword. Her other symbols are owls, snakes and olive trees, as well as helmets.
– The Unique Origin of Athena: How Was Athena Born?
Athena was the child of Zeus and his first wife Metis. But, because Zeus overthrew his father Cronus, he was worried that his own children would overthrow him. After he found out that Metis was pregnant, he swallowed her, hoping to keep himself safe from overthrow. His father had also swallowed his children to keep himself safe.
But in this case, Athena and her mother were not to be silenced. They made such noise and clamor inside of Zeus’ head that he begged for relief. He called for Hephaestus to bring an ax and split his head open. Athena stepped out of her father fully grown and dressed in armor, ready for her life ahead.
The story of Hephaestus assisting his father is a very popular one. Indeed, this aspect of the story is the one that is often shown in art. Zeus and Athena had sort of a rough and painful start. But she eventually became his favorite child and something akin to a sage for the king of gods.
Athena’s Husbands, Lovers, Siblings and Children
Athena was the only child of Zeus and Metis. She was very much loved by her father. She had no full siblings, but she had many half-siblings. Many of her siblings included famed deities such as Hermes, Persephone, Ares, Artemis and Apollo.
You may inquire about Athena’s husband, but she had no lovers or husbands. She is sometimes seen as sort of “immune to romantic love.” Her focus isn’t on love or romantic relationships. Therefore, she also didn’t have any children. But in some stories, she did adopt the early leader of Athens, named Erichthonius.
Mythology of Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and Inspiration
Athena had a role in many myths, and the story of Athena is mostly tales of political or religious import. She was called upon for blessings to inspire, bestow wisdom, and assist with military strategy. She lived on throughout Ancient Greek culture to the Ancient Romans as well. In the Roman world, she became Minerva.
– The Goddess of Wisdom and the Patronage of Athens
There are a few stories that explain how the great city of Athens became patronized by Athena. One of them states that Athena and her uncle Poseidon fought against each other to be the patron. They both decided they would give a gift to the city, and the king named Cecrops would be the one to choose the best gift. Poseidon put his trident in the ground unleashing a wave of saltwater.
In another story, he gave Athens horses. Athena offered an olive tree as a gift, and Cecrops accepted the gift happily. Athena was given the position as patron of the city, and Greece became so linked with olives. Olives became an integral part of the culture.
It also became one of Greece’s main exports. Athena became the city’s patron, and we don’t know if she got her name from the city or if the city got its name from her.
– Athena and Hephaestus: The Accidental Birth of a Son
The goddess indeed had no lovers or children, but Athena’s brother, Hephaestus, attempted to rape her in one of the myths. Just in time, she pulled away from him, and he ejaculated on her thigh. She wiped it off and threw the cloth onto the ground. This act impregnated Gaia, the mother goddess, and she bore Erichthonius.
He became one of the leaders of Athens, and Athena chose him as her adoptive son. But in a different story, Hephaestus was able to get Zeus’ consent to marry Athena. He thought that because he had helped to get Athena out of Zeus’ head, she owed him something. They were married, and while in the marriage bed, Athena squirmed out of the way.
Hephaestus ejaculated onto the ground, and this also impregnated the mother goddess. If they did get married, then the relationship would have broken later because Hephaestus married Aphrodite. Athena remained a virgin goddess throughout her life.
– The Future of Erichthonius, the Adoptive Son of Athena
After he was born, Erichthonius’ tales moved in a few directions. One direction was that Athena put the baby into a chest and sent him away to stay with the three daughters of King Cecrops. She told the daughters not to open the box, but they eventually did out of curiosity. Inside, all they found was a coiled-up snake.
In another version of the story, the child was there but just guarded by a snake. Or, the child’s legs were snakes. After they saw what was in the box, they threw themselves to their deaths, all three sisters. In art, sometimes Athena is shown with a snake. In addition, the snake became the protector of the great intellectual city.
– Athena, the Goddess of Strategy and Patron of Heroes
Athena was the patron of famed Greek heroes, and she often showed herself in various stories. She would come at just the right moment and give her advice.
In one story, Athena gave advice to Argos on how to build the famous ship “Argo.” This was the ship that would take Jason and the Argonauts across the sea on their search for the Golden Fleece.
In another tale, Athena was the one who helped Perseus in his efforts to kill the dangerous Medusa. She was the monster who would turn you to stone if you looked at her, so Athena gave Perseus a reflective shield. He could look into it and see her instead of looking straight at her, and thus he was able to kill her.
Finally, Athena and Hercules were also linked because she helped him in one of his Twelve Labors. He was sent to steal apples from Hera’s garden, and Atlas’ daughters guarded it. He told Atlas he would hold up the sky for him while he asked the daughters to gather the apples.
But the sky grew too heavy, and Athena rushed in to help hold the sky for him.
– Athena Joins a Competition: Who is the Fairest of Them All?
Athena appeared in Homer’s, the “Iliad,” as part of a competition between three goddesses. Hera, Aphrodite and Athena each wanted to know who was the most beautiful of the three. The reason was that they wanted to own a golden apple inscribed with the phrase, “to the fairest” on it. Zeus commissioned Paris, Prince of Troy, to choose between the goddesses, but he couldn’t decide.
So, the three goddesses decided to bribe him to make him choose. Hera offered him political power; Athena offered him the glories of victory in battle; and Aphrodite told him that he could marry the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose the third option, and Aphrodite brought about the abduction of Helen from Sparta. This action triggered the Trojan War.
– The Military Goddess Playing Interference During the Trojan War
Athena used her powers to try and sway people to a certain side, advise them, or even change the tide of battles during the Trojan War. She was the one who backed the Greeks against Troy, and her interference would usually come in the form of whispering advice in the ears of men.
In one example, she helped to calm Achilles’ rage at King Agamemnon, thus preventing a particular battle from happening. She promised him rewards if he didn’t fight against him.
But that didn’t mean she didn’t like the fighting. Later in the story, both sides decided that the battle could be finally decided if King Menelaus and Prince Paris would fight together. Then, it could all be settled. But Athena wanted to continue the main battles.
There was a sort of truce between the two armies while they decided this, and Athena dressed herself up as a warrior named Laodocus. She told a Trojan general named Pandaros to fire an arrow at Menelaus because she told him that if the King of Sparta were to die, all would be sorted. He did, and she directed the arrow, making it only injure Menelaus instead of killing him. This broke the truce, and the fighting began anew, just what Athena wanted.
– Athena in the “Odyssey,” Giving Advice and Doing Tricks
In Homer’s “Odyssey,” Athena gave wisdom to the great Odysseus as he began his journey home back to his wife. She also provided counsel to his son Telemachus. But strangely, she also seemed to enjoy tricking him. In one story, she appeared to Odysseus in person dressed as a shepherd.
When he was back in his home in Ithaca, she came to him, and she told him that his wife Penelope had decided to find a new lover. Odysseus was furious, but he didn’t quite believe the shepherd because he believed in his wife. Athena saw that she was unable to trick him, and thus she revealed her true form to him. She told him the truth, that his wife was overcome with suitors for her hand now that her husband was gone for so long.
She also told him that his wife waited for him. Odysseus rushed home dressed as a beggar according to Athena’s suggestion. Armed with the knowledge about the suitors, he was able to kill every last one of them and return to his former life.
How Was Athena Worshipped?
Athens was the main city where Athena was worshipped, but she was worshipped in other cities as well. She was worshipped in various ways, at various times, and for various reasons. These included:
- The Feast of the Bath: This was a festival at the end of May, and it was celebrated every year. It was a five-day sort of cleansing ritual. Athena’s priestesses would undress her statue, wash the clothes and purify the “body.”
- She was worshipped at a festival named Chalceia. This was a festival dedicated to bronze and metalworkers and other craftsmen.
- She was believed to be the one to lead soldiers into battle, and she was much more highly regarded than Ares, god of war. They celebrated her at military festivals such as the Panathenaic Games and Pamboeotia.
Athena in Pop Culture
Athena is the embodiment of reason, logic, mental strength, and military strategy. For that reason, you might find her statue outside of government buildings or on seals, etc. She also appears in:
- The tv show “Xena: Warrior Princess”
- The video game “God of War”
- The California state seal where she is carrying both a spear and a shield
Take a look at the main points about Athena covered in the article above:
- Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom, creativity, inspiration, and military strategy and warfare. She is one of the 12 major deities from Mount Olympus, and she is one of ancient Greece’s most important and revered goddesses. Her Roman counterpart is Minerva
- Her city was Athens, the intellectual center of the Greeks. Many of the buildings there were built in her name, especially the Parthenon.
- Because of her importance in their tradition and mythology, it showed just how much the Greeks valued wisdom, intelligence, and logic.
- There’s a lot of confusion about the origin of her name. But either she could be the inspiration for Athens or the other way around.
- She is likely most famously known for her unique birth story, emerging from her father’s head. Athena was the child of Zeus and Metis. The king of the gods swallowed a pregnant Metis in fear that his child would overthrow him. Athena burst out through his forehead with the help of Hephestus. She later became his favorite child and often gave him sage advice.
- She was a virgin goddess and had no lovers or children, even though Hephaestus tried to rape her.
- She also was a patron and aid to various famed heroes such as Perseus, Argos, and Hercules.
- Athena also got involved in the Trojan War, fighting on the Greek side. She had a role in both the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.”
- She was worshipped at various festivals, for her patronage of craftsmen and military officials.
- She appears in the tv show “Xena: Warrior Princess” and the video game “God of War” and on the state seal of California.
Athena is one of the most revered and valued goddesses in Ancient Greek culture. It’s important to mention just how important she was in all areas of wisdom, intelligence, and military strategy. She even eclipsed a man — Ares, the god of war — in terms of popularity among the Greek people. She had no lovers, no marriage, no children, and yet she made a name for herself: This is something we need to remember even today.