Goddess Athena was the mythological goddess of wisdom, but also the poetic symbol of reason and purity. Goddess Athena was very important to the Greeks, since they named her the Iliad’s goddess of fight, the warrior-defender, the protector of civilized life and artisan activities and so on…
Indeed, the Greek Mythology seems to be endlessly referring to Goddess Athena, one of the most known but also most influential Goddesses of all.
Admired and celebrated, Athena really had a significant role in the Greek mythology and in the lives of the Athenians and all Greeks. An important thing to have in mind is that Athena was the goddess of wisdom in a patriarchal society where women were not more than sexual servants. This fact has been quite advanced for that time. The Symbol of Goddess Athena is the owl, a bird also associated with wisdom and intelligence.
Athena keeps being an endless inspiration for artists of all kind and became a Roman Goddess as well, named Minerva. Since the antiquity, many artists have included Goddess Athens in their plays and paintings, denoting her importance and dual role in the lives of people.
Goddess Athena, the Patron Goddess of Athens
Goddess Athena gave the name to the city of Athens. Athens is called Athina (Athéna) in Greek, named after its patron Goddess. In Greek Goddess Athena is called Athená, so the only difference between the greek name of the goddess and the name of the city of Athens is the intonation.
The patron deity of the city of Athens was also the creator of the olive tree and desire for peace. Goddess Athena was admired all over Greece, but her timeless home has always been Athens.
Goddess Athena won in the competition with Poseidon over the patronage of the city state of Athens. Poseidon hit the ground with his trident and running water came out, while Athena offered an olive tree as a symbol of peace and prosperity.
Goddess Athena and the Parthenon
Athena was also known as Parthenos (the virgin), and that’s why the most famous ancient temple in Athens, dedicated to her, was named the Parthenon.
There are two more temples dedicated to her at the Acropolis – the Athena Nike and the Erectheum.
The birth of Athena
The myth says Athena was born as an adult, by no mother: rather she was the child of the mighty Zeus and she came out from his head.
Some would say that her birth marked the end of all headaches, since Zeus suffered a lot after swallowing his first wife, Metis.
Hesiod offers a detailed version of this myth: When Zeus’s wife Metis was about to give birth, Zeus decided to deceive he, following the advice of Mother Earth and Father Sky. He assimilated Metis into his body, because he wanted to avoid having a son who could be a menace to his highest rank.
The predominant belief about the birth of Athena is that Zeus really delivered Athena when Hephaestus, as the midwife, stroke Zeus’s head with an axe.
The role of Goddess Athena as warrior and protector
The myth also says that Athena was born fully armed, and thus, was considered the goddess- warrior. Despite this she always preferred wisdom over fight. But being the warrior didn’t prevent her to offer so much to humanity; from industries and agriculture, to flute, wagons, shipbuilding…
And last, but not least, Goddess Athena was considered as the provider of all basic knowledge necessary for the civilization. She was also very self-sufficient, very sweet and friendly to sincere people. At the same time, she could be very destructive to the ignorant ones.
The Greek myths and stories related to Athena are endless, charming and intriguing. But more than that, they are fascinating and sometimes funny, since the ancient Greeks were not deprived of wittiness and humor.
Athena protected and helped Perseus in his impossible task, to kill the Gordon Medusa. Perseus indeed managed to fulfill his task, and offered Medusa’s head to Athena, as a thank you gift for her valuable help. Athena placed the face of Medusa on her breast plate.
Athena was also an ally of many big heroes, namely Odysseus and Heracles (Hercules). For Odysseus she was always there, as testified in the Odyssey. He had some doubts and Athena responded: “‘Most people are content to put their trust in far less powerful allies, mere men and not equipped with wisdom such as mine. But I that have never ceased to watch over you in all your adventures am a goddess“.