Athena by H.A. Guerber
Source: The Story of Greeks
Symbols: Owl, serpent, armor, olive tree, shield, and the spear
Parents: Zeus (father) and Metis (mother)
Abode: Mount Olympus
Roman name: Minerva
Athena is a goddess in Greek mythology and one of the Twelve Olympians. She is most famous for being the patron god of the city of Athens. Athena also helped many of the Greek heroes such as Hercules and Odysseus on their adventures.
How was Athena usually pictured?
Athena was often depicted as a warrior goddess armed with a spear, a shield, and a helmet. Sometimes she would be wearing a cloak or shield (Aegis) adorned with the head of the monster Medusa.
What powers and skills did she have?
Like all the Olympians, Athena was an immortal goddess and could not die. She was one of the most intelligent and wisest of the Greek gods. She was also good at war strategy and giving heroes courage.
Athena's special powers included the ability to invent useful items and crafts. She invented the ship, chariot, plow, and rake. She also invented many of the skills used by women in Ancient Greece such as weaving and pottery.
Birth of Athena
Athena's father was the god Zeus, the leader of the Olympians, and her mother was a Titan named Metis. Although Zeus was married to Metis he feared her power. One day he heard a prophesy that one of Metis' children would take his throne. He promptly swallowed Metis and considered the problem solved.
Unknown to Zeus, Metis was already pregnant with Athena. She birthed Athena inside of Zeus and made her a helmet, shield, and spear. As Athena grew inside of Zeus's head, he got a really bad headache. Eventually he couldn't stand it anymore and he had the god Hephaestus crack open his head with an ax. Athena jumped out of Zeus's head. She was full-grown and armed with a spear and shield.
Protector of the City of Athens
Athena became the patron goddess of the city of Athens after winning a contest with the god Poseidon. Each god presented the city with a gift. Poseidon invented the horse and presented it to the city. Athena invented the olive tree and gave it to the city. While both gifts were useful, the people of the city decided the olive tree was more valuable and Athena became their patron.
The people of Athens honored Athena by building a large acropolis in the center of the city. At the top of the acropolis they constructed a beautiful temple to Athena called the Parthenon.
Helping out Heroes
Athena is famous in Greek mythology for helping out heroes on their adventures. She helped Hercules achieve his twelve labors, Perseus figure out how to defeat Medusa, Odysseus on his adventures in the Odyssey, and Jason in building his magical ship the Argo.
Legend of Arachne
Athena invented the craft of weaving and was considered the greatest weaver in Greek mythology. One day, however, a shepherd's daughter named Arachne claimed she was the world's greatest weaver. This angered Athena who visited Arachne and challenged her to a weaving contest. As the contest began, Athena wove a picture of how the gods punished mortals for claiming to be their equals. Arachne then wove a picture of how the gods interfered and played with the lives of mortals.
When the contest was over, Athena saw Arachne's weaving and became angry. Not only was the work better than Athena's, it made the gods look foolish. She then cursed Arachne and turned her into a spider.
Interesting Facts About the Greek Goddess Athena
- She was close friends and attended to by Nike, the goddess of victory.
- She is pictured on the state seal of California.
- Athena represented the more glorious aspects of war such as courage, strategy, and discipline.
- She helped Achilles to kill the great Trojan warrior Hector in the Trojan War.
- Her other names and titles include "protector of the city", "Pallas", "goddess of council", and "gray eyes."
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