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Greek Mythology

Athena

Greek goddess Athena holding staff and wearing helmet
Athena by H.A. Guerber
Source: The Story of Greeks

History >> Ancient Greece >> Greek Mythology

Goddess of: Wisdom, courage, and crafts
Symbols: Owl, serpent, armor, olive tree, shield, and the spear
Parents: Zeus (father) and Metis (mother)
Children: None
Spouse: None
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 Take a ten question quiz about this page.

For more about Ancient Greece:

Overview
Timeline of Ancient Greece
Geography
The City of Athens
Sparta
Minoans and Mycenaeans
Greek City-states
Peloponnesian War
Persian Wars
Decline and Fall
Legacy of Ancient Greece
Glossary and Terms

Arts and Culture
Ancient Greek Art
Drama and Theater
Architecture
Olympic Games
Government of Ancient Greece
Greek Alphabet

Daily Life
Daily Lives of the Ancient Greeks
Typical Greek Town
Food
Clothing
Women in Greece
Science and Technology
Soldiers and War
Slaves

People
Alexander the Great
Archimedes
Aristotle
Pericles
Plato
Socrates
25 Famous Greek People
Greek Philosophers

Greek Mythology
Greek Gods and Mythology
Hercules
Achilles
Monsters of Greek Mythology
The Titans
The Iliad
The Odyssey

The Olympian Gods
Zeus
Hera
Poseidon
Apollo
Artemis
Hermes
Athena
Ares
Aphrodite
Hephaestus
Demeter
Hestia
Dionysus
Hades

Works Cited

History >> Ancient Greece >> Greek Mythology


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