In ancient Greek religion, Athena was a goddess of war, handicraft, and practical reason. In modern times she is associated primarily with Athens, to which she gave her name and protection. The Romans identified her with Minerva.
Athena, the daughter of Zeus, was produced without a mother and emerged full-grown from his forehead.
Athena wears an aegis, body armor, and lance, she is associated with birds, particularly the owl, which became famous as the symbol of the city of Athens.
In Homer’s Iliad, Athena, as a war goddess, inspires and fights alongside the Greek heroes.
Athena’s association with the acropolises of various Greek cities probably stemmed from the location of the kings’ palaces there. She may not have been described as a virgin originally, but virginity was attributed to her very early.
Athena became the goddess of crafts and skilled peacetime pursuits in general. She was particularly known as the patroness of spinning and weaving.
Two Athenians, the sculptor Phidias and the playwright Aeschylus contributed significantly to the cultural dissemination of Athena’s image. Athena was customarily portrayed wearing body armor and a helmet and carrying a shield and a lance.
According to Pseudo-Apollodorus’s Bibliotheca, Athena advised Argos, the builder of the Argo, and aided in the ship’s construction. Athena gave Perseus a polished bronze shield to view Medusa’s reflection rather than looking at her directly.
Athena is frequently shown aiding the hero Heracles. She appears in four of the twelve metopes on the Temple of Zeus at Olympia depicting Heracles’s Twelve Labors.
In The Odyssey, Odysseus’ cunning and shrewd nature quickly win Athena’s favor. For the first part of the poem, she is largely confined to aiding him only from afar.
The Gorgoneion appears to have originated as an apotropaic symbol intended to ward off evil. Medusa is described as having been a young priestess who served in the temple of Athena in Athens. Athena transformed Medusa into a hideous monster with serpents for hair whose gaze would turn any mortal to stone.
In his Twelfth Pythian Ode, Pindar recounts the story of how Athena invented the aulos, a flute, in imitation of the lamentations of Medusa’s sisters, the Gorgons, after she was beheaded by the hero Perseus.
A myth told by the early third-century BC Hellenistic poet Callimachus in his Hymn 5 begins with Athena bathing in a spring on Mount Helicon at midday with one of her favorite companions, the nymph Chariclo.
The fable of Arachne appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (8 AD) (vi.5–54 and 129–145), which is nearly the only extant source for the legend. The story does not appear to have been well known prior to Ovid’s rendition of it.
Athena wove the scene of her victory over Poseidon in the contest for the patronage of Athens. Athena also depicted the 12 Olympian gods and the defeat of mythological figures who challenged their authority. Arachne’s tapestry featured twenty-one episodes of the deities’ infidelity.
The myth of the Judgement of Paris is mentioned briefly in the Iliad but is described in depth in an epitome of the Cypria, a lost poem of the Epic Cycle, which records that all the gods and goddesses were invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (the eventual parents of Achilles
In classical depictions, Athena is usually portrayed standing upright, wearing a full-length chiton. She is most often represented dressed in armor like a male soldier and wearing a Corinthian helmet.
During the Middle Ages, Athena became widely used as a Christian symbol and allegory, and she appeared on the family crests of certain noble houses. During the Renaissance, Athena donned the mantle of patron of the arts and human endeavor. During the French Revolution, statues of pagan gods were torn down all throughout France.
Freud once described Athena as “a woman who is unapproachable and repels all sexual desires”. Athena is a major deity in Hellenismos, a Neopagan religion that seeks to authentically revive and recreate the religion of ancient Greece in the modern world.