Athena, also known as "Athene," "Pallas Athena," or "Athina," was one of the three virgin goddesses (these were the goddesses that remained independent, despite Aphrodite’s spells, and were never involved in marriage or motherhood). Athena was known for her decisions; they were fair and just, as well as compassionate. Athena is the goddess of various things; the most prominent being wisdom, war, and crafts. Although she is the goddess of war, it is not necessarily the fighting aspect of war that she presides over. Rather, it is the planning and strategy of warfare that she is known for. Even though she is mainly recognized for war strategy, she is also brave and fierce in battle.

Vase - Birth of Athena

This is artwork on a vase depicting the birth of Athena.

== Athena was born out of Zeus’ forehead, fully dressed in armor and weapons. The most commonly told version of her birth was that Zeus had swallowed his first wife, Metis, because there was a prophecy that said she would have a son more powerful than Zeus, who would replace him on the throne. He was afraid that the prophecy would be fulfilled, and he did not want this to happen. After he swallowed her, it caused him great pain, in the form of a massive headache; he was willing to risk splitting open his head to relieve the pain. One of the other gods (this varies depending on which myth one is reading) cleaved his head, and there was a fully-grown, beautiful daughter, dressed in golden battle armor.

==Family == Athena is the daughter of Zeus. As mentioned earlier, she sprang from her father’s skull, so it is unclear whether Metis should be considered her mother. Some myths claim that she is motherless, while others give Metis the title of Athena’s mother. Since Athena did not really have a mother, she did not have any siblings. However, she was not Zeus’ only child; therefore she had many half brothers and sisters including Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Hephaestus, Hebe, Hermes, Persephone, and more. She never had a family through marriage; however she had a child despite being a virgin when Hephaestus attempted to rape her. The myth says that his seed fell to the fertile Earth and Gaia (the Earth) gave birth to Erichthonius, who Athena raised as her own.

==Myths == There are many Greek myths about Athena, and of course there are always slight variations in how the myths are told. These are the most commonly accepted forms of the myths.


Athena was the one who turned Medusa into a monster. The two most common stories are as follows:

Medusa was a beautiful mortal who lived in Athens; unfortunately, she was very aware of how beautiful she was and became extremely egotistical. She bragged to the entire city about her beauty and how she believed it was unattainable to any other woman. One day she visited Athena’s temple and dared to believe that she was more attractive than Athena and deserves the temple more than her. This made Athena extremely angry because of Medusa’s excessive vanity, and she transformed her into a hideous monster with snakes for hair; so hideous, in fact, that a mere glance into her eyes would transform someone into stone, including Medusa if she looked at her reflection.

The other version of the story is that since Medusa was such a stunning woman, Poseidon desired her, so he decided to rape her in Athena’s temple. Athena discovered this and was furious at the desecration of her temple, so she changed Medusa’s form. Medusa became a monster with snakes for hair, and her lower body was transformed also.


Athena was also the one responsible for the fate of the blind prophet Tiresias. The myth says that Tiresias stumbled upon Athena while she was bathing naked. After discovering this, Athena struck him blind to ensure that he would never see again what was not intended for any man to see. His mother begged her to undo the curse that she put upon him, but she could not. To make up for this, she cleaned his ears instead, which gave the ability to understand the birds and become a prophet.


This story explains how the spider came to be. Athena was a prodigious weaver among the Olympians, and believed that no one could surpass her skill. One day a simple peasant by the name of Arachne challenged Athena’s work and claimed that her work was superior to the goddess’. Athena visited the place where Arachne lived and challenged her to a weaving contest. The finished products were beautiful, and Athena was surprised to see that Arachne’s work did, in fact, surpass that of Athena. Overcome with rage, Athena destroyed her textile and beat the girl, who then hanged herself. Feeling repentance, Athena sprinkled magic liquid on the corpse and thus, the spider was created, with the incredible weaving capability of Arachne.

PATRON DEITY OF ATHENS Athena and Poseidon were both very fond of Athens, and competed to become the patron deity. They would determine who the patron deity was to be by each giving a gift to the Athenians, and whosever gift they preferred would win the title. Poseidon formed a salt water spring by sticking the ground with his trident; the water turned out to be salty and not very useful for the Athenians’ needs. Athena struck her spear into the ground, planted an olive branch, and from that branch grew a tree. The Athenians were very impressed by Athena’s gift, and she became the patron deity of Athens.

==Powers == Athena’s powers seem to have no limits, as seen in the above myths. Her strong points were, as one could have easily predicted, battle strategy, and her logic and intellect. Athena never lost a battle. She was a master weaver, and excels in other areas of craft as well. She is able to put curses onto certain individuals, and was extremely wise. She also possesses the power of shape-shifting, as seen in an adventure with Odysseus.

==Interesting Facts ==

·         Athena acquired the name “Pallas Athena” from her childhood friend, Pallas. They were both girls who could be described as “tomboys,” and got along very well together; Pallas and Athena were inseparable. One day when they were practicing, Athena accidentally injured Pallas. The injury ended up being fatal, and Athena took the name Pallas Athena in honor of her friend.

·         The olive tree and the owl are Athena’s symbols. The olive tree is a symbol of peace and prosperity, and the owl is a symbol of wisdom and watchfulness.


This photo shows Athena with owls, which are one of her symbols.

·         Minerva is the Roman goddess equivalent to Athena.

·         The Parthenon in Athens, Greece is dedicated to “Athena Parthenos,” which means “Athena the Virgin.” One room houses a statue of Athena in ivory and gold.

·         Athena assisted many Greek heroes in their quests and provided them with advice and protection.

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