Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and war, is one of the most revered and feared characters in ancient Greek mythology. Athena was more involved with the strategy of war, and focused more on the strength and skill of the warring factions. She is also said to be silently presiding over noble heroes and aiding them with their strategic moves by imparting them wisdom and guile.
The great city of Athens was named after this Greek Goddess Athena, and the nature of the Athenians was an accurate reflection of the pondering and meticulous nature of Athena. It is said that Athena had immense power, but was very merciful and fair with the usage of this power, and never misused it. In fact, Athena is also one of the three ‘Virgin Goddesses’, so she regained her independence and her power all throughout the ages.
The Origin of Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War
If you see any Greek Gods and Goddesses list, you will not miss the name of Zeus, the King of Gods. Athena was Zeus’s daughter, but it is said that she had no mother. She came into the world when Zeus allowed his head to be split open by Hermes because of a splitting headache, which he attributed to the presence of his first wife, Metis inside his head. Interestingly, Zeus had tricked Metis into transforming into a fly and had then swallowed her, because he was scared of a prophecy which claimed that the son of Metis would grow more powerful than Zeus, and eventually overthrow him.
When Zeus’s head was opened up, Athena appeared clad in a helmet and full armor, and it can be argued that she was the daughter of Metis as well. Zeus eventually grew very fond of Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and war, and he trusted her with most of his secrets. She in turn loved him fiercely, and protected his interests and also gave him loads of strategic advice. This Zeus family tree will also be an interesting read for you.
The Role of Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War
Athena should not be mixed up with Ares – God of War, as Athena played the role of a mediator and a planner more often than not. Since she was so adept at making strategies and plans, she would rarely venture out to battle herself, but she was always imparting knowledge and wisdom to heroes and kings who went to war. She was widely renown for her fairness and diplomacy, and therefore she made an excellent judge. Warring factions would often call upon her to pass a verdict, as they were convinced that she would arrive at a mutually beneficial solution that would please both sides of the argument.
Another interesting role that Athena Goddess plays is that of being the Goddess of weaving. It is said that she possessed the best weaving designs and skills in the world. There is an interesting story that talks about how a mortal woman, Arachne, challenged Athena to a weaving contest. Though Arachne’s weaving skills were as flawless as Athena’s, the subject of her weaving (Zeus’s adulterations and misadventures) infuriated Athena, and she thus made Arachne hang herself, after destroying her tapestries. When her anger subsided, she transformed Arachne into a spider, and gave her eternal life with the possibility of weaving anything she wanted with her webs. This is also where the etymology of the term Arachnid (spider) comes from. You must also learn more about the Temple of Athena Nike.
Other Details of Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War
It is well known that Athena would always appear wearing a helmet and armor, just like she did the first day when Zeus saw her. She also has gray eyes, and would always be accompanied by an owl. The significance of the owl is the symbolic wisdom it imparts, and its ability to see clearly in the dark. Since she was a virgin by choice, she is also known as Athena Parthenon, and this is what led to the building of the famous Greek temple in Athens, the Parthenon. Athena is also sometimes referred to as Pallas Athena. Pallas was Athena’s childhood friend and they were inseparable while growing up. But one day, Athena accidentally injured Pallas, and the wound turned out to be fatal. Athena thus adopted the name of Pallas in order to get rid of the guilt she felt.
Another incident regarding Athena was the naming of Athens itself. She and Poseidon (God of the Sea) were having a contest to see who could win over the Greeks. Poseidon offered them a spring which opened up a huge port to enable trade and transportation, but the water was too salty to drink, so the Greeks were left unimpressed. Athena, on the other hand, gave the Greeks an olive tree which provided them with wood, fruit and oil. The Greeks loved this gift, and thus named their city Athens as a tribute. Interestingly, in her weaving battle with Arachne, she depicted this very contest between herself and Poseidon in her tapestries.
Additionally, Athena is also said to have helped many Greek Gods and Goddesses and heroes along the way. Most notable among these are Odysseyus (while he was returning to Greece from Troy), Perseus (when he was attempting to kill Medusa), and also Heracles (when he wanted the skin of the Neaman Lion).
Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and war, was a truly great figure in Greek mythology, and she helped shape history in many different ways. When the Romans invaded Greece, they incorporated Athena into a similar Goddess they worshiped, Minerva.