Pallas Athena, beautiful owl-eyed goddess
of the city, wisdom and the arts.
Daughter of Zeus, and only by him, the
Goddess Athena was not generated by any woman. She leaped from the head
of Zeus, already adult, dressed in her armor. But the mother is
not completely missing from the miraculous birth of Pallas Athena.
According to Hesiod's account of the weddings of Zeus, the King of the
Gods chose Metis as his first wife. She was of all beings "the most knowing"
(as the word metis is interpreted), or "of many counsels" as translated
in the sense of the Homeric epithet polymetis.
As she was about to give birth to the Goddess
Athena, Zeus deceived his pregnant wife with cunning words and assimilated
her into his own body. Mother Earth and Father Sky had advised him to do
this so as to prevent any of his descendants from robbing him of his kingly
rank. For it was destined that the most brilliant children were to be born
to the Goddess Metis: first, the daughter Athena, and later a son, the
future King of Gods and men.
In the most ancient account, the Iliad,
Athena is the Goddess of ferocious and implacable fight, but, wherever
she can be found, she only is a warrior to defend the State and the native
land against the enemies coming from outside.
She is, above all, the Goddess of the City,
the protectress of civilized life, of artesian activities, and of agriculture.
She also invented the horse-bit, which, for the first time, tamed horses,
allowing men to use them.
She is the favorite daughter of Zeus; and
that's why he let her use his insignia: the terrible
shield, the aegis and his devastating
weapon, the ray.
Athena often helped heroes, like Jason
and Perseus. She wore an aegis, a goatskin shield which had a fringe of
snakes. When Perseus killed the gorgon Medusa, whose face turned men to
stone, he gave the gorgon head to Athena, and the goddess placed it on
When Hercules went mad and killed his children,
Athena stopped the disaster from getting worse. Just as the insane hero
turned to kill Amphitryon, Athena threw a stone at Hercules, knocking him
unconscious, so his mortal father was spared. Athena also helped Hercules
at many points during his Labors. She provided him with the krotala he
used to scare the Stymphalian Birds, and she carried the apples back to
the garden of the Hesperides.
Her greatest invention of all was the art
of weaving. Throughout antiquity she was renowned as possessing the
highest skills in this field, and it was she who wove and embroidered the
superb garments worn by the gods and heroes. Her first pupil at the loom
was Pandora, who passed on the knowledge to the other women. This attribute
of Athena's was the source of the myth of Arachne , another skillful weaver
who dared to compare herself to the goddess and challenge her to a competition.
The goddess turned Arachne into a spider (still known by that name in Greek
today) and condemned her to spin in perpetuity but to have all her works
destroyed by man.
The peaceful side of Athena's character
was symbolized by the olive, the tree which she gave to the Athenians and
taught them how to cultivate. According to the myth, it came about that
there was a contest between Athena and Poseidon over which of them should
be the patron of the city of Athens. The other gods advised Athena and
Poseidon to offer the city one gift each, and the winner of the contest
would be he or she whose gift was the better. Both ascended to the Acropolis,
and Poseidon struck the ground with his trident: a spring of salt water
immediately welled up. Athena stamped her foot, and an olive, the first
in the world, sprouted on the spot. In the end, the city was awarded to
Athena, and took its name from her. The divine olive tree continued to
adorn the sacred rock, and when the Persians burned the Acropolis in 480
BC it immediately put out fresh leaves. In commemoration of this, an olive
tree has been planted on the Acropolis and can be seen today on the west
side of the Erechtheum.
The most used expression to describe her
is "the bright eyed." She is the first of the three virgin Goddesses, also
known as Maiden, Parthenos, and from this name was taken the name to the
most important Temple dedicated to her, the Parthenon.
In poetry she is the incarnation of Wisdom,
Reason and Purity.
The owl, was consecrated to her at birth
and is symbolic of her wisdom.