Athena, Greek Goddess
of Wisdom and Craftsmanship
Greek goddess Athena is usually portrayed as one of the most benevolent goddesses . .
.strong, fair, and merciful.
Athena is known
as one of the three virgin goddesses, referred to as virgin because they were able to
remain independent, unswayed by the spells of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and the
consequent pull of marriage and motherhood. Romance
and marriage did not feature in Athena's mythology. In Greek mythology Athena was, in
essence, the prototype of the contemporary "career woman".
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The birth of the Greek goddess Athena was more than unusual, it
was truly amazing!
It was the headache to end all headaches! Zeus, the mighty king of
the Olympian deities, regretted having swallowed his first wife, Metis. When Zeus had
learned that she was pregnant, he feared that she was carrying the son that had been
prophesied to supplant him on the throne.
Though swallowing Metis had seemed a good idea
at the time, it was now causing him great suffering which eventually proved to be totally
Ready to risk anything to get rid of the pain that tormented him,
he allowed one of the other gods to split open his head, and . . . Voila!
Out came, not the son he feared, but a beautiful full-grown daughter,
dressed in golden battle armor, who instantly became the "apple of her
A motherless child, the goddess Athena quickly became his favorite.
Athena was the only one of his children that Zeus ever entrusted with his magic shield and
the secret of where his lightening bolts were stored.
The goddess Athena remained his constant ally and fierce protector,
promoting his interests, serving as his advisor.
Although usually depicted holding a spear, her golden helmet pushed back to reveal her
elegant beauty, the Greek goddess Athena was known more for her role as judge, diplomat,
and mediator than for actually fighting in battle. Her
decisions were renowned for their fairness and compassion.
The goddess Athena was a superb strategist and many of the Greek myths recount
tales of her help given to various gods, goddesses, and heroes as they went into battle or
faced seemingly impossible tests.
Athena: Meditations on the
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Although she was widely known in one of her roles as
"Athena Goddess of War", it was as a mediator and a planner that she excelled. She always worked to prevent war, but once war had
been joined the goddess Athena fought efficiently for her side.
To prevent the Trojan War
Athena descended from Olympus and walked between the two armies, making both
sides swear oaths to keep the peace. Unfortunately a Trojan soldier named
Pandaros, in an act of great cowardice, violated his oath and let loose his
arrow, thus starting the Trojan War. Athena, Goddess of strategy, expressed
her displeasure by helping the other side to emerge victorious. Remember the
Trojan Horse? Just one of Athena's great ideas!
The Greek goddess Athena championed many heroes, offering them her advice and protection,
helping them to win their battles. In one of
her most famous adventures Athena would assume the shape of various men, women, and
children to guide the wandering Odysseus. Her protection allowed the suffering hero to
finally return safely to his home and family. Nike, the goddess who personified Winged
Victory, often accompanied the goddess Athena. Not
surprising, since "Athena, Goddess of War" never lost a battle.
Other women, however, seldom feature as allies in the stories
of Athena who seems to have been firmly accepted as part of the patriarchy.
The most notable exception was her childhood
friend, a girl called Pallas. The two, both tomboyish, were inseparable as children,
practicing their fighting skills and sharing playful adventures. Once during a practice session, according to Greek
mythology Athena accidentally wounded Pallas. The injury eventually proved fatal. In deep
grief over the loss of her friend, Athena took Pallas' name to add to hers. Thereafter she was often referred to as Pallas
Athena, in honor of her childhood friend.
The Greek goddess Athena was frequently called upon to settle
disputes between the gods or various mortals. "Athena Goddess of Wisdom" was
known for her superb logic and intellect. Her
decisions were usually well-considered, highly ethical, and seldom motivated by
self-interest. Not only the goddess Athena's
decisions demonstrate her wisdom, but they revealed her great compassion as well.
Once, when a man called Teiresias accidentally walked in upon
the goddess Athena while she was bathing (an act usually punished by death), Athena took
pity on the poor mortal. Not wishing his
death, she instead covered his eyes with her hands, thus simultaneously blinding him and
giving him "inner sight", i.e., the gift of prophecy. As a result he became one of the most revered
oracles in ancient Greece.
The Greek goddess Athena identified with the patriarchy and usually
cast her power and support on their side during any dispute. In the first jury trial in recorded history, she
cast the deciding vote to acquit Orestes of the murdering his mother to avenge his
father's death. Athena was persuaded by
Apollo's argument in Orestes' defense that the death of a mother was of less importance
than a father's death since the woman simply nurtured the seed while it was actually the
man who planted it.
Motherless herself, the
goddess Athena usually placed patriarchal principles above maternal bonds.
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Logical by nature, the goddess Athena rarely lost her cool.
One exception where she became "hot-headed" and again sided with the male
power structure, is told in the story of Arachne, a young mortal woman who challenged
Athena to a contest to see who was the best weaver. The goddess Athena was not at all
upset about being challenged by a mortal and fairly judged Arachne's creation to be as
flawless as her own.
But the subject matter of Arachne's tapestry offended her greatly for Arachne had depicted
the amorous and adulterous adventures of Zeus, Athena's father. Livid that Arachne would
dare to mock authority in such a way, Athena slashed the tapestry to shreds and drove
Arachne to hang herself. When she had quieted
her emotions, Athena took pity on the poor woman and let her live on by transforming her
into a spider, weaving her beautiful webs for eternity.
goddess of many talents, "Athena Goddess of Crafts" was an expert artisan
herself. The goddess Athena was celebrated as the patron of weavers, potters,
goldsmiths, sculptors, musicians, and horsemen.Athena
was credited with the invention of the yoke and the bridle, the sailing ship, and the
flute and trumpet.
name of the Greek goddess Athena remains with us to this day since Athens, Greece, was
named in her honor, in appreciation of her gift to them, the olive tree. The goddess
Athena is recognized as the protector of cities.
than any other of the Greek goddesses , Athena remains a symbol of civilization, useful
knowledge, noble reasoning, logic and wisdom. The goddess Athena reminds us that we can
successfully use our intellect and creativity in the pursuit of any goal we choose.