Mnemosynne : Goddess, Greek

Athena, Greek Goddess

of Wisdom and Craftsmanship


The 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 unnecessary. 

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 father's eye".

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.
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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. 

A 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.


The 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.

More 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.

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