Tuesdays Talking About Mythology: Athena/Minerva

Hello all and happy Tuesday! Today we will be talking about my all time favorite Greek goddess, Athena. I hope y’all enjoy!

The Greek: Athena

Athena was born from the King of the Gods, Zeus. Though there are variations on how it came to be, Zeus birthed Athena from his forehead and she sprung out fully grown. One version says that Zeus had eaten the titaness Metis while she was pregnant with Athena and so Zeus birthed the child that Metis could not. This is, however, not a widely popular version. The most popular and the one that I am most familiar/fond of is that Zeus, while brooding over a war between mortals, developed a headache so strong that he ordered his son Hephaestus to use his hammer to break his skull open to alleviate the pain and, when that happened, Athena sprung out of Zeus’ head fully grown and in full battle armor, thus making her a child of Zeus alone.

Athena was the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, battle strategy/war/strategy, mathematics, the arts/handicraft, practical reason/good counsel, the defense of towns, and heroic endeavors.

Athena was often depicted as a stern looking woman wearing a battle helmet, holding a spear and her shield (the famous aegis that had the head of a gorgon, usually said to be Medusa’s head, on it’s front to turn her enemies to stone whoever dared to look at her shield), with an owl perched on her shoulder or an olive branch (both being divine symbols of the goddess).

Athena, like Artemis, was a chosen virgin however she did not despise men as Artemis did. She often worked closely with men such as her brother Ares or her own father, Zeus. However, she chose to remain a virgin and therefore had no offspring or lovers.

That being said, Athena did have an adopted son. In want of new armor, she had gone to see Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods, to ask him to make her some. He had, however, recently had a falling out with his wife Aphrodite (which happened like all the damn time) and so he was very depressed. Seeing the beauty of Athena, he tried to pursue her, to which she said a firm “hell no” and ran away. After catching up to her, though, he attempted to have sex with her and she managed to escape him but not until his seed had fallen onto her leg. Thoroughly disgusted, her being a chaste virgin goddess, she wiped it off with a piece of wool and threw it onto the ground. From this, Erikhthonios was born and Athena, not being a heartless goddess, decided to take the boy and raise him as her adopted son. He later became the king of Athens.

Athens, the capital of Greece, was granted its name after its patron goddess, Athena. When the city was founded there was a competition between Athena and the sea god Poseidon to be the patron of Athens. Poseidon offered the people running water within their land and so he split open the ground, water springing out of the cracks. However, this water was sea water, and the citizens could, therefore, not drink it. Athena then offered them the olive tree as a symbol of peace and prosperity. The people were pleased with this since they could eat the olives, use the bark, and create olive oil which was used for many things in and of itself. Needless to say, Athena won the competition and was named the patron goddess of Athens.

Another competition the goddess is famous for is the one she had between herself and a young mortal named Arachne who had boasted that she was a far better weaver than the goddess (who was literally the goddess of weaving). Athena accepted the offer to compete and so the two created their own tapestries. Arachne wove a tapestry depicting the gods transforming themselves into various animals in order to trick mortals and Athena wove a tapestry depicting the glory of the gods with herself in the middle. Athena was outraged by the added salt to the wound by Arachne further insulting the gods. Athena declared herself the winner and, as punishment, she turned the mortal girl into the world’s first spider. Hence the name Arachne, or Arachnid (spider).

This was not the first time Athena was such a petty woman. Before the Trojan war, the mortal Paris was tasked with awarding a golden apple to the most beautiful woman (Hera, Aphrodite, or Athena) by Zeus who was too cowardly to choose between his wife, daughter, and the goddess of beauty herself. Paris granted the apple to Aphrodite after she promised to have him fall in love and be loved by the most beautiful mortal in the world (Helen, which would later be the cause for the Trojan War). Utterly pissed about not being picked by Paris, Athena sided with the Greeks in the Trojan War and decimated the battlefield in a rage as her vengeance (because she can be a petty lil girl sometimes, lol).

While Athena was mostly a helpful, sympathetic, and kindhearted goddess, she had moments when her pride overtook her and she would become a petty, jealous, and vengeful woman. But, her duality makes her all the more real as a woman since everyone has both good and bad sides.

The Roman: Minerva

Minerva was born from the King of the Gods, Jupiter, by springing fully grown and in full battle armor from Jupiter’s head after having his head split open by his son, Vulcan, in order to alleviate his massive headache.

Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, medicine, commerce, handicrafts, poetry, the arts, war, the professions, trade, and strategy in war. She was a part of the Capitoline triad which consisted of herself, Juno, and Jupiter and which deemed the three of the them the most important gods in all of Roman religion. Often prayed to for luck in battle and wisdom in strategy, she often surpassed the war god Mars in the amount of prayers she received by the Roman army.

She was often depicted as a severe looking woman wearing a chiton (traditional Greek/Roman dress) and a helmet, holding a spear and a shield (though not her Greek counterpart’s aegis shield). She is rarely shown offering an olive branch to those defeated by Rome since, as most of the other Roman gods, she had little to no sympathy for those she has won victory over.

Unfortunately for us, this is another instance in which the Roman and Greek gods are synonymous with one another. Minerva is pretty much the same as Athena in both attitude and actions except for the fact that she was less forgiving/sympathetic than her Greek counter part but, this is to be expected as this is the case with most Greek/Roman counterparts.

Closing

I hope y’all enjoyed learning a little about Athena/Minerva. She is honestly my all time favorite goddess and I have, since childhood, often heavily identified with her myself. I hope this post was illuminating for y’all as I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. If y’all have any questions about stuff I didn’t touch on, or you’d just like an elaboration on something please leave me a comment below so we can chat! I really hope this was interesting to y’all. Thanks for reading, I’ll talk mythology with you next Tuesday!584437d4a6515b1e0ad75b69Thanks so much for reading y’all! Let me know anything you’d like to say in the comments below, you know I love hearing from y’all!

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3 thoughts on “Tuesdays Talking About Mythology: Athena/Minerva

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