Athena Goddess

Athena wearing her helmet

Athena is mainly known as the Goddess of Wisdom who sprouted out Zeus’s head. Actually, the mother of Athena was the nymph Metis who embodied the wisdom and discretion. However, Zeus had been given a prophesy according to which a child born by Metis would seize his power just like he had done with Cronus. When Metis was pregnant, Zeus was afraid of losing his power by the child and he asked for counsel from Gaia and Uranos who advised him to swallow Metis before she gives birth to the child. In this way, they told Zeus that he would receive the wisdom of Metis and it would be him the person who would give birth to the child instead of Metis.

When the child that Metis bore was o be born, Zeus gave an axe to Prometheus, son of the titan Iapetos, and asked him to use it in order to open the head of Zeus. According to another myth, when the child was ready to be born, Zeus suffered from a terrible headache and he was plunging his head against a rock in order to make it open. Hephaestus went to help him with his mallet and he managed to open his father’s head.  Both versions come to the same result; once Zeus’s head opened, Athena spouted out it. She was a tall woman, wearing her helmet and armed with a shield and spear. When she appeared austere and lofty, the other Gods looked at her speechless, even the sea became wavy and the earth quaked according to the legend. She had inherited the properties of her mother thus she became the Wisdom Goddess.

Athena was said to be the goddess Zeus favored most but she was also the beloved of all the Greeks as she embodied Wisdom and Bravery. She was the patroness of intellectual activities and it who was her who inspired war strategies and courage to the fighters.

Athena was the protector of Odysseus and it was her who helped the hero to return to Ithaca after a long time of wandering in the sea. She also protected the king of Argos, Diomedes, Hercules and Telemachus as she used to support the brave men.


The head of the gorgon Medusa had been placed on her shield. Medusa was a tremendous gorgon with snakes instead of hair on his head, sharp teeth and a murderous eye. It is said that a lot of people had tried to kill Medusa but once she had looked at them, they lost their power and were immediately defeated by her. Athena had advised Perseus not to look Medusa at face but her reflection on his shield, so as to avoid being affected by her dangerous eyes. In this way, Perseus cut her head and gave it to Athena for placing it on her shield. Despite being dead, the eyes of Medusa were still dangerously powerful.

According to another legend, it was Athena that had killed Medusa by pulling her hair in front of her eyes in order to cover them and then she cut her head. Athena was impressed by the whistle of the dying snakes and she tried to imitate that sound. Her attempts resulted in the invention of the flute. As she was blowing to the hole of the flute, the sounds produced were like the whistle of the snakes but as the cheeks of Athena pumped in order to provide the flute with air, her face was really funny and this mad the other gods laughing at her. When Athena saw her face turning to comic once reflected to the water of a lace, when playing her flute, she got angry and threw the flute away cursing any person that would find it.


Athena Pallas

Athena had a friend called Pallas (or Pallada) with whom she competed on the use of the weapons carrying out false duels. During a duel they had a blaze-up and Pallada aimed at Athena’s heart with her spear. Zeus, who was watching them, protected his daughter with his shield and Pallada was confused when she saw it suddenly. At that very moment of Pallas’s confusion, Athena managed took Pallas aback by hitting her with the spear. Pallas fell dead and Athena regretted immediately for her action. As she could nothing but to accept her friend’s death, Athena created a wooden statue that she named Pallada and he put it next to Zeus’s throne. Later, Zeus offered the statue of Pallada to Dardanus, the King of Troy.

As years passed by, the statue was considered to depict Athena by the Trojans. The placed it in the basement of Athena’s temple and then Athena became the protector of their city. However, Athena seized protecting Troy when Pares offered the golden apple to Aphrodite declaring that she was the prettiest goddess instead of Athena and Hera. Both Athena and Hera were angry to Pares and when the Greeks came to Troy to fight against the Trojans, the two goddesses supported the Greeks.
The nickname Pallas or Pallada was used for Athena since then.

The fight of Athens and Poseidon

The favorite city of Athena was Athens and she had become the official protector of it after a fight with Poseidon. According to the myth, both gods wanted to take over the protection of Athens and none of them was willing to withdraw. So, they invited Cecrops, the first king of Athens, on the Acropolis hill, where they would offer him one gift each and he would chose the best of them. Then, the god to whom the gift belonged, would became the protector of Athens. Poseidon offered a horse and Athena offered an olive branch. Cecrops considered the horse as a war symbol and the olive branch as the symbol of the peace. Consequently, he chose Athena’s gift. It was then that Athens was named after Athena.

The Parthenon and the Panatheinaia

The Athenians built the most beautiful temple ever constructed, on Acropolis hill and they dedicated it to their protector. The temple was named Parthenon from the greek word “parthenos” (virgin) because Athena was a virgin as she never got married. The best architects and sculptors like Kallikrates and Phidias worked for the construction and decoration of the Parthenon. The result keeps impressive people even nowadays. The golden-ivory statue of Athena which was created by Phidias was placed in the Parthenon but it has not survived nowadays.

Athena was honored every year by the Athenian with a big celebration known as Panathinaea. The tyran Pisistratus established the “Big Panatheinaia” that were carried out once per four years and was the most important celebration during the ancestry. It lasted ten days and the feast included music, dance, theatre and sports competitions. On the last day, an imposing parade took place. The most beautiful girls took part in the parade and they transferred the veil of Athena to the Parthenon.

The emblem of Athena was the cuckoo (the bird that symbolizes Wisdom.

Apart from the Parthenon, the Athenians had also dedicated a part of the Erechthium, Acropolis, to Athens. An olive tree, the sacred tree of the goddess, has been planted next to the monument. Erechtheum was shared both by Athena and Poseidon and on Poseidon's side we can see some broken stones that were believed to have been created by his trident when he plunged it on the ground in order his gift to Cecrops appear.

Ancient Greeks used to depict Athena wearing a helmet and a breastplate, holding a spear and a shield. She worked out strategies for the war and advised the heroes she protected. Apart from that, during the peaceful periods she was occupying with the intellectual activities like culture and technology. Her aim was to make humans wide and she used to work very hard for that. Scholars, on their part, used to pray to Athena in order to receive enlightenment from her and inventors used to beg her for inspiration. Even though she used to deal with war issues, she was different from Ares, the God of the War, because instead of being vigorous like him, she focused on victory strategies and encouragement of the fighters.