Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom

Athena is the Greek goddess of warfare, wisdom, learning, strategy, crafts, and skill. She is also known as the virgin patroness of the city of Athens. She is a fierce warrior, admired for her smarts and discipline. Many Greek heroes called to her for help when they are in trouble.

In art, her appearance usually takes on the form of a beautiful yet stern woman with gray eyes. In various works, she is often shown in full armor with an owl perched on her hand. Other times, she carries an aegis, a type of shield, with the picture of a monster Gorgon’s head at its center.

Athena’s birth was mysterious and odd. Her mother, Metis, was chased by her father, Zeus, as he had fallen in love with her beauty. After hearing a prophecy that his firstborn son would seize his throne and kingdom, Zeus finds Metis and swallows her whole in order to prevent her from giving birth. After, Zeus experiences splitting, terrible headaches. The god Hephaestus arrives to help Zeus and opens his head to look inside. With his head spilt open, Athena emerges, fully grown, already in her armor and with a spear in her hand. The earth shook with her arrival. Zeus, impressed and in awe of her, named her his favorite daughter, despite the circumstances of her birth.

Athena had a childhood friend called Pallas. These two were equals at the art of war. One day, as the two were sparring, Athena accidentally killed Pallas. In grief, Athena took on Pallas’ name, and she is often referred to as Athena Pallas.

Athena competed with Poseidon to become the patron of the city of Athens. For the competition, they both agreed to gift the members of the city one gift and the king of Athens would decide which was the best. Poseidon decided to gift Athens a saltwater spring by striking his trident into the ground. But as it turns out, saltwater isn’t so helpful to people, considering you can’t drink it! Athena, on the other hand, gave a gift that could be widely used. She stuck her spear into the ground and planted the first olive tree. Delighted, the king and the people of Athens choose Athena to be their patron, and the olive tree became a symbol of peace and wisdom.

When the heroes of Greek myths needed help, they often turned to Athena. Perseus, who was tasked with the slaying of Medusa, turned to Athena for aid. Athena is able to tell Perseus to find Hesperides, who is the one who can inform him how to kill the gorgon. Athena also gives him a reflective shield, which saves him from being turned into stone.

Athena also helped Hercules with the first of his twelves labors. After killing the Nemean Lion, Hercules was unable to skin the animal, as its coat was so thick. Athena arrives in the form of an old crone and instructs him on the right tool to use. She also helped guide Odysseus throughout his voyage to get back home.

Facts About Athena

  • Athena invented the flute but never actually played it.
  • In poetry, she is described as “gray-eyed.”
  • She transformed Medusa into a Gorgon.
  • As the Goddess of War, her equal is Ares, the God of War.
  • She never had any children.
  • Athena is her father’s favorite.
  • She headed the Athenai, which is a sisterhood devoted to her worship.
  • A wooden statue of her, known as the Palladium, helped protect the Trojans.
  • She was supposed to marry Hephaestus but rebuked him.
  • Athena is a virgin goddess along with Artemis and Hestia.
  • She is also known as “Pallas,” The One With Gleaming Eyes,” and “The Unwearying One.”
  • Athena often transformed into an owl.
  • She helped Jason, saving him from being crushed to death.
  • She was the patron and protector of many Greek cities.
  • She created the very first olive tree.
  • Many heroes of Greek Myths asked for her help, including Hercules and Perseus.
  • She played a part in starting the Trojan War
  • She makes appearance in the Odyssey and the Iliad.
  • Athena competed against Arachne in a weaving contest, which she won and created the first spider.
  • She was honored with a festival called Panathenaea.
  • She is a symbol of wisdom and learning.