Athena is the goddess of wisdom and strategy, and she is represented by her helmet and scroll, for strategy in war.
Athena was the daughter of Zeus and Metis, a Titaness. Zeus pursued Metis because she was beautiful, and when he caught her, he heard a prophecy that if she bore two children for him, the second would be a son who would overthrow him as he overthrew Cronos. When Zeus caught up to Metis, he swallowed her. He was overcome with a headache so terrible that he asked Hephaestus to split his head open. Out of his skull leapt a tall woman in armor, Athena. She became the goddess of wisdom and strategy, and often outwitted Ares in battle with her skill and intuition.
Athena was the primary aid to Odysseus during his journey home from Troy in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, and it was she who tricks Hector into stopping and facing Achilles who finally kills Hector in The Iliad. Athena also helped Perseus kill the evil Medusa by giving him a pair of winged sandals, the same ones she made for Hermes.
Athena was also incredibly jealous. She once challenged a young girl named Arachne to a weaving competition, because Arachne claimed to weave better than Athena. Of course, Athena won the competition, but before Athena could dole out any punishment, Arachne hung herself. Athena was so moved by Arachne’s efforts that she turned her into a spider.
The city of Athens, Greece was named after Athena, and that is where the Parthenon, Athena’s temple, still stands today. The Greeks asked the gods to make Athena the goddess of their city and revoke Poseidon’s rule, because Poseidon was prone to random violent rages against the city. The gods granted their wish. Since Athena never married or had children, she is also sometimes celebrated as the goddess of virginity; in fact, parthenos in Greek means maiden, or virgin.
Zeus and Metis
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