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Mythological Athena

Athene (also spelled Athena) is the patron of wisdom, military victory, and women's crafts. She is also known as Tritogeneia and Minerva (Roman) and is also called Pallas Athene. Her attributes in iconography include the aegis (a fringed cloak, sometimes decorated with a Gorgon's head), the helmet, and the spear.

Her mother, Metis, was the first wife of Zeus and her name (Metis) might mean ’wisdom’. If this is true, then it would be more proper to call Athene ’The Daughter of Wisdom’ instead of ’The Goddess of Wisdom’.

When Zeus saw that Metis was pregnant, he was afraid that the child, if allowed to live, would be his doom. He swallowed Metis to prevent the birth. It didn’t work. Athene sprang, fully armed and armored, from the head of Zeus but Metis was never seen again.

Athene is the virgin goddess of intellect and invention. She is one of only three who can resist the charms and spells of Aphrodite. Hestia and Artemis are the other two.

At the battle of Troy Pallas Athene, descended Olympus and strode between the two armies, only to inspire the Trojan, Pandaros, to a supreme act of cowardice. Pandaros, against all oaths, loosed the arrow that broke the fragile peace. The arrow injured Menelaos and the bloody war was resumed to the delight and horror of the Olympians.

To avenge Aphrodite’s meddling, Athene gave Diomedes the ability to see the immortals on the battlefield and advised him to avoid them, but she suggested that if he sees Aphrodite, to attack her (The Iliad 5.129). Diomedes obeyed, and Aphrodite was the first immortal to be wounded on that bloody day.

Athene is called the grim goddess because the snaky head of The Gorgon, Medusa is on her aegis, but Athene’s gift of the olive tree made her ’grimness’ tolerable. The city, Athens, was named in her honor.

Her love and protection of Odysseus permitted the long suffering hero to finally return home to his wife and son again. She would assume the shape of men (The Odyssey 8.8), women (ibid., 6.23) and children (ibid., 7.20) to better serve as guide and protector of the resourceful Odysseus.

She is often confused with the Roman goddess, Minerva.