Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Athena from Philip's Encyclopedia

In Greek mythology, the goddess of war, wisdom and patroness of the arts and industry, identified with Minerva. Athena emerged from the head of Zeus fully grown and armed; thereafter, she was her father's most reliable supporter, and the sponsor of heroes such as Heracles, Perseus, and Odysseus. In the Trojan War she sided with the Greeks. She helped Argus build the ship Argo for Jason and the Argonauts. She received special worship at Athens, where her main temples were the Parthenon and the Erechtheum.

Summary Article: Athena
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

In Greek mythology, the goddess of war, wisdom, and the arts and crafts (Roman Minerva). She was reputed to have sprung fully-armed and grown from the head of Zeus, after he had swallowed her mother Metis, the Titaness of wisdom. In Homer's Odyssey, Athena is the protector of Odysseus and his son Telemachus. Her chief cult centre was the Parthenon in Athens, and her principal festival was the Panathenaea, held every fourth year in August.

In Rome the Palladium, a statue of the goddess allegedly brought by Aeneas from Troy, was kept in the temple of Vesta.

Origins Athena may have evolved from a Minoan-Mycenean palace goddess, and her later association with the snake and olive may derive from the ancient worship of a snake goddess and the tree cults of Minoan-Mycenean religion. The Athenian acropolis was formerly the site of a Mycenean palace; Greek invaders adopted the resident goddess when they conquered the citadel, probably identifying her with their own virgin warrior goddess, Pallas.

Development of functions Athena evolved with complex attributes. She became a virgin goddess, despising love and marriage, although she was concerned with the fertility of animal and vegetable life as guardian of the state; in this respect, she was patroness of the olive crop and the attributed inventor of the plough, rake, and ox-yoke.

From Mycenean times, Athena had been the protector and guide of palace arts and crafts, such as weaving, but with the increasing industrialization of Athens, she embraced every kind of skill (she was said to be the inventor of the flute), and finally encompassed purely intellectual activities as the personification of wisdom.

Although Athena was a war goddess, her martial aspects enhanced by the possible fusion of Athena with Pallas, she also encouraged the peaceful settlement of disputes in her capacity as a judge. She was reputed to have founded the court of Areopagus in Athens where, if the outcome was undecided, she would cast the deciding vote; such an event occurred in the trial of Orestes who murdered his mother Clytemnestra.

Under the titles Polias and Poliuchus, Athena was also patroness and defender of Athens.


ruined temple

Temple of Athena

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article Athena
Who's Who in Classical Mythology, Routledge

Athena was the patron deity of war and of many crafts and skills. She was a city-goddess and had temples in many of the leading Greek...

Full text Article Minerva (Greek: Athena)
The Bloomsbury Guide to Art

The daughter of Jupiter and Metis, a goddess of just war (as opposed to Mars ), clad in armour and goatskin aegis, and of learning and...

Full text Article Athena (or Pallas Athena)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

The Greek goddess of war and of wisdom, the protectress of Athens. Born from the head of Zeus, fully armed with a javelin, she was his...

See more from Credo