Top 10 Incredible Facts about Athena

When we turn the history pages, we know about the great heroes, kings, and beauty queens. But Greek gods and goddesses are pretty multifaceted by nature. 

Take Aphrodite, for example, who is known for her beauty and love. But she’s also identified as the deity who fed a guy’s horses magical water. That water caused the horses to crush and eat his body after he denied her advances. 

This way, Greek mythological characters are pretty complex. Even Athena was one of these characters.

Athena lived at Mount Olympus, where the centre of power existed in Ancient Greece. No doubt that she is the goddess with strength in multiple fields. Let’s learn what more she had done, with 10 incredible facts about Athena. 

10. Athena cursed Medusa for turning her hair into serpents.

Sculpture of Athena and Medusa
Sculpture of Athena and Medusa

Medusa was not ever evil and monstrous, but she was beautiful earlier. Medusa was a virgin and became the priest of Athena. She served at the temple of Athena in Athens. 

According to legends, people come to the temple of Athen to admire Medusa. People also started claiming Medusa more beautiful than Athena, and it angered the goddess. Once Medusa had gone to tides, the sea god Poseidon saw her and fell for her instantly.

As Poseidon had already lost Athen’s patronage, he had an opportunity to avenge Athena by snatching her priest from her. So, Poseidon chased Medusa and raped her at the temple of Athena. 

When Athena knew about the accident, she angered Medusa that she could not save her virginity. Athena cursed Medusa and transformed her into a hideous monster with serpents instead of hair. Whoever (mortal) saw her would turn to stone. Later, Athena herself helped Perseus to kill Medusa.

9. Panathenaia was a festival held in Athena’s honour.

Panathenaia festival held in the honour of Athena

As Athens received the name from Athena after becoming the city’s patron, Athenians honoured her in many ways. People worshipped Athena for knowledge, war strategy, and beauty. 

The festival, Panathenaia, was held every four-year to honor the Goddess Athena in Parthenon. There, people organized athletic competitions, a prize-giving ceremony, and many cultural gatherings. One part of the event was the performance of a priest of Athens who presented Athena’s famous statue. 

The priest wore the new cloth called peplos in Greek before the performance. The dress would match with the Goddess attributes as Athena was also the goddess of weaving. 

As Athena was a woman with great skill and strength in battle, the festival featured many competitions to honour the goddess. The participants showed their skill and strategy to use in the battle. 

Next, cultural events had poetic and musical competitions for other candidates interested in other stuff besides warfare. This way, Panathenaic Stadium was reserved for several games. 

The winner received Panathenaic Amphorae that were large ceramic vessels containing olive oil, as prizes in the festival. Panathenaia was celebrated widely, and it was considered great for Athenians.  

8. The owl is Athena’s sacred bird

Athena with her sacred bird owl
Athena with her sacred bird owl

The owl was Athena’s favourite bird which accompanied her by flying her in the sky on its shoulders. As the owl is the symbol of truth, wisdom, and knowledge, Athena became the goddess of wisdom. 

The owl could see in the dark, and it helped Athena to remove the dark force. The owl also symbolizes Athena’s blessing. Whenever the war began, the owl flew over the Greek soldiers giving the signal that goddess Athena was on their side.

Greek people would carve the owl on the vase and other things to spread the news about Athena. Along with the owl, Athena had other sacred attributes such as olive trees, snakes, Aegis, armour, helmets, spears, and Gorgoneion. 

Athena, thus along with her sacred attributes, is depicted in painting and other art forms. She gets featured as tall, wearing a full-length chiton, and dressed in armour like a male soldier. 

She was fierce, witty, and full of pride in her expression. Sometimes, she is also portrayed as having a Corinthian helmet and the Aegis. 

7. Athena was a patron of Greek heroes.

Athena - a Patron
Athena – a Patron

Athena played a role as adviser and helper to great Greek heroes. She guided and helped Argos in building the ship. Likewise, Athena also helped Perseus to behead Medusa. 

She and Hermes, the god of travellers, provided Perseus with many tools for his journey. No one could see Medusa directly with a bare eye. Whoever saw her would turn into stone. 

So, Athena offered Perseus a bronze shield to view Medusa’s reflection while Hermes gave an adamantine scythe to cut off Medusa’s head.

Athena also frequently aided hero Heracles, who was bound to twelve labours from Hela. She helped him at many points during his labour. She gave him a krotala through which he scared the Stymphalian Birds.

Then, she brought the apples back to the garden of the Hesperides. She also drove Heracles on her chariot to present before Zeus for deification.

Besides, Athena always appeared as a warrior goddess who led soldiers into battle. Unlike her brother Ares, the god of violence, blood-lust, and slaughter, Athena was well disciplined. Athena always took the war as a way to resolve the problem. That’s why she had higher respect than Ares. 

6. Athena feuded to begin the Trojan War.

Athena and the Trojan War
Athena and the Trojan War

The myth of the Judgement of Paris explains the Trojan War’s start. In the Greek Myth, all the gods, goddesses, and many important mortals were invited to Peleus and Thetis’s marriage. 

However, Eris, goddess of discord, did not receive an invitation that infuriated her. She came to the event with a golden apple and threw it among the goddesses. 

Among the goddesses, Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena were claimed to the fairest of all. However, these goddesses wanted the beauty title and a golden apple at a single hand, not divided into many others.

When these three goddesses asked Zeus to tell who was the fairest of all, he assigned the task to Paris, a Trojan prince. The goddesses appeared before the prince for the decision after bathing in the spring of Mount Ida. 

When Paris saw the three beautiful goddesses, he could not decide who was the fairest of all. When Paris failed to decide, the goddesses tried to bribe him. First, Hera lured Paris with power over Asia and Europe, while Athena offered him fame and glory on the battlefield. 

And Aphrodite promised Paris to let him marry the most beautiful woman on the earth. The world’s most beautiful woman was Helen, who was already married to King Menelaus of Sparta. 

Paris finally opted for Aphrodite and awarded her with that golden apple. Hera and Athena became angry with Paris’ decision, resulting in the beginning of the Trojan War.

5. Athena was one of the three original virgin goddesses. 

The three virgin goddesses
The three virgin goddesses

Athena never fell for someone and did not lose her virginity to anyone. Hephaestus tried to rape her but failed in his mission. Never bored baby and perpetual virginity made Athena the goddess of virginity or chastity. 

Athena belongs to a group of three virgin goddesses, including Artemis and Hestia. She was also called Parthenos (virgin), which was based on Athena’s most famous temple. 

According to Greek Mythology, Athena’s virginity did not limit only to sexual orientation. But it was a symbol that equalled Athena with male gods in masculine acts or Warfare. 

Though Athena never bored a biological baby, she fostered a child named Ericthonius. Ericthonius was the son of Hephaestus. Once Athena visited Hephaestus’ workshop for some weapons, Hephaestus tried to rape her. 

Athena, however, protected her virginity and returned to her safe land. But before leaving, semen from Hephaestus dropped on Athena’s thigh during the struggle.

 She whipped it and threw it to the earth. When Gaia, Mother Earth, received it, she conceived a baby and gave birth to Erichthonius. After Erichthonius was born, Athena adopted and raised him as a foster child. 

Later, Erichthonius became one of the most important founding heroes and a legendary ruler of ancient Athens.

4. Athena invented the flute, but she never played it

Athena with her flute
Athena with her flute

According to “Twelfth Pythian Ode” by Pindar, Athena had invented the “aulos”, a kind of flute. She made it to show Medusa’s sisters’ (Gorgons) lamentations after Perseus had beheaded her. Pinar has said that Athena had given “aulos” to mortals. Though she had made the flute but never played it. 

But it also has an alternative version. According to Melanippides of Melos, Athena threw the aulos away and cursed the flute so that anyone who picked it up would meet an awful death. 

When she was playing the flute, she found herself silly with her cheeks in the mirror. The satyr Marsyas was killed because of the curse Athena had spoked on that flute. He picked up the flute and was later killed by Apollo for his proudness. 

3. Athen was named after Athena.

Athen - the city of Athena
Athen – the city of Athena

Athena was the patron of many cities across Ancient Greece, including Athens. For Athens’ patronage, Athena and Poseidon had competed with each other. They agreed to give one gift from each to Athenians and let them decide which gift would be better.

First, Poseidon took out the saltwater by striking his tridents and gave it to Athenians. Athenians had access to trade and water with this gift. Also, it would have helped Athenians to win over the Persians at the battle of Salamis. 

But Athenians could not have drunk the salt water, and this was the gift’s negative aspect.

After Poseidon finished giving his gifts, Athena offered the first domesticated olive tree. Athenians could have received food and lightened their house from Athena’s gift. 

The olive tree, which brought wood, oil, and food, could have become a symbol of Athenian economic prosperity. Athenians were happy to receive Athena’s gift and declared Athena as the patron of Athens. 

But Poseidon was not satisfied with the decision and challenged Athena to fight him. Zeus finally had to intervene in the fight and took the debate to Mount Olympus to decide the patron by vote. Again, Athena won and became Athens’ patron. 

2. Athena was the daughter of Zeus produced without a mother

Zeus and Athena
Zeus and Athena

Zeus had married Metis, who was the goddess of counsel. When Metis was pregnant with twins, Zeus learned the prophecy. 

The prophecy was that the children born out of Metis would be wiser and stronger than Zeus. Also, they would overthrow Zeus from the throne just like Zeus and Cronus had done to their fathers. 

Fearing the prophecy, Zeus tricked Metis into turning water and swallowed her. Metis had already conceived and was ready for the delivery. 

After swallowing Metis, Zeus experienced a terrible headache. When he thought it unbearable, he ordered Hephaestus, the god of metalworking, to crack his head open with an axe.

After Hephaestus had cracked open Zeus’ head, Athena appeared from Zeus’ head fully grown and dressed in armour for the battle. Zeus was happy to receive the beautiful daughter with wisdom, handicrafts, and warfare skills. Later, Athena became Zeus’ favourite daughter.  

1. Athena is the goddess of handicraft, wisdom, and warfare.

Athena and her symbols
Athena and her symbols

Athena is always depicted with animals such as owls and snakes. Along with that, she also appears with olive trees and the Gorgoneion. 

Gorgoneion was a magic pendant showing the head of a mythical creature known as Gorgon in the art portrait. These all symbolize wisdom; thus, Athena is the goddess of wisdom and knowledge. 

Legends also believe that Athena received wisdom from her mother, the wisest woman among mortals and gods.

Besides, Athena is also associated with spinning and weaving. She is the patron of handicrafts by encouraging others to spread the skill of embroideries. Athena was also a well-skilled warrior. 

A spear, shield, lance, helmet, and body armour are her equipment for the battlefield. She had protected many cities in Ancient Greece.

Conclusion 

Ancient Greek has supplied several powerful gods and goddess,es but Athena was the special goddess who mirrored the male gods in strength.

If I were to keep a single fact about Athena, I would remember Athena as the Lady of Athens; how she won the patronage. Reread the interesting facts about Athena and list out your favourite facts among all. You are free to fill your list in the comment box.

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