Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom and war. She is the daughter of Zeus and was birthed from him as a full-grown woman. Her symbols include olives and owls.
Like her sister Artemis, Athena is an independent goddess who does not marry or have children. Instead, she is focused on many other conquests. She brings protection and revelations.
Birth of Athena
Athena is the daughter of Zeus. Some say she did not have a mother at all. In an alternative telling, she is daughter of Metis, who Zeus swallowed while pregnant with Athena. This could have been because Zeus feared that Metis would give with to a son who would grow up to overthrow him.
Zeus had been complaining of a painful headache that was growing worse with time. His son, Hephaestus, wanted to help him out and proposed taking an axe to his head. After chopping off Zeus’s head, out came Athena! (Zeus, being an immortal god, got his head back and survived just fine.) She ended up becoming Zeus’s favorite daughter.
Athena is typically portrayed wearing battle armor, implying that she is always ready for war. Yet rather than representing the bloody, violent, and physical aspect of war, she is instead linked to the intellectual side, the ability to outsmart your enemies with the power of logic and trickery.
The battle for Athens
One of her most famous myth’s is the rivalry between her and Poseidon, fighting for control over Athens territory. Poseidon, god of the sea who carries a trident (and in Roman mythology, “Neptune”) was the brother of Zeus. Out of the three kingdoms, Zeus rules the sky, Poseidon rules the sea, and third brother Hades rules the Underworld.
Before Athens got its name, the land was fought over by Athena and Poseidon. In order to solve their dispute, Zeus ordered a contest between the two that would be judged by him and several others. The two would have to give a gift to the city, and it would be determined who gave the best gift.
Poseidon struck down his trident into the earth, cracking the ground and creating a river for the people. However, this was no use, because the land was already surrounded by many other rivers. (In another retelling, he gives them a horse.)
Next, was Athena’s turn. She planted an olive tree — this provided everything from timber to medicinal, cosmetic, and nutritional benefits of the fruit to the people. And so, Athena won, and the city was named “Athens” in her favor.
As you can see from this story, Athena is a competitive fighter who craves power. But rather than physical force, she uses her brainy strength to conquer.
Another famous myth tells of Arachne, who was extremely talented at spinning and weaving. She had been a student of Athena, but grew to separate herself from the goddess and became overly confident in her abilities. Soon, she claimed to have better skills than the goddess herself.
Athena attempted to warn Arachne about her pride, but she refused. Instead, she challenged her to a weaving contest. Arachne’s work was flawless, but depicted the gods in shameful ways, including the act of Zeus’s many affairs.
Athena became so furious that she struck Arachne with her shuttle. Arachne ended up hanging herself in shame. Taking pity, Athena transformed Arachne into a spider.
Celebration of Athena’s birthday is known as “The Panathenaea” which was a summer festival held each year, placing special importance every four years — comparable to the Olympics. Like the Olympics, there were competitive sports and games. There were also religious rites and rituals.
Athena was of course popular in Athens, but many other Ancient Greek cities too, such as Sparta. The Parthenon is perhaps the most famous temple built for Athena in the fifth century, BCE.
Call upon Athena for protection, for defeat against your enemies, and for humble knowledge.