In Greek Mythology, Athena was the Goddess of Wisdom and Strategy, and acted as a female counterpart to Ares in her role as Goddess of War. She was also a companion to heroes and the patron deity of Athens.
The Greek Goddess Athena
Athena was depicted as a beautiful, yet stern Goddess in Greek mythology. She could be best described as being calculating – weighing up all the options before making a decision.
As such, Athena was revered for her wisdom and unmatched intelligence, especially when it came to matters of war or even peace. This was because unlike many of the other Gods, who were temperamental at the best of times, she made rational decisions and could also be a good broker of the peace.
Her celestial duties were not just limited to strategy and wisdom however. Athena was also the Goddess for artisans and poetry, and is considered a civilising force.
Often accompanied by an owl, which itself has become a symbol of wisdom, she was the favourite daughter of Zeus, but found herself drawn into rivalry with her Uncle who was Poseidon.
Athena in Greek Mythology
There are many myths and legends involving the Greek Goddess Athena. Two of the most well know ones are her birth (where she sprang full formed from the forehead of Zeus who had been complaining of a headache), and the story of how the city of Athens was named.
Perhaps the story that best illustrates the wisdom of Athena, is given to us by Homer in The Odyssey. She often appears to the hero Odysseus and his son Telemachus in disguise or in visions. In doing so, she acts as a guide, helping point the characters in the right direction and offering advice.
The Odyssey even draws comparisons between Athena and Odysseus when Homer gives this line to Athena:
We both know tricks, since you are by far the best among all men in counsel and tales, but I among all the Gods have renown for wit (metis) and tricks
Powers, Weapons and Attributes
All of the Greek Gods had different powers an attributes, and of course Athena was no different. One of those which is not often commented on, is her ability to cause illusions or perhaps even to transform people’s shapes.
At one point she disguises Odysseus so that his wife and guests can not recognize him, she transformed Arachne into a Spider, and also appeared herself in various different forms. The most famous instance of Athena using her transforming powers, was when she turned Medusa into a monster.
Although Athena is often depicted as wearing armour and carrying a shield and spear, these were used mainly to give courage to other people. The Athenians looked on her as a protector of the city, and someone from whom to gain strength. Her main power was her brilliant, strategic mind.
Did Athena have children?
Unlike many of the Greek Gods, who it seems couldn’t stop themselves from having children with other Gods, mortals, and even animals, Athena was a Virgin Goddess. In this way, she shared something in common with her relatives Artemis and Hestia.
One myth states that Athena once fought off Hephaestus who tried to rape her. His efforts were futile and so instead he ejaculated on her thigh. After brushing it off, it fell onto the earth where it transformed into Erichthonius, who later became a legendary King of Athens.
Athena in the Percy Jackson books
In the Percy Jackson books, Athena plays the role of Annabeth’s mother. Her strength, wisdom and strategizing character are also then depicted by her daughter who is known as a great strategist.
In her appearances in the Percy Jackson books, Athena is described as wearing armour or in disguise. Like the original Greek Gods, Athena has a hand-off approach to parenting. She helps and assists in indirect ways, but can also be considered to be more caring than some of the other Gods.
Famous temples in Greece connected with Athena
The most famous temple in Greece dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena is the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis. Originally, a huge statue of Athena was housed here made out of gold and ivory. What later happened to this statue is a mystery lost in the mist of time. Some people think that it was destroyed in a fire. Others, that it was taken to Constantinople.
The Parthenon can be visited during a tour of the Acropolis. Find out more here about our Percy Jackson half day tour of the Acropolis and Acropolis museum in Athens.