Athena | Greek Goddess

Athena Greek Mythology

Athena or Athena (Greek: Αθηνά, transl.: Athēná, see Name section), also known as Palas Athena (Greek: Παλλάς Αθηνά, transl. : Pallás Athēná) or spelled as Athene, is, in Greek mythology, the goddess of civilization, wisdom, strategy in battle, arts, justice and skill.

One of the principal deities of the Greek pantheon and one of the twelve Olympian gods, Athena received worship throughout Ancient Greece and throughout her area of influence, from the Greek colonies of Asia Minor to those of the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.

Its presence is attested even in the vicinity of India. For this reason his cult took many forms, and his figure was syncretized with various other divinities from the regions around the Mediterranean, increasing the variety of forms of worship.

The most current version of her myth gives her as the parthenogenetic daughter of Zeus, born from his fully armed head. She never married or took lovers, maintaining a perpetual virginity. She was unbeatable in war; not even Ares was a match for her.

She was patroness of several cities, but became best known as the protector of Athens and all of Attica. She also protected many heroes and other mythical figures, appearing in a great number of episodes in mythology.

She was one of the most represented goddesses in Greek art, and her symbolism had a profound influence on Greek thought, especially on concepts related to justice, wisdom, and the civilizing function of culture and the arts, whose reflections are perceptible even today throughout the West.

Her image has undergone several transformations over the centuries, incorporating new attributes, interacting with new contexts, and influencing other symbolic figures; she has been used by several political regimes to legitimize their principles, and has even penetrated popular culture. Her intriguing gender identity has been of special appeal to writers linked to feminism and psychology, and some contemporary religious currents have returned to pay her true worship.


The name Athena, whose meaning is unknown and possibly has an Asian origin, is the Portuguese version of the Attic Greek Αθηνά, Athēnā, a name that was also found in other variants: Aθηναία, Athēnaia; Aθηναίη, Athēnaiē (in Epic Greek); Aθήνη, Athēnē (in Ionian Greek); Aθάνα, Athana (in Doric Greek). She was also known as Palas Athena (Παλλλάς Αθηνά).

It has been the subject of long scholarly dispute whether the city of Athens, of which she was the patroness, took her name from the goddess or whether it was the city that borrowed her name. In view of the common occurrence of "ena" suffixes for place names, it is possible that the latter is true.

The first known record of the goddess' name was found at Knossos, on a tablet in Linear B, the ancient writing of the Mycenaean peoples used between the 15th and 12th centuries B.C. There it appears as a-ta-na po-ti-ni-ja, which has been translated as "Lady of Athens" or "Lady Athena."

To the Athenians she was more than one of the many goddesses in the Greek pantheon, she was "the" goddess, he theos. The meaning of the name Palas is obscure, sometimes it is translated as "maiden", sometimes as "she who wields weapons", and may also have a non-Greek origin.

One tradition reported by Pseudo-Apolodorus tells that the name Palas originally belonged to a daughter of Triton, a sea deity in turn the son of Posidon and Amphitrite. Both were raised together by Triton and, sharing a similar bellicose character, they spent their time engaged in military activities, which once led to a dispute.

As Palas was about to strike a blow against Athena, Zeus intervened and distracted her with his aegis. Extremely saddened by what had happened, Athena modeled a statue with Pallas' features, which she called Palladium, and wrapped her with the aegis that had precipitated her death, installing the work beside Zeus' throne, giving her honors and taking her friend's name as a tribute.

Later Electra, pursued by Zeus, sought refuge by this statue, but Zeus cast it on the earth, where Ilo, seeing it fall before him, took this as a divine sign, founding on the spot the city of Troy and preserving the statue in a shrine.

She was also said to have adopted the name of the winged giant Palas, whom she killed because he had attempted against her virginity. After that she would have flayed him, making his skin her aegis, plucked his wings to tie them to her own feet, and assumed his name, whereby her feat would be immortalized.


In the vast region in which Athena was worshipped she received a variety of epithets. The following is an incomplete list, also excluding those that are simply toponymic: Etia (Aithyia), the one who dives, associated with her function as an instructor in the arts of navigation and ship-building;

Agelceia (Agelkeia), leader or protector of the people; Agórea (Agoraia), protector of assemblies; Alalkômene (Alalkomenêïs), powerful defender; Alcis (Alkis), the strong one; Ambulia (Amboulia), possibly meaning the one who delays death; Anêmotis (Anemôtis), the one who dominates the winds; Areia, warrior; Arcégetis (Arkhegetis), founder; Axiópino (Axiopoinos), avenger; Chalcico (Chalkioikos), the one with a house of bronze; Chalinita (Chalinitis), the one who dominates horses through reins; Érgane (Erganê), worker, associated with her function as instructor of mankind in all manual and artistic works;

Gláucope (Glaucopis), bright-eyed, owl-eyed-galego (γλαύξ); Hippia (Hippia), equestrian, tamer of horses; Hygieia (Hygieia), goddess of health; Mequaneu (Mêchaneus), skilled in inventions; Nice (Nike), victorious; Peony (Paionia), healer; Partheno (Parthenos), virgin; Polias or Polyjuice (Poliouchos), protector of cities; Promachus (Promakhos), champion or the one who wars in the vanguard; Sotheira (Sotheira), savior; Trito (Tritô), born of the head; Xenia, protector of foreigners and patroness of hospitality. 



Her citation on a tablet in Linear B attests that Athena was present among the Greeks from a very early date, even before Greek civilization took the form for which it became famous. Various researchers have attempted to trace the origins of her cult, but nothing could be proved conclusively;

it may have derived from the worship of the Serpent Goddess or the Goddess of the Shield of the Minoan Civilization, or the Great Mother of the Indo-European peoples, or be a direct Oriental import, from the identification of some of her main primitive attributes, war and the protection of cities, with those of various other goddesses worshipped in the Near East since prehistoric times.

Her history among the Greeks until the end of the Dark Ages is difficult to reconstruct, but it is certain that by the time the first literary descriptions about Athena appear in the 8th century BCE, her cult was already firmly established not only in Athens, but in many other parts of Greece, such as Argos, Sparta, Lindos, Larissa, and Ilium, generally attributing to her a role as protector of cities and specifically of citadels, having a temple in the center of walled citadels, and being, by extension, a warrior goddess.

The oldest known account of Athena's birth is found in Hesiod's Theogony, presented in two variants. In the first, Athena would be the fruit of the union of Métis and Zeus. Métis, a personification of prudence and good counsel and the wisest of the immortals, was the first wife of Zeus, the king of the gods.

However, being warned by Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the sky, that the son to be born to Métis after Athena would be more powerful than his father, and he therefore risked being dethroned, just as he had dethroned his own father Kronos. Through a ruse Zeus tricked Metis and swallowed her.

Nevertheless, Metis begot Athena in Zeus' womb, and the daughter came into being by her father's head on the banks of the river Triton, already fully grown and armed. In the second version Hesiod said that Athena had been exclusively the daughter of Zeus, being born right after his marriage to Hera, which would have been the cause of a confrontation with his wife. She, reviled, also gave birth to a son without joining her husband: Hephaestus.

Later narratives enriched the circumstances of her birth with new events, saying that before Athena was born Zeus began to feel an unbearable headache, and asked Hephaestus to open her skull with an axe. Other accounts place Hermes, Prometheus or Palamon as assistants in this unusual birth. She was also presented as the daughter of the giant Palas.

A version of the myth cultivated in Libya placed her as the daughter of Poseidon with the nymph Tritonis, and on one occasion, angry with her father, she would have asked Zeus to adopt her.

Her connection to the river Triton made every city where a river of this name flowed, and there were many, claim to be her birthplace. The rapid expansion of her cult over a vast region explains the variants on her birth and the multiple mythical stories where she took part, which certainly incorporate local legends.

Other episodes

From the Archaic period onward, until the Roman era, the myth of Athena was significantly expanded and enriched with a profusion of other stories. In Homer's Iliad a number of events are narrated with the participation of Athena.

She was shown as sitting at the right hand of her father Zeus and providing him with advice; she drove Diomedes' chariot and urged him to smite Ares, was responsible for the death of Agax, and roused the Greeks against the Trojans by mingling with the army and uttering war cries.

She had an indirect role in the capture of the Palladium by the Greeks, which ensured the fall of Troy, because a prophecy said that as long as the Palladium remained in the possession of the Trojans the city would be impregnable. Her most important manifestation was for Achilles: she favored him in the dispute with Agamemnon by advising him to moderate his fury, and she collaborated in the death of Hector by deceiving him and returning the sword to Achilles.

She also made significant appearances in The Odyssey. She was Odysseus' protector throughout the long and dangerous journey home, and when he finally arrived in Ithaca without recognizing her, giving in to despondency, the goddess made him realize that his tour was over.

She added that she was perpetually attached to Odysseus by the fact that he was considered the most cunning of mortals, while she was the wisest and most resourceful among the gods.

She also favored Telemachus, Odysseus' son, by disguising herself as Mentor, his tutor, advising him to go and inquire about the fate of his father, prophesying that he would soon be back, and later instructing him how to act against the suitors of his mother Penelope.

Under the same disguise he presented himself before the suitors at the time of the final fight, urging Odysseus against them and, transforming himself into a swallow, deflecting their spears.

Hesiod mentioned that Athena dressed Pandora with a silver robe and a wonderful embroidered veil, putting on her head a garland of flowers and a crown of gold made by Hephaestus.

She was an ally of Zeus in the fight against the Titans, and later against the giants, taking charge of seeking Hercules' help, contributing to the death of the giant Alcioneus, and killing Enceladus by throwing the island of Sicily over him.

22] Pseudo-Apolodorus narrated that when Cecrops became king of Attica the Olympian gods decided to divide the kingdom in order to establish their cults in the various cities. Posidon arrived first in the newly founded capital and with his trident struck the ground of the Acropolis, from which a fountain of salt water sprang up.

Athena appeared after him, but claimed possession of the city by planting the first olive tree there. Both began a dispute, and Zeus appointed the Olympians as arbiters. Athena was declared the winner because the olive tree was considered more useful to humans. She assumed guardianship of the city and lent it her name.

Later Athena went to order weapons from Hephaestus, but the latter, overcome with passion for the goddess, tried to seduce her. She repulsed his advance, but nevertheless Hephaestus ejaculated on her thigh. Athena wiped the semen away and, disgusted, threw the cloth she had used onto the earth.

Gaia, the earth, secretly begot a son from Hephaestus' seed, Erythronius, planning to make him immortal. She placed him in a basket, which she entrusted to the care of a daughter of Scythros, Pandrous, but forbade her to look at its contents. Pândroso's sisters, overcome by curiosity, opened the basket, but were horrified by the sight of a serpent wrapped around the baby.

The Pseudo-Apollodore continued the story by saying that some versions of the myth then show the sisters either dying from the bite of the serpent, or driven mad by the wrath of Athena, who finally threw them off the top of the Acropolis. Athena then took the child and raised him in a sacred cave.

Upon reaching adulthood, Erictonius expelled Amphictyon and became king of Athens, when he introduced the festival of Panatenaias, the most important of the religious festivals dedicated to Athena.

The goddess also participated in a beauty contest together with Aphrodite and Hera, with Paris as judge. Hera offered Paris dominion over all the kings of the earth if he was the chosen one; Athena, victory in all wars, but Aphrodite, promising to marry him to Helen of Troy, the most beautiful of women, eventually won.

Several mythical characters were punished by Athena as a result of profanations, hubris or outrages to her divinity, such as the sisters of Pandroso, just mentioned. Ajax, son of Ileu, prince of Locida, for having raped Cassandra inside the sanctuary of Athena, was punished by the sinking of his boat, which the goddess struck with lightning.

His people also had to pay for the offense, being plagued by a plague and being forced to expiate it for a thousand years by sending two maidens annually to be sacrificed by the Trojans. To punish Auge, his priestess, who had had sexual relations inside his sanctuary in Arcadia, made the region infertile until the king expelled her and sold her into slavery.

For the same reason he ordered Tideus to kill Ismene, princess of Boeotia. Ilo was blinded by the goddess for unveiling the Palladium statue, whose contemplation was forbidden to mortals.

He turned Arachne into a spider because she had challenged Athena in an embroidery competition; he turned Mehrope into an owl because she had ridiculed the goddess's gray eyes and mocked the other gods; he drove Aias Telamaniac mad because he had threatened to kill the Greek leaders during the Trojan War;

killed Laocoon and his sons by having two sea serpents strangle them to prevent him from revealing the secret of the Trojan Horse to the Trojans, and made the plague desolate Arcadia because its prince Têutis had accidentally wounded it.

He turned Medusa into a monster because she boasted her beauty as superior to Athena's, then helped Perseus kill her and fixed her head on his shield (or his aegis, according to other versions), by which he terrorized his enemies.

On the other hand, Athena showed her benevolent face by favoring other characters. To prevent Koronis, princess of Phocida, from being raped by Posidon, she turned her into a raven. Also to protect Nictimene from a similar fate, he transformed her into an owl and took her as his symbolic animal.

He took Polyboia to Olympus and gave her immortality; helped Argos, a craftsman from Iolcos, build the ship that bore his name and led the Argonauts; gave Medusa's blood to Asclepius to increase his healing powers; taught Daedalus the art of construction;

helped Danaus build a boat so that he could flee from Argolis with his daughters, and later purified them for the murder of their husbands; inspired Epicus to build the Trojan Horse; taught Eurynome the art of weaving and gave her wisdom, also obtaining for her a good husband;

also taught the daughters of Coronei and of Pandare the art of weaving; restored life to Persix in the form of a pheasant as a reward for the inventions he had transmitted to mankind; blinded Thyreias because he saw her bathing naked, but compensated him by granting him the gift of prophecy;

gave dragon's teeth to Aeetes king of Colchida and to Cadmo king of Thebes, that they might give birth to a race of warriors; favored Perseus in his combat against Medusa, was ever ready to assist Hercules in his Twelve Labors, was of great help to the Greeks during the Trojan War and in particular to Achilles and Odysseus, as already mentioned, and helped Bellerophon to capture Pegasus by instructing him and giving him a special rein, of gold, so that he could tame him. 

His attributes

As goddess of war, Athena is the perfect antithesis of Ares, the other god in charge of this activity. Athena is endowed with profound wisdom and knows all the arts of strategy, while Ares lacks all good judgment, excels in impulsive, uncontrolled and violent action, and sometimes, in the heat of combat, barely knows how to distinguish between allies and enemies.

This is why Ares is despised by all the gods, while Athena is universally respected and admired. Ares' lack of wisdom explains his invariable defeat whenever he confronted Athena.

The principle symbolized by Ares is sometimes most necessary when it is a matter of clearing a hostile territory and founding or conquering a city, or when violence is absolutely unavoidable in the face of a desperate situation, but is incapable of creating culture and civilization and keeping society in a stable, integrated and organized form.

This role falls to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, diplomacy, social cohesion - remember that she is the protector par excellence of the citadels, the vital core of cities -, instructor in the productive arts and manual trades, especially metalwork and weaving, which enrich the spirit and make possible the continuity of life in community. It makes war a social and political instrument subject to intellect, discipline, and order, rather than a product of pure barbarism and irrational passions.

Ares' own repeated defeats before Athena, his attribute as a horse tamer, and, in the dispute for Attica, his victory against Poseidon, a god known for his turbulent, vengeful, and irascible character, confirm the submission of brute force to the sovereignty and balance of justice and reason. However, when he decides to fight in it, no hesitation or weakness is to be found, and his mere presence can suffice to drive the enemy away.

As a warrior Athena is invincible and can be as ruthless as Ares, but this does not deprive her of sweeter traits, which Ares does not possess. Several episodes in her myth show her in affectionate relationships with her father and his protégés, and her fidelity and devotion can be profound.

She also has an unequaled sense of justice and, like the divine virgin, purity, as she proved several times: She punished characters taken by hubris or who profaned her temples, protected maidens about to be raped, and was harsh against the unworthy behavior of Penelope's suitors, besides having corrected several injustices, as when she restored life to Perdix, who had been killed by his envious uncle, or when, in a public trial in Athens, her vote dissolved the curse that had fallen on Orestes, persecuted by the Erinias on account of the matricide he had committed fulfilling a direct order from Apollo.

For this reason Athena is considered the tutelary deity of trials and juries, and the mythical founder of Western courts of justice, replacing the traditional punishment by revenge with the penalty based on principles enshrined in a formalized legal system.

It is possible that in ancient times Athena was a goddess of fertility and had the maternal character of all the Great Mothers of prehistoric times, being identified with the rock of the Acropolis of Athens which, as in regions of Anatolia (one of the possible routes of entry of Indo-European peoples in the early colonization of Greece), was identified with the mountains of their cities where the citadels were erected. She may also have had an annually renewable virginity, as Hera was said to possess, a trait linked to the natural cycles of seasonal renewal, but in any case in classical times her perennial virginity became canonical.

Although in classical myth the relationship between Athena and Hephaestus at the birth of Erythronius was conflictual, they appear frequently together in Greek art, both are considered co-instructors of humanity in the arts, and in several places shared a cult from this early time, which led Cook to suggest that at an early, undocumented stage, Hephaestus may have been a true husband of Athena.

In some interpretations of the myth by apologists of the time the goddess was actually given to him in marriage, as a reward for his ridding Hera of a throne that held her (done by Hephaestus himself), or for creating the thunderbolt for Zeus to use as a weapon, or for assisting in the goddess' birth, though in neither version was the union actually consummated.

Plato described the link between Athena and Hephaestus, the god of forges and metallurgical arts, by saying that they have the same nature, first because, as half-brothers, they have the same father, and second, because their same love for knowledge and arts leads them to the same ends.

The two gods shared the region of Athens, and, still according to Plato, it should rightly belong to them, being naturally suited for virtue and thought. Having installed there as inhabitants a respectable people, they organized the city according to their wishes.

Athena and Hephaestus shared worship in a temple in the acropolis and another in the lower city, in a district inhabited by craftsmen. Hence Athena became the patron saint of carpenters, weavers, ship and chariot builders, potters, and she was credited with inventing the reins for taming horses, the chariot, the plow, and the flute.

All these activities involved manual skill and practical intelligence, some carried a touch of magic, required a definite aesthetic sense that was then included in the realm of wisdom, and defined part of her character as domestic, familial, and civilizing. In the Iliad she appears saying that it is wisdom and not brute strength that produces a good craftsman in wood.

The ability to build a ship or chariot was considered to be in essence the same as what made a good pilot or knight, involving the gifts of concentrated attention, discipline, physical/manual dexterity, and the ability to set goals and follow them through. Similarly the concept applied to weavers, farmers and potters.

Having as one of her symbols the olive tree, which she had offered as her gift to the city of Athens at its foundation, Athena was an image of the perenniality and vitality of the polis, and protector of one of its most important agricultural products, olive oil, and became a powerful image of hope and renewal for the Greeks especially after the war with the Persians, when the ancient sacred olive tree of the acropolis, burned in the sacking of the city by the enemies, sprouted again.

To it an olive grove was consecrated in the area of the Academy, which produced the oil offered as a prize to the winners of the athletic games at its festivals.

The olive tree was also one of the indications of her connection with the fertility of the earth and with agriculture, aspects that were in turn linked to the feminine side of nature, which leads to another of Athena's ambiguities regarding the dynamics of the principles of generation and virginity, masculine and feminine, in her own identity, which was strongly androgynous and paradoxically found little parallel in Greek society and especially in the women of her time.

For those Greeks it was fundamental that their daughters remained virgins until marriage, but it was also fundamental that afterwards they were capable of forming a family by generating offspring. Athena, the ever-virgin, thus repudiated basic values of Greek society.

Warrior, haughty and independent, she also contrasted with the habit of the time that kept women largely submissive to men, confined to domestic activities and required of them modesty, but on the other hand she was the patroness of weaving, spinning and embroidery, eminently feminine arts.

Her closest approach to motherhood was the adoption and education of Erytonius, and for this she was called kourotrophos, the one who raises young men, but this also led her to a greater contact with the virile principle, as protector of heroes.

Even the version that gave her as the daughter of Métis, thus making her the recipient and transmitter of a feminine form of wisdom, over the centuries was largely superseded by the version that excluded a mother in her birth, again linking her to the male world, and more when, in the classical period, the concept of wisdom, with which she was identified, ceased to mean an ability that had much of a practical character, moving into the realm of abstract philosophical thought, also an appanage of men.

Another related aspect is referred to in an ode by Pindar, where one finds a description of Athena as the one who dissolves the demonic power of the Great Attic Mother and makes the feminine principle safe and accessible to the masculine activities and institutions of the polis, thus enabling the continuation of the Athenian model of civilization.

Myth and Politics

The myth of Athena had a decisive influence on the establishment of Athenian identity and society itself, and by extension on the entire culture of Ancient Greece. An idea that their city was loved by the gods was formed among the Athenians from the dispute between Athena and Poseidon, meaning that they had the desire to preferentially settle there.

Even though he was defeated, Poseidon symbolized, through the spring of salt water that had given birth, in some versions a real sea, the future maritime power of the Athenians.

The fertilization of the Attic land by the seed of Hephaestus was another formative element in this notion, making the territory sacred, inaugurating with Erictonius a dynasty of kings of allegedly divine origin, and thereby founding a people who could claim for themselves a prestigious autochthony.

Religion, myth and politics were inextricably linked; there was legislation linking numerous aspects of religious life to civic practice, to the point of fusing religion and state. The whole myth of Athena was extensively used in the political discourse of the time to shape and fix the model of Athenian society, and, under the guise of "civilizing" foreigners, substantiated their imperialistic claims over barbarians and even over their Greek neighbors.

The orators went so far as to deduce democracy from the principle of Athenian autochthony, equating political equality (isonomia) with equality of origin (isogony).

According to Loraux, in this way law (nomos) was established on the foundation of nature (physis), and the people thus legitimized their power - by imbuing the collectivity with high birth (eugenics), the autochthonous citizens were all equal because they were all noble (but understand "all" to mean only those who held Athenian citizenship).

Going one step further, the orators proudly superimposed Athens over all other polis, which for them constituted a heterogeneous gathering of intruders settled in a territory they imagined theirs by divine right.

Athena's warrior character, highlighting her virile qualities, associated with her perpetual virginity, never "entering a man's house," meant that she never left "her father's house," remaining under the direct influence of Zeus, the patriarch par excellence, and such a fact became one of the mythical bases of local patriarchy and the primacy of man over woman in Athenian society and politics.

Also the myth of Theseus was incorporated into that of Athena within a political bias, due to the fact that he was considered the unifier of Attica, being celebrated alongside Athena both at the festival of Synoikia and at the Panatenaias.


Athena had her most important center of worship in Athens, the city of which she was the patroness, a protection extended to all of Attica. In many places Athena was worshiped in association with other deities and heroes, such as Erythronius, Hephaestus, Posidon, Demeter, and Theseus. In rites that were associated with legal functions she was often served together with Zeus.

But she was not limited to Attica, on the contrary, as an urban goddess par excellence, protector of cities, Athena's presence is attested in almost the entire lap of the Mediterranean Sea, penetrating through the east as far as Persia. Her attributes and her cult have thus known infinite variations, which makes it impossible to define them as homogeneous.

In fact, as Deacy noted, there were as many Athena as there were cities that adopted her in their religions, and dozens are recorded where Athena was not only worshipped, but had become the main deity. A detail of her worship in and around Athens, where she acquired exceptional importance, is worth noting.

Of the various festivals dedicated in her honor, such as the Plinteria and the Esciraforia, the Panatenaias were the most important, for besides being a great religious celebration, they had a great impact on political and social life, and decisively influenced artistic production over ten centuries, offering a host of new thematic and formal motifs for artists.

Some scholars believe that the hymns sung in honor of Athena at the Panatenaias throughout the sixth century BC. C. contributed to the fixing of the canonical form of the great epics of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The whole cult of Athena was somehow connected to agriculture, the most important source of subsistence for the Greeks, but it had other associations and projected itself in her myth. And in this cult the main attention fell on Athena Polias, who concentrated in herself all the multiple attributes of Athena. It was she who received the most important and richest offerings and tributes.

She was served by a group of priestesses, and the chief among them in Athens was chosen from the family of the Eteobutadae. The same family provided a priest for the parallel cult of Erictonius and Posidon. The main function of the priestesses was to receive the offerings and to perform prayers and rituals.

The cult was lavish, receiving hundreds of offerings of statues and silver and gold objects. Athena was also entitled to 1/60 of all the revenues of Athens and the territories under her jurisdiction, which could reach the sum of ten talents in some years, something like six million dollars in today's values.

The temples of Athena presumably had the character of an aristocratic family home at the same time, where girls of the elite received a thorough education, with masters, servants and slaves. It was also the place where chosen young women became disciples of the priestesses for future service to the goddess.


The Plinteria festival had at its center the annual cleansing of the oldest and most sacred of the goddess' images kept in the acropolis, the Palladium, which was honored with a perpetual fire and according to tradition was captured by the Greeks who fought at Troy.

It was performed by a small group of priestesses on the new moon between late May and early June, out of public view, in a propitiatory and purifying ceremony that ended one agricultural cycle and magically prepared the next.

Apparently the whole rite took place in the acropolis, and began with the removal of her cloak, followed by the placing of a veil over the naked statue and washing of the cloak; a day or two later the image itself was washed, received its clean cloak, and was adorned with a gold crown and other precious ornaments, as well as possibly being anointed with oil.

The washing of the statue was associated with the birth of the goddess and recounted the first celebrations dedicated to Athena in time immemorial. The festival was repeated throughout Attica and several other Greek localities, exhibiting many variations, but all remaining descriptions of Greek rites are poor in detail. Also the time of year when Plinteria was celebrated could vary according to local customs.

The festival of Scythia took place on the following full moon, was shared with Demeter, and had as its theme the threshing of grain from the harvest. A procession would leave the acropolis towards the fields west of Athens to inaugurate the process of separating the grain from the chaff, which constituted the last phase of the year's agricultural work, along with storage.

Erictonius, the adopted son of Athena, was also celebrated in the Scythia and had a temple to himself, the Erecteion, for being a Scythian god, of the underworld, he was associated with agriculture.

The cycle was crowned by the Panatenaias festival, when, two months after Plinteria, all the grain had been threshed and stored. The Panatenaias only acquired primacy among the festivals after the cult of Demeter in Elêusis was instituted in the sixth century B.C., when the threshing rites lost importance in their association with Athena.

The Panatenaias were divided into two: the Great Panathenaia, celebrated every four years involving large celebrations, and the Small Panathenaia, annual, of a more limited character. Apparently until the time of Pisistratus no distinction was made between the two, and only then was the festival reformulated with two very different versions in breadth and splendor, which nevertheless underwent other modifications over the centuries.

There were two explanations for the origin of the festival: one said it was founded by Erictonius, and another, possibly later, by Theseus. The festival of the Great Panathenaia structured the entire civic life of Athens. It marked the replacement of the treasurers of the Parthenon, brought about an increase in the taxes collected from the cities of the Athenian empire, and required ambassadors to renew interstate relations ten days before the celebrations.

The prestige of the Great Panathenaia equaled that of the other great Pan-Hellenic festivals and attracted visitors from all over the Greek world, although actual participation in some of its events was restricted to Athenians - for a foreigner, being invited to participate represented a great honor.

Besides the religious part, a variety of other events were held concurrently, such as banquets, regattas, athletic games, horse races, musical and theatrical performances, cockfights, poetic recitals, and even philosophical seminars. The exact sequence of the rites and other events is not cited in any known source. Possibly it began with games, which took place over a few days, followed by a procession and sacrifices.

The games made reference to Athena's role in the primordial wars between the gods and the giants, besides officially marking the passage of the year and thus symbolizing the renewal of the whole society.

In the games there was room for ritual chants and dances of a warrior character and combat reenactments where actors personified the gods and their mythical enemies, which besides honoring the goddess had apotropaic functions, driving away evil spirits.

Probably the games were a relatively late insertion in the Panatenaian cycle, dating back to the middle of the 6th century BC, 58] Their winners received as prizes cattle and the coveted Panathenaic amphorae, filled with oil from olive trees consecrated to Athena.

The procession, held on the 28th day of the month of hekatombaion, defined as Athena's birthday, also played an important function in the festival, and mirrored both the social hierarchy of the city and the feminine character of the goddess: not all social strata could be part of it, the opening of the official procession was dominated by women, and the closing was composed only of young virgins from the upper class.

The state functionaries also participated in great numbers, all accompanied by large crowds carrying offerings, ornaments, and olive branches. Many followed her on horses or in chariots. Foreigners usually accompanied her wearing purple robes and carrying silver salves containing cakes and honeycombs, her daughters carrying vases of water.

The night before, starting from the sacred olive grove of the Academy, there was a torch race that recalled Hephaestus for his association with Athena and Erytonius.

The procession followed the same route as the torch race, but starting from the northwest gate of the city, and its main purpose was to transport, to the sanctuary of Athena Polias, a large ritual tunic, richly embroidered by girls, showing scenes from her myth, in order to replace the tunic offered at the previous feast, but little is known how the ceremony of delivery and investiture in her statue took place.

Of all the offerings dedicated to Athena on this day the most important was a seal that materialized a formal bond between the goddess and her city. The date was also celebrated with the liberation of slaves.

The sacrifices were equally rich, but there is some disagreement about their details. Broadly speaking, every city in Attica, every colony of Athens, and every other city in its dependency sent a bull to be slaughtered. Even in years of economic hardship, as was the case in 410-409 B.C., the sacrifices could number a hundred animals, at a cost of more than five thousand drachmas (about five hundred thousand dollars today).

Years of wealth could witness a slaughter of three hundred victims. Their horns were covered with gold leaf, and near noon the high priestess would order the sacrifices to begin. A maiden threw grains of wheat on the bull's head, and then the bull was struck on the head.

Then the animal was lifted by the attendants, its throat was cut, and the blood collected in jars was thrown at the foot of the altar as the first offering to the immortals. Its flesh was then distributed: the goddess received the thigh bones wrapped in fat, which were burned in the fire of the Great Altar, when choruses, prayers and flute music began.

Parts of the heart, liver, and kidneys were roasted in the same fire and offered to government officials; the liver also served for the augurs to make prophecies and to unveil the will of the gods. The rest of the meat was given in the evening to the population, after it had been boiled in cauldrons and the people prayed for the prosperity of the Republic. On the same occasion Athena, in her attributes of Nice, Parteno and Hygieia, received special sacrifices according to the attribute.

As for the Little Panathenaia, it was in many points similar to the Great, but its celebrations were much more modest and were limited to the city of Athens, without a pan-Hellenic character. Apparently no robe was given to Athena and also the presence of games is debatable, but almost certainly a procession and sacrifices were held.

Another festival was the Procaristeria, a day of thanksgiving celebrated when grain began to sprout, signifying that the goddess was being born. On this occasion all the civil servants of the city made sacrifices to her. Lycurgus said that it was, of all, the oldest festival.

Also noteworthy is another rite of Athena, reported by Varro, which involved the sacrifice of a goat once a year on the acropolis. For a period the goat was considered her sacred animal, as it was believed that her armor was made from the skin of this animal.

However, goats were not allowed in the acropolis, because according to tradition a goat had damaged the sacred olive tree that grew there, nor were they usually offered in sacrifice to the goddess. The annual exception to this emphasized the importance of the ceremony, suggesting, as Frazer thinks, that this goat was then regarded as a true incarnation of the goddess.

Other regions

Some examples of her worship in other regions may give an idea about her diversity. In Lindos, on the island of Rhodes, which like many places claimed to be the birthplace of Athena, her sacrifices had the peculiarity of being performed without fire.

In Argos the Plinteria was performed not in the local acropolis, but a statue of Athena was carried in procession to the river and there stripped and bathed. Men were prevented from attending, for they might incur Athena's wrath and be blinded if they saw her naked.

In Libya her rites were associated with those of the water nymph Tritonis and were performed by priestesses dressed in armor. At Thebes she was worshipped as the goddess of the city but had no temple, and the ceremonies took place before an outdoor statue and altar. In Coroneia she was a goddess of peace, poetry and vegetation, and her cult was linked to the underworld, worshipped together with Hades.

In classical times, practically everywhere, the cult of Athena was characterized by a civilized appearance for the standards of the time, without signs of orgiastic or barbaric traits, coinciding with the progressive purification of the myth that made her a perennially virgin goddess, but there are reports of the survival of rather crude practices in some isolated places, where human sacrifices would have been made to appease her wrath, recalling episodes from the myth, such as when the furious goddess would have thrown the daughters of Cecrops from the rock of the acropolis for disobeying her orders, or when she avenged the outrage to Cassandra.

It seems that until the fourth century B.C. human sacrifices were still being made in a rite that linked Locris and Troy. Two maidens a year were sent from Lycris to Troy, wearing a simple tunic, without sandals and with their hair shaven.

The first one sent was killed by the Trojans, her bones were buried in a sumptuous ceremony, and her ashes were thrown from a mountain into the sea. The other maiden was admitted to the temple of Athena and became a priestess. Porphyry reported that in Laodicea in ancient times human sacrifices were also made.


So far there is not enough evidence to point out where the first sanctuary of Athena was founded, but the site where today we see the ruins of the Erecteion, a building of the 5th century B.C., must have housed in earlier times one of the oldest temples dedicated to the goddess, and there are traces of buildings dating from the Mycenaean period.

From the middle of the 6th century B.C. onwards, several large temples were reported to have been erected in various cities; the most famous of these was the Parthenon of Athens, whose ruins are still visible on the local acropolis. It became one of the best known icons of the city and of the whole Greek culture, and constitutes a prototypical example of the Greek temple in Doric style.

It was built after the sack of Athens and destruction of the acropolis by the Persians in 480 BC, replacing an older structure, and is one of the inaugural artistic landmarks of the Classical period.

This was the time of Pericles, who reorganized the devastated city and, more than that, succeeded in consolidating Athens' position as the major political and cultural force in all of Greece at that time.

Ancient accounts refer to the speed with which the works were carried out, bringing the whole society together in the reconstruction effort, and the pride the Athenians felt in the magnificent result, seen as a symbol of Athenian power and prestige.

The reconstruction was under the artistic supervision of Phidias, a renowned sculptor, who was also responsible for the design of the sculptural decoration of the temple and the erection of two monumental statues of Athena, made by him personally.

Despite the name by which it became known, official records of the period indicate that the Parthenon was dedicated to Athena Polias, the patron saint of the city, but it is known that among the people she commonly received the epithet of Parthenos, "the virgin," and hence the name Parthenon would have been fixed.

In any case, despite its political significance, its fame over the centuries for its architectural and also sculptural importance - the temple was decorated with rich relief friezes and in it was installed Phydias' colossal chryselephantine statue, the Athena Parthenos - according to Mikalson, the Parthenon had an almost insignificant role within the cult of Athena proper, which was concentrated in the Erecteion, where the Athena Polias resided.

The Parthenon was, in practice, more the storehouse of Athena Polias' treasure than truly a place of worship, and it did not even have an altar or priests.

Other temples were built throughout Attica and beyond, such as in Ionia, Beotia, Lydia, Rhodes, Thessaly, Euboea, and several other regions. Among the extra-Attic temples were particularly prominent those of Ionia, whose cities all possessed a temple to Athena, those of Smyrna and Miletus being especially rich. In Sparta the most important structure in its acropolis, a temple all in bronze, was devoted to Athena.

In Beotia, the sanctuary of Keroneia was considered to be of great antiquity, the site of its own festival, Pan-Beotia, which commemorated the mythical renewal of all the Beotians. However, the location of the various temples cited in ancient literature is extremely difficult, as the available descriptions generally do not agree with the ruins that are currently identified as dedicated to the goddess.


Athena was associated in Ancient Greece with two minor deities: Nice, the goddess of victory, because of her natural association with war, being called Athena Nice and receiving a particularized worship in temples of her own, and Higeia, goddess of health. Higeia seems to have been considered an emanation of Athena.

Although identified with health, particularly mental health, Athena Hygieia must not have been primarily involved with the treatment of the sick.

Rather, she must have been related to the "guardianship" of health and symbolized the concept that health could be preserved if man lived according to reason, common sense, and the ideal of the sound mind in a sound body, popularized by the Romans in the expression mens sana in corpore sano. In Sparta the sick of the eyes sought aid by invoking Athena Ophtalmitis.

Several other deities worshipped around the Mediterranean rim were syncretized with Athena for having traits in common, generally those that made them warrior gods, increasing the number of variants of their cult and influencing their iconography.

This phenomenon occurred in the Hellenistic period, when the military expeditions of Alexander the Great took Greek culture to the East and Egypt, and there is record of coins with the effigy of Athena minted even in central Asia and the Indian outskirts.

In Persia and around the Arabian desert she was identified with Ishtar and Allat, and it has been suggested that she may have been identified with Anahit, goddess of fertility and equivalent of Inana or Ishtar. In Armenia she became associated with Nané, part of the Armenian trinity and responsible for the attribute of protection.

Plutarch said that in Egypt Isis was called Athena because she expressed the idea that she was born of herself, relating her to virginity and self-sufficiency, and Plato stated that in Sais they fused her with Neite, for the attributes of war and weaving, and both had the same symbolic animal, the owl. In Cyprus and Phoenicia she was associated with Anat, the "virgin and destroyer", protector of the citadels.

The best known, most important and long-lasting syncretism of Athena occurred in the Romans, linking her to the goddess Minerva. Minerva originally had almost the same attributes as Athena - goddess of arts, crafts, trades, and war - but her association with war came at a late date.

However, Minerva never achieved the same relative importance in the Roman pantheon as Athena did among the Greeks. It is possible that Minerva was introduced to Rome by the Etruscans, who had been in close contact with Greece since before the Romans.

Minerva was part of the Capitoline trinity along with Jupiter and Juno, corresponding to Zeus and Hera. Her sanctuary on the Aventine hill was a meeting place for the guilds of craftsmen, poets and actors.

Her cult was associated with that of Mars (Ares) and her biggest festival was the Quinquatro, a craftsmen's festival. Just as Athena was called Hygieia among the Greeks, an important attribute of Minerva was that linked to healing, calling her Minerva Medica, an epithet that spread throughout the Roman territory.

By the time of Pompey Minerva was already integrally identified with Athena, and in this form it remained for centuries ahead, when the names Athena and Minerva became, for Westerners, almost perfectly interchangeable. According to Graf,

"In iconography, myth, and ritual function Minerva is inseparable from the Greek Athena. The few differences between the Roman and the Greek can be seen as developments in another place, another time, and another society. But any trace of this deity (Minerva) was obliterated by the Roman identification with the Greek Athena - an identification that goes back to the Archaic period.

This identification was partly the work of itinerant Greek craftsmen working in Rome, but also because the Romans themselves accepted the Athena Polias in their capitol. As a consequence, any major difference from Athena disappeared in the late image of Minerva.

There is only one function of Minerva that seems to have been specifically Roman: the healing Minerva, Minerva Medica. Even though there may have been a connection with Athena Hygieia, there was a shift in emphasis: whereas Athena Hygieia is a static protector of health, Minerva became an active healer, a physician." 

Through Roman expansion northward Athena/Minerva was syncretized with Celtic deities such as Belisama, Sulis, Brighid, Brigance, and Dona, although they often had little in common with Athena's original character, and may be fertility goddesses, great mothers, or water goddesses. Another fusion occurred with the Roman goddess Belona, whose attribute was specifically war.

The Greeks identified Belona with their Ênio, one of Ares' assistant goddesses, variably described in Greek literature as his companion, mother or nurturer, but in practice the iconography of Belona and Ênio was indistinguishable from that of Athena.

In the late Middle Ages some mythographers returned to the association of Athena, then sometimes called dea bellorum (goddess of wars), with Belona, because both were engaged in military activities and the identification seemed natural to them. Boccaccio even claimed that there were several Minervas, one of them being Belona, and Chaucer called Athena "the Belona of Mars."


Athena was represented a countless number of times throughout the history of Ancient Greece, both in the form of paintings and statues, ex-votos and reliefs, was sung in hymns and poems, and penetrated dramaturgy. The episodes of her myth that were most often depicted in antiquity were her birth, the dispute with Posidon, her role in the war against the Giants, and the story of Erythronius.

She is usually shown with a beautiful and noble but austere appearance, and bears the attributes of a warrior: she wears a helmet, carries a spear and a shield, and wears the aegis, where the head of Medusa often is. Unlike the other Greek goddesses, who appear showing their nakedness, she is invariably clothed, symbolizing her eternal virgin status.

She may appear together with other accessory figures, such as the serpent, Nice, the personification of victory, or the owl. (Thompson mentions that Athena's owl is a definite species, the owl-owl, but in the bibliography the generic name owl has been enshrined.) Branches or a trunk of an olive tree, the tree that was consecrated to her, may also be present.

Some of her attributes, such as the association with a bird and with the serpent, betray the antiquity of her myth and suggest an Eastern origin, being documented in vase paintings and other artifacts dating back to prehistoric times, especially numerous from the geometric period onward.

In some of these representations Athena appears with wings, or is herself represented in the form of a bird, which can be an eagle, a vulture, a seagull, a grebe, a dove or others. In the classical period her identification with the owl was fixed, and Aristophanes reported that there was a belief that the goddess had appeared in this form to the Greeks before their army during the war against the Persians.

Likewise the serpent is a common companion in his iconography, an animal that had multiple meanings in ancient religion, usually in association with fertility and renewal rites, with the primordial forces of creation, with the subterranean world, with the feminine side of nature, and with the watery realms.

The serpent could also be a vicarious representation of Erictonius, the serpent god and first of the mythical kings of Athens, his adopted son.

Sometimes other serpents decorated the aegis, in a plastic echo of the serpents that replaced Medusa's hair, having, in this respect, the symbolic function of paralyzing the enemies, "turning them to stone" by fear before the invincible power of the goddess. Medusa's gaze had the power to turn into stone anyone who returned it, a power that was not extinguished even with her death.

Perseus was extremely careful not to look into her eyes when he killed the monster, and in one version of his myth he used her severed head to petrify the titan Atlas, making him look at her, turning him into Mount Atlas. Then the hero gave the terrible head to Athena, so that she could put it on her aegis.

In Classical Antiquity the image of Medusa's head appeared on amulets to ward off evil, known as gorgonion. During the Classical period her image was an allegorical equivalent of the city of Athens itself, also appearing on coins and in the form of border markers marking the boundaries of Athenian jurisdiction. Until the 7th century BCE, however, secure identification of the goddess can be problematic, given the diversity of representations; even then she does not always bear all her identifying attributes in the same representation, and there are cases where she shows none, being identified solely through the context in which the image was found or by some inscription. In the Iliad, Odysseus, encountering Athena, protests saying how difficult it was to recognize her, given her power to assume any form.

The most sacred of the images of Athena throughout Ancient Greece was the Palladium, whose legendary origin has already been cited. Although Argos' claim to possession of the real Trojan Palladium was the oldest among Greek cities, both Athens and Sparta claimed to possess it because they had confiscated it from the Argosians.

The relic was considered so precious that later other cities also claimed for their tutelary statues the same authenticity. Even Rome claimed to possess it. The Palladium must surely date back to ancient times and was rarely depicted in Greek art, taking, in fact, a variety of forms.

There is some confusion in ancient literature between the Athenian Palladium and the statue known at late date under the name of Athena Polias, the one that received most of the offerings and the main worship. They may have been the same statue, but Jeffrey Hurwit believes they were two different statues, with the Athena Polias remaining in the acropolis and the Palladium in the city's court of justice.

However, in terms of artistic importance the most notable were the two monumental statues that Phidias created for the acropolis, which contributed significantly to spreading the image of the goddess. One of them, the Athena Promacos (champion, the one who wars in the vanguard), stood in the open and was made of bronze, funded by the booty snatched from the Persians at Marathon.

It was ten meters high and could be seen from the sea. Installed in c. 456 BC, it remained on the acropolis until Constantine I took it to Constantinople, where it was destroyed in the 13th century.

Its exact appearance is obscure, only poorly detailed images of it survive on Roman coins, but later derivations show the type Promacos in a clearly aggressive attitude, in the act of advancing with one leg extended forward, with one arm held high holding a spear he is about to throw, and dressed in armor, helmet, and shield. Zosimus wrote saying that when the Goths penetrated from the acropolis they recoiled in amazement at the immense statue.

More impressive was the other statue, the Athena Parthenos, enthroned inside the Parthenon. It was begun around 447 BC and completed around 438 BC. Pausanias reported that it had a wooden heartwood and had been covered with ivory and gold.

She was standing, in her right hand she held an image of Nice, the Victory, and with the other she held a spear, beside which, next to the ground, was a shield and a serpent representing Erictonius. His helmet was crowned by a sphinx flanked by griffins, his tunic reached his feet, and on his chest he carried an aegis with the face of Medusa.

On the pedestal, a relief narrated the story of Pandora's birth, the shield showed the Amazonomachia on the outside and the Gigantomachia inside, and on his sandals, the Centauromachia. According to Pliny the Elder, the statue was 26 cubits high, about 12 meters Apparently in the 5th century it still remained in her temple, but a 10th-century account says it was at this time in Constantinople.

The Athena Parthenos was copied several times in smaller size, and it is possible to get a vague idea of the original through the Athena Varvakeion, now in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, a reproduction of scant artistic merit, but considered the most faithful of any there is.

Other copies were executed in the form of reliefs, coins, and miniature votive offerings. A modern reconstruction of the Athena Parthenos in its original size was made in Nashville by sculptor Alan LeQuire, and unveiled in 1990. The project was guided by respected Greek art researchers Brunilde Ridgway and Evelyn Harrison.

Also of great importance are the decorative ensembles of the Parthenon, all exalting Athena and glorifying the excellence of her people, her gods, and her victories against the Persians, regarded as a barbarous people.

The relief frieze shows a long processional scene, with a profusion of deities, men and animals, which is thought to be a representation of the Great Panathenaia, a motif unprecedented in Greek sculpture that is interpreted as a metaphor for the ideal order and harmony of the Athenian empire through a unifying image of a public ritual between the metropolis and its colonies, allies and satellite cities.

At the same time, formally the frieze represents a renewed synthesis of the narrative style employed in the sculptural decoration of the region under Athenian influence. The theme of the west pediment is the dispute between Athena and Posidon for the protection of Attica, which features in the founding myth of Athens.

The two gods appear in confrontation, shown on chariots driven respectively by Nice and Amphitrite, and with secondary figures of mortals and river personifications on the sides. Behind Athena stands Hermes and next to Posidon, Iris, the messengers of Zeus.

The eastern pediment, meanwhile, deals with the birth of Athena, another theme unheard of in Greek sculpture. In view of the loss of the central group the thematic identification would remain forever an unknown if not for a brief quote from Pausanias.

What remains are the side groups of Helios and Selene with their chariot horses, and some other secondary characters. Scholars since the 19th century have attempted to reconstruct the scene from the center, with results that are always hypothetical and with varying degrees of acceptability.

Athena remained a common figure in the art of the classical period and beyond, with works or literary references to depictions attributed to the greatest Greek artists being known, among them, in addition to the aforementioned Phidias, Alcâmenes, Cephisodotus the Elder, Myron, Praxitheles, Agoracritus, and Scopas.

From the Hellenistic phase, her representation in the greatest achievement in sculpture of the period, the Pergamos Altarpiece, shown fighting a giant, is important. In the assimilation of Greece by Rome, she continued to be represented in various media.

Her syncretism with the Roman goddess Minerva has already been described, and her iconography remained broadly unchanged. The influence of Athena on Minerva was so great that no images of the latter are known before the merger of both deities, and in terms of appearance the two are indistinguishable.

Athena in post-antiquity

The Middle Ages

Although regarded as true living beings, whose existence was real, since the 6th century B.C. criticism was made of the literary descriptions of gods engaged in violent behavior or of doubtful morality, as they often appeared in Homer and Hesiod, and a tradition began of interpreting their actions in an allegorical reading, as an alternative to the purely historical interpretation, and mythography was founded.

The myths were rationalized and understood as allegories of forces of nature and the cosmos, or as movements of the human soul, or whether they related them to certain parts and functions of the body. Athena materialized in wisdom opposing Ares, the expression of folly; Zeus became the mind, while Athena was artistic skill.

She was also related to the skull, from which she was born, and to the breath, which was believed to be connected with the function of thought, and ancient accounts refer to her association, in isolated localities, with the clear sky, the dawn, the ether, thunder, lightning, the eyes, the sun, or the moon.

In the Roman era another interpretation, called evemerism, became popular, which understood the gods as historical men and women whose deeds had been magnified by tradition, and were eventually divinized.

The allegorical approach to the texts of the canonical poets and the myths they related came to fruition over several centuries, until Christianity entered the scene, causing a dissociation between mythographic methods and their substance and object, with two far-reaching consequences.

The first, concerning the methods, arose from the heated theological controversies between Jews and Christians and between Christians and pagans, allowing apologists to adapt to Judaism or Christianity the method of rationalizing classical myths, preserving them for medieval mythography, when the apparent immoralities of the Old Testament itself were brought into focus and allegorized.

The second result, concerning the content of the myths, was unforeseen by Christian writers, for attacking paganism in an attempt to eradicate it, they preserved for posterity many passages from the classical myths and their interpretations by the mere fact of describing them.

Athena was not unscathed in the Christian campaign against paganism. As an example, Clement of Alexandria interpreted the multiplicity of existing versions of her myth as evidence of the essential falsity of pagan religion, and condemned the immorality of one of the versions where she appeared as the daughter of the giant Palas, having murdered her father and flayed him to make his skin his breastplate.

Other writers further distorted this episode into a story of incest and mutilation. In 391, Emperor Theodosius I (r. 378-395) officially outlawed paganism, but for some time this had relatively little effect on the vast accumulated store of pagan art, and although the tendency was to leave temples and decorations to their own devices, and they fell into a state of progressive disrepair, until the 6th century there were attempts to preserve several important buildings and works as a testimony to the former glory of the Roman Empire.

More than that, the formal principles of pagan art, instead of being banned along with their original religion, continued to be widely used, only changing the themes, serving as a true foundation for the nascent Christian art. However, times would change once again.

Around the sixth century, with the Christian religion firmly in power, guided by a new interpretation of the universe and imbued with another morality, the policy for the arts became one of ridicule of the themes and moral condemnation of classical nudity, orchestrating a systematic eradication of its iconographic collection, which became, finally, more a reminder of what was to be forgotten in a culture that was organized in a very different way. In this, the value of that art ceased to be recognized.

A multitude of temples, sculptures, paintings and reliefs were depredated and destroyed many times just for the reuse of the material. Marbles were transformed into coatings for new buildings, bronzes were melted down to make weapons, and works in gold and silver were also melted down to recover the precious material. In this widespread process of destruction, most of the ancient iconography of Athena was also lost.

In any case, pagan culture could not be eradicated at all, for it was at the base of European culture, and much of its traditions, philosophy, and art, if not in theme and form at least in essence, managed to survive by wearing the new garb of Christianity and serving a new context.

Athena remained, in spite of attacks, one of the ancient gods with the greatest symbolic appeal for later ages. In functional terms, the imagery formed around the Virgin Mary is a significant example, as she came to occupy a role similar to the one Athena occupied in mythology: a powerful woman within a patriarchal system, incorporating several attributes of the goddess, including, significantly, that of perpetual virginity.

Several of the ancient shrines to Athena or Minerva were transformed into Marian churches, and early iconography of the Virgin occasionally shows her with a military aspect. In the fourth century she even appeared bearing the aegis of Athena on her breast, including the head of Medusa.

The Parthenon itself was transformed, at an obscure date, into a Marian shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Athens. The tradition was repeated, as the people came to call Mary simply Parthenos, the Virgin, just as they had done centuries earlier with their ancient goddess.

Mary, like Athena, also came to be a protector of cities. A seventh-century chronicle states that inhabitants of Constantinople, then under siege, saw the Virgin appear on their walls brandishing a spear and exhorting the people to resistance. Probably this assimilation was emphasized when the statues of Phidias that were on the Acropolis of Athens were transferred to the Byzantine capital.

From the account of her birth from the head of Zeus, symbol of the divine mind, Athena remained alive also in the Gnostic tradition and in other currents of medieval Christian esotericism - heirs of classical and Hellenistic philosophy and inspired by biblical texts such as the Song of Songs, the Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiastes.

Transformed into Mater Magna (Great Mother) or, more commonly, Sophia, the divine wisdom, she was the personification of the feminine and maternal aspect of God, regarded as the creative power par excellence, the true demiurge of the universe, and the primordial object of human desire.

Although the esoteric concept of Sophia was opposed by orthodox Christianity, especially for its allusion to the motherhood and femininity of God, it was nevertheless a constant presence in medieval mystical literature, also feeding the symbology of Jewish Kabbalah.

Another example was the transfer of attributes of Athena to the portraits of some of the early Byzantine empresses, continuing a custom that had been initiated during the syncretization of Athena and Minerva in Rome.

The image of Athena/Minerva was also applied to Roman and Byzantine balance weights, some of them of refined artistic finish, used by Christian merchants possibly until the 8th century, a fact justified by an expansion of her attribute of wisdom: wisdom → fair judgment → exact measurement. There is thus good reason, as McClanan stated, to say that Athena survived, as an influential cultural symbol, long after the official suppression of paganism.

Around the 9th-10th centuries Christian writers began to give the legacy of pagan antiquity a more positive appreciation, applying to it an allegorical-moralizing reading steeped in Stoicism and Neoplatonism, but inserted within the Christian orbit, even if the condemnation of polytheism as a fundamental error was renewed.

Scoto Ergenius, born in the 9th century in Ireland, which at the time was the only European region outside of Greece where Greek was still studied, translated several original sources and described Athena as virtuous, whose wisdom is in perpetual renewal, without ever becoming corrupted.

Remigius of Auxerre, also of the Irish school, directly influenced by Ergenius and author of numerous glosses and commentaries on the classics, focused his attention on the goddesses, in particular on Athena, extolling at length her wisdom that knows no blemish or term, her virginity, her completeness, her integrity, and her descent from Zeus, a deity who for the Stoics was the Soul of the World.

For Remigius, Athena meant memory and ingenuity set ablaze by the divine and eternal fire, the purest and highest wisdom, presenting the goddess as an intermediary between heaven, image of the macrocosm, and earth, the microcosm, expressing on earth that wisdom in the form of the arts.

Athena's warrior character was a sign of the power of wisdom, suggesting that knowledge is the best path to peace. Both writers worked on the book De nuptiis by Marciano Capela, a fifth-century pagan writer who was one of the first organizers of the liberal arts system so important to medieval education, giving a prominent place to Athena as the mistress of wisdom, to whom all the arts served.

With their commentaries, Ergenius and Remigius, broadly repeating Capella's approach, gave Athena new prominence in Christian thought. Carrying Remigius' ideas forward, the Second Vatican Mythographer, an anonymous writer who may have been Remigius himself or someone in his circle, presented Athena as the ideal of monastic life, a figure whose sexual ambiguities transcended the problematic of singular gender.

In the 11th century Guillaume de Conches expanded and deepened the mythographic genre, being the first to study in a consistent and integrated way the gods and the problem of human sexuality within the life of religious contemplation, trying to bring them together in a coherent philosophical context that valued the female body.

He analyzed in an original way the episode of the beauty contest in which Athena participated, focusing on the effect of the frustration of male sexual desire, and understanding the sexualized body of the woman as a cultural sign, this at a time when monasticism was on the rise, with its ideals of denial of the body, abstinence, and rationalization of desire, disciplines considered necessary for spiritual goals.

For him, Athena was the image of the contemplative life, the highest life, and Paris, the judge of the contest and symbol of human will, as most men, handing the prize to Aphrodite, the life of voluptuousness, makes a choice that is ultimately harmful to him. At this same time, classical studies were already quite advanced in various parts of Europe. In the Byzantine Empire a kind of literary cult of the ancient myths emerged, the reading of pagan narratives as symbols imbued with profound truths, valid within Christian culture, and capable of explaining various aspects of the world, being accepted consensually, and already without pious reservations against paganism. In northern France, through the action of the first universities, the study of the classics provided the basis for the formation of humanist philosophy, of subsequent wide influence on the thought and art of the Renaissance.

With this popularization of pagan tradition, Athena or Minerva, virtually indistinguishable, began to reappear in literary and visual representations in view of their symbolic potential.

Pierre Bersuire, engaged in the crystallization of the knightly ideal, in his Moralized Ovid showed Athena as the one who grants the king, the perfect knight, the graces and virtues necessary for the establishment of a new Golden Age, arming him with the crystalline shield of prudence, the Christian spirit, and spiritual enlightenment.

Bersuire was influential on Chaucer, who presented Athena in his Canterbury Tales as harmony, unity, fortitude, the wisdom that brings God's peace, and as the peace that emerges from conflict.

Robert Holcot reiterated her connection with the liberal arts, praised the incorruptible character of her wisdom, and said that she was clothed by three robes: grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic.

Boccaccio wrote that Minerva possessed an helmet to signify that the advice of a wise man remains hidden and well-defended; she wore a breastplate because the wise man is always forewarned against the blows of Fortune, and was armed with a long spear to signify that the actions of the wise man have a long reach and his inventions were a benefit to civilization.

As a man of his time, Boccaccio resisted believing that so many qualities could be found in a real woman, and even considered a woman who displayed intellectual gifts publicly potentially dangerous, even though he praised those who did so in the private circle of their homes.

Modern Age

Medieval humanism came to fruition in the Renaissance, when the Church lost some of its power and society opened up to greater secularization, while interest in the culture of classical antiquity reached a point close to obsession, with an intense recovery of texts and artistic relics from antiquity, a return to the study of Greek, and the spread of mythological references throughout all areas of culture, art, and science.

The amalgamation between Christianity and Neoplatonism became intimate and complex, particularly in Italy, and gave rise to a rich proliferation of representations in art and interpretive works in philosophy that freely incorporated also esoteric traditions such as astrology, magic, and kabbalah, all seeking a more rational explanation for the phenomena of nature, human life, and the dogmas of religion.

A good example of the state of affairs was the decoration of the Chapel of the Planets in the Malatesta Temple in Rimini, a Catholic church, where Christian saints, astrological symbols and Greco-Roman deities, including Athena, appear in quiet conviviality.

Education in the classics and pagan mythology was no longer a threat to the life of the Christian Renaissance man; on the contrary, it was now a source of prestige and became part of the current intellectual and artistic language.

Attacks against this massive trend did indeed appear, but they were exceptions, since even the high Catholic prelates sought and encouraged the same kind of education. In this context, it was no surprise that mythological allegories were present in the inscriptions, panoply and triumphal arches erected for the coronation celebrations of Pope Leo X in 1513, where they conspicuously featured Athena and Apollo alongside other representations showing him as the new Lion of Judah, one of the titles of the Messiah.

At the same time, the ancient myths received innovative readings, giving them new meanings. At this time Athena, alongside Artemis, assumed a prominent role as a source of wisdom and goddess of Reason, also strongly influencing the ideology of love, here dialoguing with Aphrodite and seeking a middle term between the idealistic and chaste excesses of courtly love and the demands of married life, where sexuality cannot be ignored.

In a period when the human body was once again admired for its beauty, with man being considered the center of Creation and image of the Divinity, it fell to Marcantonio Raimondi to introduce in c. 1517 a great novelty in his iconography, showing for the first time the goddess naked and opening the way for a renewal of wide descent in his representations, generally taking advantage as a theme of the beauty contest judged by Paris, but also other episodes of her myth.

In other areas, she was attributed the patronage of philosophy and her connection with peace, social harmony, political leadership and good government was also established, being portrayed alongside dynastas and condottieri, or these took attributes from her, which lent prestige and legitimized their social status and power as enlightened leaders, peacemakers and promoters of civilization and virtues.

The symbolism of Athena was intermingled also with those of the Roman goddess Pax ("Peace") and the cardinal virtue Prudence, moreover incorporating in her images sometimes the helmet or armor at her feet, on fire, signifying the extinction of war.

However, this did not take away her military merit, continuing to represent the one who gave good advice in war, led to victory, inspired acts of personal and collective heroism, and infused women with courage, wisdom, and the fire of virtue.

Good examples of these associations were the Italian medals and portraits linking Athena to the House of Medici, and the series of paintings by Vasari, who subtly fused traits of Athena and Aphrodite to create his characterizations of Judith, which laid the foundations of fertile iconography for centuries to come.

Finally, Athena established a connection with truth, science, commerce, learning, academies, and the arts in general, especially in their scientific and intellectual aspects.

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the symbolic potential of Athena/Minerva remained exploited by European royalty, sometimes for the glorification of women at the head of kingdoms as well.

She became a common image associated with French regents such as Catherine de Medici, Maria de Medici, and Anne of Austria, praised as protected by the goddess and portrayed bearing her attributes, a frequency explained by the fact that this association minimized the impact of a female ruler in a country where Salic law prevented them from assuming the throne in their own right.

In Peter Paul Rubens' well-known series of paintings on the life of Maria de' Medici, Athena appears as her protector and teacher. In the last work of the series Maria becomes almost an incarnation of the warrior goddess, appearing with helmet at her head, armor at her feet, cannons in the background, carrying a Nice in her right hand and in her left a scepter that looks more like a spear.

The bare breast, however, emphasized her motherhood. Elizabeth I of England was presented as "the new Minerva," and during the reign of James I Athena came to identify the British nation itself, supplanting identifications with Britannia or Astreia, the nation's ancient tutelary numes.

Later, in the 18th century, Britannia itself had already incorporated the iconography of Athena. However, adapting to the local reality, Athena/Britannia instead of a spear usually bears a trident, symbol of Poseidon, the god of the seas, and consequently of Britain as an island and naval power. This symbolism remained prominent until the mid-twentieth century, often employed also with satirical intentions.


Throughout Europe and America the passage from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century was marked by the emergence of the neoclassical current, with a once again massive recovery of prototypes of classical antiquity in all fields of culture and art.

The major temples of Athena, the Parthenon, the Erecteion, and the temple of Athena Nice, all on the Acropolis of Athens, became paradigms for large-scale imitation, both for public building and for private residences.

Under the influence of the Enlightenment, the myth of Athena remained integrated into Western cultural life, but there was an important change of focus in her analysis: she continued to be seen as the patroness of the arts and symbol of wisdom, virtue, and reason, but the Christianizing allegorizations that had prevailed since the Middle Ages no longer took center stage.

In its place the emphasis shifted to its associations with culture and the arts themselves and with the world of political thought as an embodiment of high democratic and civic ideals. According to Deacy & Villing no other god of the Greek pantheon has contemporarily known such popularity as Athena or her Roman incarnation, Minerva.

She became a constant presence in Western literature and visual arts, her image reappeared in numerous cities, installed in important public buildings, publishing houses placed themselves under her aegis, was an inspiration to political leaders, influenced and associated with other symbolic figures, and generated considerable bibliography in the field of classical studies in general and archaeology.

In the particular terrain of mythography the achievements made by scholars, especially between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in encyclopedic gathering of information about his myth, cult, iconography and others, scattered in various sources, remain to this day unsurpassed and have determined the directions of all subsequent research.

In France, Athena's presence became so strong that she survived the mass destruction of religious symbols during the French Revolution, where even images of the Virgin, Christ, and the Christian saints were subject to depredation.

Now receiving the name of Liberty, the transfigured Athena became the new deity of the Republic. A statue of her was installed in the Square of the Revolution, where the guillotine stood, and her symbolism became so linked to national politics that she was adopted, after the Revolution, as the protector of the academy of Moral and Political Sciences.

Just as Athena became popular among the French, she experienced wide dissemination in England and the United States. In England neoclassical illustrations of Athena flooded literature even in re-editions of older works such as those by Shakespeare and Milton, a practice that extended into the Victorian period,side by side with continuing depictions of Britannia as Athena.

In the United States, in 1792 a bust of Athena as the Patroness of American Liberty was installed under the pulpit of the speakers of Congress in Philadelphia. In Kansas City there was even an annual festival instituted in honor of the goddess, the Priests of Pallas, with large festivities that celebrated progress and included a parade of floats and the distribution of souvenirs bearing her image.

She became a model of femininity and an icon of a mystical nationalism for the Confederates during the American Civil War, and according to Carter "there was not a sermon that did not begin and end with a tribute in her honor, seldom a speech of bravery did not open and close with the clatter of shields and the flourish of swords of her glory...the Confederate troops went into battle in the mystical conviction that she was fighting by their side." 

In 1863 a statue of Liberty was placed atop the Capitol in Washington, and others were installed at various sites of civic importance, again combining attributes of Athena with those of Liberty, Truth, Faith, or other virtues, and incorporating symbolism linked to republican Rome and democratic Athens, sometimes changing her spear for a sword, torch, or other elements, or having a Phrygian barrette on her head.

One of the best-known examples of this eclectic symbolism, which freely mixed influences from antiquity, neoclassicism, and nationalist romanticism, is New York's Statue of Liberty. It also incorporated another iconographic element: the scales, representing justice, reclaiming a tradition that went back to Ancient Rome and Byzantium, as has already been described.

In the same period statues of Athena were installed in several important palaces and public buildings in Europe and other countries. To cite but a few examples, it is on one of the reliefs of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; on one of the pediments of the Louvre Palace, Napoleon I, in the guise of the Genius of France, appears invoking the protection of various deities, including Athena; a copy of the famous Athena Giustiniani was placed in the monumental gardens of the Peterhof in St. Petersburg;

a large statue was erected before the parliament of Austria; another is in the Academy of Athens, installed on a column flanking the main entrance, pairing with a statue of Apollo on the other side; she was placed in the gardens of the Schlossbrücke in Berlin; and on the facades of the Circle of Fine Arts in Madrid, and the Athenaeum in London.

In this city she was also shown on a monument in honor of Horatio Nelson in St. Paul's Cathedral, where she points to the hero indicating to the children next to her the path of patriotism and military virtues. In the capital of Cuba a statue of her stands atop the local Capitol.

John Ruskin, who was an enthusiast of Athena, said that she represented for the Romantics of his generation the attributes of art, literature and civic virtues, she was political and secular wisdom in teaching citizens morality and industry, and she was aesthetic wisdom because she guided the arts towards morality, subtlety and higher truth, and therefore built men of noble and good character.

He said more: it was the fire of the soul, a guide to moral passion, the spirit of life, director of the human will, radiant of all virtues, a worthy companion to the Virgin Mary.

Wisdom as an ideal Woman, often merging Athena with other wise women such as the Pythonesses, the prophetesses, the Sibyls, Sophia, Mary, Io, and Cassandra, had appeared in the work of several prominent literati since the late eighteenth century, such as Madame de Staël, Elizabeth Barrett, George Sand, Robert Browning, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Harriet Martineau, initiating a process of valorization of women in the patriarchal society of the time and contributing to the construction of an image of the woman artist as a wise woman, at a time when artistic creation was still reserved preferentially to men and placed under the tutelage of Prometheus.

Another example was the famous dancer Isadora Duncan, who was inspired by the myths of Aphrodite and Athena for the creation of her revolutionary choreographies, which had a great impact on modern dance. Her costumes, of neoclassical carving, were also conceived as re-readings of the ancient representations of those goddesses.

The figure of the goddess was incorporated into German Jewish literature from the beginning of the 19th century, being considered the patroness of Berlin and compared to Rachel, the heroine of ancient times, becoming a widespread model of female virtue, a German woman developed in her highest form and potential, an epitome of the recent history of all Germany.

This symbolism penetrated into the 20th century and was also assimilated by the Nazi regime, at a time when there was great interest in classical culture, but at this time the concept of the "Jewish woman", in the Nazi view, became loaded with erotic associations threatening to the desired purification of the German race.

They then became targets of persecution because they could become mothers and multiply the number of "degenerate beings" by being killed or sterilized en masse. Furthermore, the idealistic aesthetics of classical Greek art again became a preferred model, interpreted in the spirit of glorifying the Germanic nation and people.

In a gigantic civic parade that was organized in 1937, consisting of about five thousand people dressed in historical costumes, a monumental head of Athena was carried, next to another of the Virgin Mary, alongside Nazi symbols. At the time several German painters and sculptors employed the image of the goddess in their politically engaged creations.

On the other hand, Athena, according to Hahn, appears with impressive assiduity in accounts produced at this time by German Jewish women when describing themselves, and also in male literature concerning these women.

The myth of Athena has become an attractive topic for analysis by writers interested in psychology since Freud used the symbolism of the goddess as an important element in his elaboration of the gender theory, as well as that of Medusa for that of the castration complex.

For Melanie Klein Athena was a central figure in her ambivalent discussion of the Oedipus complex.

Lawson, of the Jungian school, interpreted the story of Medusa's death and the installation of her head in the aegis of Athena as a representation of the process of heroic conquest of the forces of the unconscious, placing them in the service of wisdom or higher consciousness, and Bernstein, of the same school, asserted that Athena's major function in Greek mythology is to moderate the narcissistic impetuosity of Ares, placing warfare in the service of moral consciousness.

The prestige of Athena over the centuries from the Renaissance to contemporary times is proven by the number of artists who have taken her as the subject of their works.

To mention only a few of the best known, among those who represented her in painting are Francesco del Cossa, Botticelli, Paris Bordone, Parmigianino, Hans Rottenhammer, Artemisia Gentileschi, Bartholomäus Spranger, Jacques-Louis David, Anton Raphael Mengs, Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck, Max Klinger, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

In sculpture, Antonio Lombardo, François Gaspard Adam, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Bertel Thorvaldsen and Arno Breker, and was a character in musical compositions, among operas and ballets, by Claudio Monteverdi, Antonio Cesti, Francesco Cilea, Ernst Krenek, Michael Tippett and Iannis Xenakis.

In literature in poetry or prose it appeared in works by William Shakespeare (who in a sonnet declared Athena to be his muse), John Milton, Heinrich Heine, Paul Celan, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, Kostís Palamás, Richard Wilbur, Herman Melville and Alfred Tennyson.

Recent years

Athena seems to be a source of inexhaustible interest. In recent decades scholarly studies of her myth have appeared from the structuralist perspective, exploring her relationships with the other Greek deities;

new discoveries and conclusions have appeared regarding the origin of the myth and the evolution/geographical distribution of her iconography, cult, attributes, syncretisms and cultural influence, and the repercussions of her symbolic figure have expanded to several other areas of contemporary life.

In the field of politics, Papadopoulos found the study of the archetypal Athena-Ares pair useful for understanding the contemporary dichotomy about war and peace at the level of international relations, and Münkler placed Athena as a symbol of the identity and strategic culture of all Europe, concerned with results rather than the love of Aphrodite, but uniting military competence with a civilized wisdom, and promoting progress and scientific research.

Her image has even been used in the field of economic dynamics analysis, identifying periods of reorganization of structures and accelerated paradigm shifts as phases where Athena's influence is especially sharp. In this context, Mandy has described her core quality as one that is able to solve problems, and Allen has related it to the abilities of careful planning, collaboration, a sense of timing, and to the issue of preserving human values within economic practice.

A few years ago Martin Bernal released a book entitled Black Athena: the Afroasiatic roots of classical civilization, which caused enormous controversy by proposing an Afroasiatic origin for classical and by extension European culture, of which Athena was presented as a symbol.

Several authors have interpreted, with divergent or controversial conclusions, Athena's complex overlap of masculine and feminine attributes, describing her sometimes as a strong woman, sometimes as androgynous, and even suggesting an inclination towards lesbianism.

Depending on the analysis, she may represent a denial of subjective femininity and a reiteration of the masculine principle and the patriarchal social structure. On the other hand, she can be a denial of the masculine principle when she rejects union to a spouse, and by denying her opposite she nullifies her own feminine identity.

For Blundell Athena transcends watertight classifications-she in many points approximates the nature of ordinary people, but in several others her difference from women, having distinctly masculine qualities, and her difference from men, because she is a woman after all, are evident.

In the opinion of Etzkowitz, Kemelgor & Uzzi Athena personifies the dilemmas that women of science encounter in their lives, in the face of the widespread expectation that women are able to build a solid career at the expense of their private and family life, as well as facing many prejudices, discrimination, and ostracism in a highly competitive professional world shaped and dominated by men, both in pure research and in teaching, just as Athena had to deal with a male-dominated context without forming a family nucleus of her own.

Susan Deacy, summarizing current opinions, said that it is surprising the variety of readings of her myth, particularly those done within the feminist line of thought:

"On the one hand, in recent decades a multitude of "Athena projects" have been launched where the goddess serves as a sort of mentor for educational organizations that serve to promote the involvement of women and girls in fields such as science, mathematics, and technology.

While these projects seem to find a place for women within traditionally male-dominated fields, the other trend has been to consider Athena a traitor to her own sex, siding with men at the expense of other women. Feminist theory has presented Athena as the archetype of the strong woman who, far from paving the way for other women to succeed, ensures that she remains an exception. This has given a mythical dimension to the accusations that dominant women in public and political life have suffered throughout history..."

In recent years Athena reasserts her presence in Western society and culture by giving her name to academic journals, centers of health, culture, science and art, to a ship, to the asteroid 2 Palas,to a family of rockets,  to the suite of scientific instruments of the Mars research probes, to the MIT computer cluster,

to the bibliographic database of the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), to a one hundred thousand euro award for scientific research sponsored by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, to a Pittsburgh award for professional excellence, and to a European Union program for funding military operations.

  His image has also figured on coats of arms, seals, coins, and decorations, he is on the emblem of several academic institutions such as the Technical University of Darmstadt and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, he is the nume tutelary of the academic society Phi Delta Theta, and his helmet is part of the coat of arms of the US Military Academy at West Point.

Athena has even penetrated widely into popular culture, being a character in the manga and anime The Knights of the Zodiac, the Marvel Comics universe, the video game The King of Fighters, the Stargate SG-1 series, and motion pictures. In these productions Athena is usually presented as a warrior, but she may have powers and abilities that are not described in the scholarly tradition, such as mastery of Chinese martial arts and psychic powers in The King of Fighters,

she may participate in actions where she makes contact with characters from other mythologies, as is the case with Athena Panhellenios of the Marvel universe, or she may appear in transpositions of the myth to the present time, as happens in the films Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and in the Korean drama Athena: Goddess of War.

Shiro Masunume, creator of the Japanese video game Appleseed, included Athena and other Greek gods alongside typically Japanese characters, and said that "nowadays it is impossible to write or even conceive of Japanese popular culture without involving many things from the rest of the world."

Athena, ultimately, lent her name to people, cities, playhouses, hotels, companies, and commercial products. A simple search for "Athena" on the Internet with the Google search engine brought up over 160 million results, and over fifteen million for the Portuguese version, "Athena."

Esotericism and religious revivalism

In ancient times, as Herodotus reported, Athena was associated with the sign of Capricorn, because her breastplate was believed to be made from the skin of a goat, but in contemporary astrology the goddess has served as a thematic motif for other associations,

even more so after an asteroid with her name was incorporated into the planets in the astrological chart, governing variably, according to the authors, aspects of intelligence, justice, freedom, intuition, mercy, truth, values, organization, competence, structure, career building, and integration of mind and body.

It has also been linked to the signs of Virgo, by a direct relationship to its own virginity, governing among other things aspects of intellect, conscience, purity and intelligence and their expression in matter, and to that of Libra,through its attribute of justice, giving the native a sense of balance, good judgment and harmony, and the ability to understand both sides of a dispute.

In esoteric astrology she has been considered ruler of the sign of Scorpio and the aspects of renewal and victory over death, in tarot she corresponds to the card of the Queen of Swords, and her attributes have already been interpreted in the light of yoga in relation to and control of thought and breath.

Within the religious currents of syncretic, revivalist and/or esoteric tendencies that have been gaining large numbers of adherents, such as dodecateism, shamanism and others, Athena is no longer considered a mere abstract principle or an allegory, being reborn as a living entity, a great spiritual potency, and is again receiving true worship.

Elizabeth Clare Prophet described her as an ascended teacher who embodies the consciousness of Truth on a planetary level, and is one of those responsible for the administration of karma; Wicca resurrected, adapting them, various rites of Athena, such as Plinteria and Skirophoria;

and other neo-pagan currents are currently practicing a renewed form of the ancient Greek religion as an alternative to the Judeo-Christian traditions, in a spirit of value-equalization of the feminine principle to the masculine, of respect for nature and for the cultural diversity of the contemporary world, which, nevertheless, have generated much controversy around them.

  In contemporary Greece the followers of neo-paganism have been especially active; they managed to legally reverse the ancient ban on paganism in 2006 and won its official recognition as a religion in 2007.

The Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes, founded in 1997, is one of the groups that has attracted the most attention, claiming to have about two thousand followers and one hundred thousand sympathizers, including branches in several other countries.

Family tree

Family tree based on Hesiod and Pseudo-Apolodorus; for simplification, the other sons of Zeus were not represented. Erictonius was included based on Pseudo-Apolodorus, Pseudo-Apolodorus, 3.14.6. Other versions give him as the adopted son of Athena, but begotten by Gaia.