This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Athena: A Reflection of My Being
Athena blessing the olive tree

Although our image adorns many a poleis within our temple upon various city summits, both watching over and protecting the civic space and its citizens of many, it is especially in the case of those to which our name has been leant in which the greatest potential can be seen.

Through our many names and the personification through their attributes, we have endowed upon them “military valor, boldness, love of the beautiful, love of reason and moderation, and knowledge. [We are] their guide and security”, their ideal as one within themselves, and evoked in all our potential every time the name of their beloved city is uttered (Hurwit 11). By many names those dear Athenians call upon us, rejoicing and remembering above all others, what greatness we through our attributes have bestowed upon them, and through them, forward to the rest of their mortal kin. Although in name, we are one in the same with the people of that wondrous city which dawns our name, such has not always been the case.

Athena & Poseidon present their gifts in the contest of Athens

Long ago, it came about that Poseidon, “greedy of earthly kingdoms, once claimed his possession of Attica by thrusting his trident into the Acropolis at Athens, where a well of sea water immediately gushed out, and is still to be seen” (Graves 59-60). At a later time, “by planting the first olive tree beside the well[,] Poseidon in a fury challenged us to single combat, and she, [Athena Polioukhos, fighter in the forefront (Hurwit 15)], would have accepted had Zeus not interposed and ordered them to submit the dispute to arbitration (Graves 60). So, it came about that “for the mastery of Attica[,] Poseidon created the horse as his challenge to [us]. The gods and goddesses favored” (Grimassi 42) the value in which our olive tree in all its potential essence had of begetting food, oil, and wood, there by leading to the prospering of civilization beyond dependence entrapped within the wild spirit of Poseidon’s very nature (Zaidman et al 244, Hurwit 15).

For what good could a horse of untamed spirit possibly be without the wisdom of I, Athena Hippia, “inventor of the bridle and bit that bring the beast under control, …[or] the chariot and wagon that allow men to harness its power” (Hurwit 15)? For was it not I, Athena Hippia with my attributes of tekhne, who brought such precession to the chariot of Diomedes during the siege of Troy (Budin 258)? Likewise, was it not I whom in my infinite metis, guaranteed success during that same siege, “epitomizing both [the] practical skill and … cunning”, that led Epeios in his creation of the Trojan war horse (Hurwit 15) to breach those very “wide, and very splendid walls” that Poseidon as founder had so very long ago placed around the city (Budin 254)? For was it not also I, the patroness of carpenters (Budin 258), who inventing the ship, first made “the violent, dangerous, and desolate” (Deacy 48-49) sea of his very being navigable, and likewise I, through the selecting of the trees, choosing of the pilot Tiphyus, and supervising of the shipbuilding (Rhodius 21), who ultimately enabled Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece (Rhodius 23)?

Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War, oversaw the building of the vessel Argo, the ship that Jason and his Argonauts used to travel to Colchis on the Black Sea and fetch the Golden Fleece

For Poseidon and his manifestation within the raw forces of nature may have challenged the progress of civilization at every whim, but it is I, Athena Ergane, through my technical skill, wisdom, and strategy that encompasses that very civilization, that productively enables for civilized man the use of these forces (Budin 258). For was it not I which “took the sea and made it a form of transportation, just as [was done in my] bridling of horses…[and also I through my technology that tills the earth (Hurwit 17)], in contrast to the wild flora and fauna of the country side, who created the cultivatable olive, a source of fuel, food, and pride” for my many patrons across the land (Budin 259)? And in our rage and vengeance, do we not also embody the very being of Poseidon calling to our will, as in the very first time when “the sea moved and frothed with dark waves while foam suddenly burst forth” (Deacy 49) in unison with our birth all the natural raw power of the cosmos we requite? For was it not in this manner that we purged misdeed and ill conduct “in fury against the Greeks’ sacrilege during the sack of Troy” restoring the natural order of respect that a patron should be granted?

Poseidon, Gorgon Euryale, beheaded Medusa, & the birth of Pegasus

For unfortunate as it is, it is not always the case that mortal and immortal alike recognize and uphold what the most righteous path toward enlightenment should encompass. On many of occasion, we have had to intervene in the affairs of mortal man and woman and oppose rival ambitions enabling the enhancement through our grace of able man over primitive beast. Poseidon in particular, with his unhindered manifestation of ill composed force and rage has been, through the ages, a persistent thorn in our side. It seems as though from the time that I was awarded the patronage of Athens and succeeded in somewhat taming him, that his relentless disregard for me and my followers has been petty in its prominence.

Perseus & the head of Medusa

For upon one occasion, the beautiful Medusa, a patroness of mine, was found worshiping at a temple dedicated to us, whence came upon her Neptune, sovereign of the sea, and ravished her. “While enraged, [I] turned my head away and held [our] shield before [my] eyes. To punish that great crime, [we] turned the Gorgon’s splendid hair into serpents horrible. And now, [retained from Perseus as appreciation in the help through the guidance of his wise hands in slaying the wretch (Taylor 169 – 170)], to strike my foes with fear, [we] wear upon our [shielded] breast those awful vipers – creatures of [our] rage” (Marks).

For I, the virgin maiden Athena Parthenos, with the help and wrath of my companion Athena Glaukopis, will not submit so easily to breachment without procurement of consequences upon those very besiegers. For to breach upon my space is a direct and insulting violation to my very being, and will accordingly incur the most just and harsh punishments. “For as well as a greatest friend that a hero might acquire, … [it is my companion Athena Glaukopis, who when unleashed becomes] a fierce and persistent victimizer of any … she regard[s] as her enemy, ” (Deacy 59). For if history has taught of nothing else, has it not taught that “those which incur our displeasure suffer devastating consequences as retribution?

For did the Persians not loose in their conquest of the northern mainland through my demonstration in the “triumph of justice” alleviating their “excessive ambitions [through divine principal of] right over might” (Cunningham and Reich 53)?

Casandra, naked, cowers at the feet of the image of Athena as Ajax grasps her to drag her away

Likewise, was it not in my defense of this principal that in the case of Ajax, initially one of our favorites, that I had no choice but to cause him because of his insolence and disregard for our previous gifts in our favor of him, to ultimately punish him into becoming “a pathetic, deluded figure whose shame lead ultimately to his suicide” (Deacy 60)? For did the fool forget, it was I, Athena Ergane, utilizing the rage of my companion, Athena Polis, protector and leader, which enabled so many with my favor alone to victory in conquest? For am I not the “tamer of nature”, the metis of heroes, and through them, the slayer of the greatest of beasts?

Hercules & Athena

For was it not I, with my ingenuity and guidance, who helped the mighty Hercules in his quests when his sheer brute strength failed to accomplish the task at hand? For is it not our image that stands with that of this great hero, son of the almighty Zeus himself, adorning so many a vase and the twelve metopes gracing the walls of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia? Likewise, was it not my “benefactions to Perseus [in which] each object rever[ed] his position as a lone mortal in a land inhibited by monsters, enabling him to succeed … where strength alone would have been useless” (Deacy 61)?

Athena intervenes in a dispute between Achilles & Agamemnon

For in Achilles too, was not my intelligence personified when I stopped him from slaughtering Agamemnon and bringing about internal civil strife, ultimately responsible for enabling victory of reason over wrath on the battlefield during the battle of Troy? For it was in the value of my attributes that these heroes succeeded in their quests, and through their patronage and belief in me, respecting all the while the gifts of metis that I had so graciously bestowed upon them, they succeeded where all others had failed.

For nowhere was this more apparent than in the circumstances of Odysseus, “my closest mortal counterpart” of all (Hurwit 18). Although I “could never abandon him” because of his smooth talking, shrewd, and level headed ways (Hurwit 18), it also reigned true that his kin of noble and just cause compounded my affinity for him and intervened enabling, although not without persistence, the redemption of his troubles. For as Odysseus and his family knew quite well, it is I that is “famed among all the gods for my metis and tricks” (Hurwit 17), and through me, both Odysseus and his beloved wife Penelope “used to every advantage the mind that was in [them]” (Deacy 63) in pursuing their goal of reunification with their beloved kin. For is it not in Penelope too that we see wits rivaling that of her husband amidst her scheme of trying to hold the suitors at bay through her weaving by day, and untiring deceit by torchlight at night? In honor of her family, did she not also too show “the extremes of effort to which [when favored though my ideals, one] is prepared to go in order to achieve … sublime objectives and visions which can be reached, only through sacrifice and at great personal cost” (Mavromataki 244) in which Odysseus himself became so famous for?

Athena & Arachne 

Could it have been that lesson taught so long ago to Arachne, which inevitably showed dear Penelope a most cunning and successful means to a glorious end? For although Arachne’s work was beautiful and seemingly with no fault, her insolence in comparing herself to our skills had to be punished to up hold the right and true path of respecting and paying homage to the gifts that we had bestowed. Being released from my control for the briefest of moments, it came about that she “struck Arachne on her forehead [repeatedly]. The poor wretch, unable to endure it, bravely placed a noose around her neck; but as she hung [I], in pity raised her [all the while scolding her] in the penalty her kin shall pay to all posterity… in weav[ing their] webs, pursuing her former skill” (Ovid 125). For in all the past successes and defeats that my companions and protégés have showed throughout the ages, many invaluable lessons have been passed down through the generations to those noble mortals such as Penelope. Having been weary of the bad while respecting the noble, was it not such a slick trick which Penelope paid in homage to us by using elements from the repertoire of our past punishments in her all too cunning endeavor towards propagating her desired success?

For although it is those in like form establishing domains of reasonable solutions for which I hold the greatest affinity, many others too, in their own way, have honored and respected us for those enhanced and enlightened attributes that in our compassion we have granted through the goodness of our grace and affinity in seeing them prosper.

Works Referenced:

Budin, Stephanie Lynn. The Ancient Greeks: New Perspectives. Santa Barbara, California: ABCCLIO. 2004.

Cunningham, Lawrence, and John Reich. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities.

Deacy, Suzan. Athena. New York: Routledge. 2008.

Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths: Complete Edition. London: Penguin Books. 1955.

Grimassi, Raven. Italian Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn. 1995.

Hurwit, Jeffrey M.. The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, and Archeology From the Neolithic Era to the Present. New York: Cambridge UP. 1999.

Mavromataki, Maria. Greek Mythology and Religion. Athens: Haitalis. 1997.

Marks, Tracey. Medusa in Greek Mythology. 23 June, 2009. 

Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. A.D. Melville. New York: Oxford. 1986.

Rhodius, Apollonius. The Argonautica. Trans. R.C. Seaton. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar. 2007.

Zaidman, Louise Bruit, and Pauline Pantel Schmitt. Religion In the Ancient Greek City. Trans. Paul Cartledge. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1992.

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  1. Julia Williams

    Dear friend thank you for bringing this one,
    I love to read ancient stories of the world specially about my own country India and the history rich Greece stories and these are incredibly very interesting.
    So it’s a five star rating content for me.
    With love and respect ✊

  2. Cornel

    I have controversial question regarding your topic that presents interest for me: do you think the Greek mythology is just a myth, or is it inspired from real events and even real personages/creatures of the past?

    1. James Diegel Post author

      Wow… so controversial and enticing… I have been fascinated with ancient cultures for a really long time now and have studied a lot of both mainstream and unconventional sources… so personally I am of the opinion that these histories are far from complete – so much so that I think there is a very good possibility that there are things that were known in these times that we have simply lost…

      I will, in time, say more – but for now that is the gist of my personal perspective 😉