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Athena Essay, Research Paper

The Goddess Athena

Athena was the goddess of wisdom, purity, and reason. She was the first to teach the science of numbers as well as cooking, weaving, and spinning. . An olive tree and an owl symbolize her. These are symbols of wisdom. She was also considered the goddess of war. Unlike Ares, the god of war, Athena would settle conflict with mediation over battle. Athena was the daughter Zeus, the King of Gods. It is said that Athena had no mother, but according to Hesiod’s account Athena’s mother was a women named Metis. The story goes that Metis was about to give birth to the Goddess Athena when an Oracle of Gaea (Mother Earth) prophesied that Metis’ first born would be a girl but her second born would be a boy that would rob Zeus of his kingly rank. This led to Zeus deceiving his pregnant wife and swallowing her. After some time Zeus began having severe headaches. They decided that what must be done is to split open the skull of Zeus with an axe. When Hephaestus split open Zeus’s skull out leaped Athena, already an adult, dressed in her armor. Athena is also one of the most recognizable of all gods. She has always been depicted with her helmet and spear. Being Zeus’s favorite daughter she would be allowed to use his weapons and armor, including his aegis, buckler, and even his thunderbolts. In the most ancient accounts Athena was regarded as a ferocious warrior that would defend the native land against outside enemies. Above all, Athena is the protectress of civilized life. She gave the mortals a bridle used to tame the horses given to them by Poseidon as well as invented the trumpet, flute, the pot, the rake, the plow, the yoke, the ship, and the chariot. Athena is the virgin goddess of intellect and invention. She is one of three who can resist the charms of Aphrodite. She was the chief between the three virgin goddesses and was called Maiden, Parthenos. The Greeks honored Athena by building a temple called Acropolis. In the center of Acropolis is a temple to Athena called Parthenon. This shows that the Greeks heavily believed in worshipping the gods.

At the Trojan War Athena, descended from Olympus and strode between the two armies. She convinced a Trojan to shoot an arrow, which injured Menelaos and caused the peace to be broken. After the war ended Athena caused Odysseus and his crew to blow off course on their way home. She was outraged because a Greek Warrior attempted to rape Cassandra in Athena’s Temple. This was a sacred place and was desecrated by the Greeks. Now Odysseus has been imprisoned on Ogygia by Calypso and away from home for the last ten years. At the beginning of the epic “The Odyssey”, we see Athena urging the Gods to free Odysseus from Calypso. She sees the pain and suffering that Odysseus’s son and wife are enduring in Ithaca. She is the protector of state and when she sees what is happening at the home of Odysseus she feels that she can free Odysseus so that he can protect his home. Athena also feels that she can help Odysseus’s son Telemachus. She disguises herself as Mentes, an old friend of Odysseus, and counsels Telemachus. She gives Telemachus the confidence to stand up to the suitors and to seek more information about his father. Telemachus senses that Menes is really Athena and calls for an assembly the next morning. Athena then disguises herself as Mentor and sets off with Telemachus to find out information about his father. She does this because with her guidance Telemachus must learn to become a man and warrior. Athena assumes the shape of men, women, and children to guide Odysseus home. She uses her disguises to encourage Telemachus and her visions to calm Penelope. Once Odysseus arrives home to Ithaca she provides a mist to cover the land so that she can alter his appearance. She then disguises him as a beggar so that he can gain information without being recognized. In the meantime she guides Telemachus past the suitors ambush so that he can be reunited with his father. To reunite father and son Athena once again changes Odysseus’s appearance. This time she makes him more radiant and resemblance of his former self. This is so Telemachus can recognize his father. Now the two devise a plan to kill the suitors. This is done with their faith in Athena and Zeus. The night before the attack on the suitors Athena appears to assure Odysseus of a vengeful victory. The day comes and with the intervention from Athena, Odysseus kills all the suitors and wins the day. Athena intervenes two more times before the epic ends. She first prolongs the dawn to give Penelope and Odysseus more time to be together. The last intervention comes when a large contingent of men comes to revenge the suitor’s deaths. Athena again appears as Mentor and stops the conflict and calls for peace. Odysseus is finally home after a long journey and the divine intervention of Athena.

Athena’s intervention plays a huge role in Odysseus’s travels. Many times Odysseus would set out on a voyage praying for good fortune from the gods above. Athena views Odysseus’s home as a state and the suitors are the outsiders invading. This is why she sides with Odysseus to revenge the suitors for what they have done to his home. This proves the importance that the gods played. Athena compares herself to Odysseus in book 13 “We both know tricks, since you are by far the best among all men in counsel and tales, but I among the Gods have renown for wit(metis) and tricks.” This comparison shows Athena’s respect for the mortal Odysseus. Athena uses disguises to manipulate the situations in favor of the family of Odysseus. She changes Odysseus’s appearance so that he can quietly investigate the suitor’s antics. Her intervention is essential but she still allows the humans to earn their destinies. She would intervene just enough to encourage Odysseus and help turn the tide, but then she would fall back and let the mortals be victorious. Athena’s main role was of protector and guide of Odysseus and his family.

1) Rieu, E.V. (1946), The Odyssey,

Middlesex, England, Penguin Books

2) Segal, Charles (1994), Singers, Heroes, and Gods in the Odyssey,

New York, Cornell University Press

3) George, Roy (1998), The Goddess Athena[Online],

http://www.goddess-athena.org/Encyclopedia/Athena/Athena_m.htm

4) messagenet (1996-2000), Greek Mythology[Online],

http://www.messagenet.com/myths/bios/athene.html


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