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A Greek goddess, identified with the Roman Minerva. According to the story most generally current, she was the daughter of Zeus, who had swallowed his first wife Metis (" Counsel "), the daughter of Oceanus, in fear that she would bring forth a son stronger than himself. Hephaeestus (or, according to another version, Prometheus) clave open the head of Zeus with an axe, on which Athene sprang forth in full armour, the goddess of eternal virginity. But her ancient epithet Tritogeneia ("born of Triton," or the roaring flood) points to water (that is, to Oceanus); as the source of her being. Oceanus was, according to Homer, the origin of all things and of all deities. The worship of Athene, and the story of her birth, were accordingly connected with many brooks and lakes in various regions, especially in Boeotia, Thessalia, and Libya, to which the name Triton was attached. From the first, Athene takes a very prominent place in the Greek popular religion. The Homeric hymns represent her as the favourite of her father, who refuses her nothing. When solemn oaths were to be taken, they joined her name with those of Zeus and Apollo, in a way which shows that the three deities represent the embodiment of all divine authority. With the exception of the two gods just mentioned, there is no other deity whose original character as a power of nature underwent so remarkable an ethical development. Both conceptions of Athene, the natural and the ethical, were intimately connected in the religion of Attica, whose capital, Athens, was named after Athene, and was the most important seat of her worship. Athens was originally the maiden daughter of the god of heaven; the clear, transparent aether, whose purity is always breaking forth in unveiled brilliancy through the clouds that surround it. As a deity of the sky she, with Zeus, is the mistress of thunder and lightning. Like Zeus, she carries the aegis with the Gorgon's head, the symbol of the tempest and its terrors. In many statues, accordingly, she is represented as hurling the thunder-bolt. But she also sends down, from sky to earth, light and warmth and fruitful dew, and with them prosperity to fields and plants. A whole series of fables and usages, belonging especially to the Athenian religion, represents her as the helper and protector of agriculture. The two deities Erechtheus and Erichthonius, honoured in Attica as powers of the fruitful soil, are her foster-children. She was worshipped with Erechtheus in the temple named after him (the Erechtheum), the oldest sanctuary on the Athenian Acropolis. The names of her earliest priestesses, the daughters of Cecrops, Aglaurus, Pandrosus, and Herse, signify the bright air, the dew, and the rain, and are mere personifications of their qualities, of such value to the Athenian territory. The sowing season was opened in Attica by three sacred services of ploughing. Of these, two were in honour of Athene as inventress of the plough, while the third took place in honour of Demeter. It was Athens, also, who had taught men how to attach oxen to the yoke; above all, she had given them the olive-tree, the treasure of Attica. This tree she had made to grow out of the rock of the citadel, when disputing the possession of the land with Poseidon. Several festivals, having reference to these functions of the goddess, were celebrated in Attica; the Callynteria and Plynteria, the Scirophoria, the Arrhephoria or Hersephoria, and the Oschophoria, which were common to Athens with Dionysus. (See DIONYSIA.) Even her chief feast, the Panathenoea, was originally a harvest festival. It is significant that the presentation of the peplos or mantle, the chief offering at the celebration, took place in the sowing season. But afterwards more was made of the intellectual gifts bestowed by the goddess. Athens was very generally regarded as the goddess of war; an iaea which in ancient times was the prevailing one. It was connected with the fact that, like her father Zeus, she was supposed to be able to send storms and bad weather. In this capacity she appears in story as the true friend of all bold warriors, such as Perseus, Bellerophon, Jason, Heracles, Diomedes and Odysseus. But her courage is a wise courage, not a blind rashness like that of Ares; and she is always represented, accordingly, as getting the better of him. In this connection she was honoured in Athenian worship mainly as a protector and defender; thus (to take a striking example) she was worshipped on the citadel of Athens under the name of Promachos ("champion," "12 protector.") But she was also a goddess of victory. As the personification of victory (Athene Nike) she had a second and especial temple on the Athenian Acropolis. (See Plan of ACROPOLIS.) And the great statues in the temples represented her, like Zeus, with Nike in her outstretched hand. The occupations of peace, however, formed the main sphere of her activity. Like all the other deities who were supposed to dispense the blessings of nature, she is the protectress of growing children; and as the goddess of the clear sky and of pure air, she bestows health and keeps off sickness. Further, she is (with Zeus) the patroness of the Athenian Phratrioe, or unions of kinsfolk. At Athens and Sparta she protects the popular and deliberative assemblies; in many places, and especially at Athens, the whole state is under her care (Athene Polias, Poliachus). Elsewhere she presides over the larger unions of kindred peoples. The festival of Athene Itonia at Coronea was a confederate festival of all Boeotia. Under the title of Panachais she was worshipped as the goddess of the Achaean League. Speaking broadly, Athene represents human wit and cleverness, and presides over the whole moral and intellectual side of human life. From her are derived all the productions of wisdom and understanding, every art and science, whether of war or of peace. A crowd of discoveries, of the most various kinds, is ascribed to her. It has been already mentioned that she was credited with the invention of the plough and the yoke. She was often associated with Poseidon as the inventress of horse-taming and ship-building. In the Athenian story she teaches Erichthonius to fasten his horses to the chariot. In the Corinthian story she teaches Bellerophon to subdue Pegasus. At Lindus in Rhodes she was worshipped as the goddess who helped Danaus to build the first fifty-oared ship. In the fable of the Argonauts it is she who instructs the builders of the first ship, the Argo. Even in Homer all the productions of women's art, as of spinning and weaving, are characterized as "works of Athene." Many a Palladion or statue of Pallas bore a spindle and distaff in its left hand. As the mistress and protectress of arts and handiwork, she was worshipped at the Chalkeia (or Feast of Smiths) under the title of Ergane. Under this name she is mentioned in several inscriptions found on the Acropolis. Her genius covers the field of music and dancing. She is inventor of the flute and the trumpet, as well as of the Pyrrhic war-dance, in which she was said to have been the earliest performer, at the celebration of the victory of the Gods over the Giants. It was Phidias who finally fixed the typical representation of Athens in works of art. Among his numerous statues of her, three, the most celebrated, were set up on the acropolis of Athens. These were (1) The colossal statue of Athene Parthenos, wrought in ivory and gold, thirty feet in height (with the pedestal), and standing in the Parthenon. (See PARTHENON.) The goddess was represented wearing a long robe falling down to the feet, and on her breast was the aegis with the Gorgon's head. A helmet was on her head; in one hand she bore a Victory, six feet in height, in the other a lance, which leaned against a shield adorned with scenes from the battles of the Amazons with the Giants. (2) The bronze statue of Athene Promachos, erected from the proceeds of the spoils taken at Marathon, and standing between the Propylaea and the Erechthteum. The proportions of this statue were so gigantic, that the gleaming point of the lance and the crest of the helmet were visible to seamen, on approaching the Piraeus from Sunium. (3) The Lemnian Pallas, so named because it had been dedicated by the Athenian Cleruchi in Lemnos. The attractions of this statue won for it the name of "the Beautiful." Like the second, it was of bronze; as a representation of Athene as the goddess of peace, it was without a helmet. Throughout the numerous and varying representations of her, Athene has an imposing stature, suggesting a masculine rather than a feminine form; an oval face, with a brow of great clearness and purity; thoughtful eyes, compressed lips, firm chin, and hair carelessly thrown back. (See cut.) Her ordinary attributes are the helmet, the aegis covering the breast or serving as a shield for the arm, the lance, the round shield with the Gorgon's head, the olive branch, and the owl. (On her identification with Minerva, see</italics MINERVA.)
Type: Standard
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