|The Daughter of Zeus and Metis|
|The Birth of Athene|
|Athene and Hera|
|Athene and Pandora|
|Athene and Herakles|
|Athene and The Argonauts|
|The Judgment of Paris|
|The Wounded Goddess|
|Athene at Troy|
|Athene and Odysseus|
|The Grim Goddess|
|A Prayer to Athene|
|On the Lighter Side|
|Images of Athene|
Athene is the daughter of Zeus and Metis. She is the virgin goddess of wisdom and craft but that is not to imply that she is reserved or reflective. Athene can be bold and cruel or thoughtful and protective depending on the situation.
She is called Athene in the Iliad and the Odyssey but after 500 BCE the spelling of her name was changed slightly and she was thereafter referred to as Athena. She has various other names: Pallas Athene [Young Woman Athene] and Glaukopis [Bright Eyed]. She is also called Tritogeneia because she was raised by the Nymphs of the Tritonian lake [or river] in Libya.
Athene is the guardian of cities ... fierce to her enemies and gentle to her followers. She is the goddess of wisdom, craft, intellect and invention. She taught men how to construct war chariots and inspired women to engage in crafts which would make their homes more efficient and comfortable. She delights in battle and strides beside her stepbrother Ares [god of war] when she is not fighting against him.
Zeus took the goddess Metis as his first wife and she soon became pregnant. Gaia [Earth] and Ouranos [Heavens] warned Zeus that Metis's children would have the power to depose him. Being fearful and prudent, Zeus swallowed Metis and in the vastness of his being, the goddess Athene was born. Metis gave her daughter weapons and clothed her in armor ... Athene then burst from Zeus's head, fully armed and armored shaking her spear in the face of Zeus. Helios [Sun] halted his chariot in the sky, the earth shook and the sea tossed violently as the fierce goddess stood defiantly before the astonished Immortals. Finally, Athene stripped off her armor to reveal her elegant feminine form and divine beauty ... Helios began to move through the sky once more and the troubled sea became quiet.
Her mother's name, Metis, means 'wisdom' or 'thought,' it might therefore be more proper to call Athene, The daughter of wisdom instead of the goddess of wisdom.
Athene is one of only three goddesses who can resist the love charms and spells of Aphrodite. Histia and Artemis are the other two. Histia is goddess of the Hearth and Artemis is goddess of the Hunt.
When Athene was born, Hera became extremely angry with Zeus because she thought she could have given him a child of Athene's quality. Hera cursed Zeus and swore a bitter oath that she would spite him with a child of her own that would be as repugnant as Athene was perfect. Hera conceived, without consort, the monstrous snake-bodied thing named Typhaon. Also adding to Hera's misery, she had just given birth to a son named Hephaistos. To add to her humiliation, when Zeus and Hera argued over Hephaistos, the young god was thrown from Mount Olympos and severely injured his legs when he finally hit the earth. From that time on, Hephaistos was lame and therefore Hera did not consider him to be a worthy son for the queen of the Immortals. Hera blamed Athene as much as Zeus for the embarrassment Hephaistos caused her.
As Athene grew older and Hera became more secure with Zeus's affections, the two goddesses became allies and friends. Since Athene was a chaste goddess and did not compete on the battlefield of love, Hera came to appreciate the young goddess for her cleverness and fierceness.
Hera and Athene conspired on several occasions to thwart the will of Zeus and although their efforts were clearly known to Zeus, the two schemers often succeeded in altering Zeus's commandments and softening the punishments he meted out to the other Immortals and mortals who had offended him.
The two most notable collaborations between Hera and Athene were in assisting Jason and the Argonauts in their Quest for the Golden Fleece and assuring victory for the Achaean Greeks in the Trojan War.
The most notable confrontations between Hera and Athene were caused by Herakles and Prince Paris [Alexandros] of Troy. Hera hated Herakles and tried to kill him on many occasions but Athene protected Herakles and foiled Hera's plots with subtle manipulations and direct intervention. The dispute which arose involving Prince Paris at first pitted the two goddesses against one another but eventually united them against the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
At the dawn of time, mortal men lived without mates on the cruel and pitiless earth. The first woman was created as a gift and punishment to mankind. The actions of the god Prometheus indirectly caused this incredible event.
Prometheus is the son of the Titans, Iapetos and Klymene. Although he fought for Zeus and his siblings so that they could become the Olympians and thus the ultimate deities, he still disagreed with the way the mortal men on the earth were being treated. In direct defiance to the command of Zeus, Prometheus gave men fire. Zeus was outraged and had Hephaistos shackle Prometheus to the side of a crag, high in the Caucasus Mountains.
As a punishment to mankind for Prometheus's gift of fire, Zeus ordered the creation of the first woman, her name was Pandora meaning All-Endowed, i.e. given attributes by all the Immortals. Hephaistos molded Pandora's body from earth into the likeness of a modest young girl. Athene taught Pandora the skills of weaving and gave her dexterity. Aphrodite put a mist upon her head to engender longings and desire. Hermes gave her treachery and shamelessness. The Graces and Peitho [Persuasion] gave her necklaces of gold and the Seasons put a halo of flowers on Pandora's head.
Zeus intended Pandora for Prometheus's brother Epimetheus and despite dire warnings from Prometheus, Epimetheus accepted Pandora because she was irresistible. When Epimetheus accepted Pandora he unleashed all the evils on the world. The only positive influence that Pandora brought to the world of men was Hope.
Even the greatest hero of all times needed a protector. Athene fulfilled that role by being Herakles's guardian and advisor. There were numerous occasions where Herakles benefited from Athene's divine intervention but this is not to imply that Herakles could not have succeeded in his many Labors and Deeds without Athene's help. Athene simply made the tragic and difficult life of Herakles a little less painful.
The Labors of Herakles
The goddess Hera hated Herakles and devised a series of hardships to torment the hero. Herakles was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Alkmene ... Hera was unforgiving of Zeus's wanton infidelity. When Hera learned that Alkmene was pregnant, she tricked Zeus into promising that the next son to be born in the bloodline of Perseus would rule Argos. Zeus was sure that Herakles would be that son but Hera delayed Eileithyia, the goddess of Childbirth, from attending Alkmene and allowed a man named Eurystheus to be born before Herakles. Herakles was later bound to Eurystheus and required to perform the labors which have become known as the Twelve Labors of Herakles.
Athene assisted Herakles in six of his Twelve Labors:
Labor Number 2 - Killing the Hydra - The Hydra was the offspring of the half-Nymph/half-serpent, Echidna, and the snake-bodied, Typhaon.... The Hydra had a huge body with eight mortal heads and one immortal head. The creature lurked in the swamps of Lerna, which was a marshy region near ancient Argos in southeast Greece on the Peloponnesian Peninsula. The Hydra was very hard to kill because each time one of the serpent-like heads was hacked off, two new heads grew to replace it. Also, the blood of the Hydra was a deadly poison. With the help of his cousin Iolaos... [and with Athene watching the battle to lend her protection] Herakles attacked the Hydra. He used either a sword or a sickle to hack at the heads while a giant crab, sent by the vengeful Hera to distract him, snapped at his heels. To prevent the heads from growing back two-fold, Herakles succeeded in cauterizing the squirming necks with fire as he cut off each head.
Labor Number 4 - Capturing the Boar of Mount Erymanthos - Erymanthos is a mountain in southern Greece on the northwest Peloponnesian Peninsula. To be rid of the deadly wild boar that was menacing the countryside around the mountain, Eurystheus commanded Herakles to capture the beast and deliver it to Mykenai alive ... Athene and Iolaos... accompanied Herakles to lend their assistance.
Labor Number 5 - Cleaning the Stables of Augeas - Augeas was the king of Elis which was a country in western Greece on the Peloponnesian Peninsula and the site of the ancient Olympic Games. Eurystheus gave Herakles the lowly, but formidable, task of cleaning the king's stables in a single day. With the help of his protector, Athene, he diverted the rivers Alpheios... and Peneios... to the stables and, using a large wrecking bar, knocked a hole in the wall allowing the torrential waters to flush out the accumulated detritus.
Labor Number 6 - Killing the Stymphalian Birds - Herakles was sent to kill the Stymphalian Birds either because they were a nuisance or, as later writers profess, because they were man-eaters. Herakles entered the woods around the lake near Stymphalos with his bow and a pair of krotalas ... krotalas were castanet-like clappers that were made by Hephaistos and given to Herakles by Athene ... the idea was to frighten the birds with the krotalas and then shoot them with his bow when they took flight.
Labor Number 11 - Retrieving the Golden Apples of the Hesperides - The Golden Apples were originally a wedding gift from the primeval goddess of earth, Gaia, to Olympian Hera. They grew in a garden which was cultivated by three Nymphs collectively known as the Hesperides [Aegle, Erytheis and Hespere]. Atlas, a brother of Prometheus, stood on a mountain in northwestern Africa and supported the heavens on his shoulders. Atlas agreed to retrieve the Golden Apples from the Hesperides if Herakles would assume his burden and hold up the sky until he returned with the apples. The metope from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia shows Herakles with the sky on his shoulders while Atlas stands before him placidly offering the Golden Apples ... what really makes this scene dynamic is the figure of Athene standing behind Herakles with one graceful arm extending upwards effortlessly helping to support the weight of the heavens.
Athene, Herakles and Atlas
Image from the University of Michigan Library archives
Labor Number 12 - Bringing Kerberos... from the Underworld - Kerberos, another offspring of the half-Nymph/half-serpent Echidna and the snake-bodied Typhaon... is the ferocious watchdog of the Underworld and was usually depicted having three heads, a dragon tail and snakes writhing from his body. When Odysseus encountered the 'shade' of Herakles at the entrance to the underworld, Herakles said, "I brought back the beast from the Underworld; Hermes and gray-eyed Athene showed the way."
Herakles and Kyknos
Athene helped Herakles in other ways too. One of the sons of Ares named Kyknos... offended Apollon when he stole some sacrificial hecatombs ... Zeus dispatched Herakles to kill Kyknos ... he also sent Athene to protect Herakles from any revenge Ares might try to exact on Herakles for killing his son.
Athene, Herakles, Kyknos and Ares
For the fight with Kyknos, Herakles was given a magnificent shield fashioned by Hephaistos ... the shield was literally alive with animated scenes depicting daily life as well as horrific battles. As Herakles was preparing for the fight with Kyknos, Athene stood in front of his chariot and gave the hero a stern warning ... she told him not to strip the armor from Kyknos's dead body ... she told him remain alert and be ready for an attack by Ares ... to emphasize her seriousness, thunder resounded when Athene shook her Gorgon-faced aegis.
After Kyknos was laying dead in the dirt, Ares charged at Herakles ... Athene told Ares to back away but the war god was too furious to listen to reason ... he hurled his spear at Herakles but Athene turned it aside with a wave of her hand and told Ares that he was not destined to kill Herakles and that he should withdraw from the fight. Ares was not inclined to obey Athene's command ... he drew his sword and attacked Herakles again. Herakles did not back away from the fierce attack ... he stabbed upwards under Ares's shield with his spear and the point tore into Ares's exposed flesh ... Ares fell flat upon the ground. His sons, Deimos and Phobos swooped down in Ares's chariot and lifted their father from the ground ... they lashed the chariot horses and were off to the safety of Mount Olympos.
Herakles and Periklymenos
With Athene's assistance, Herakles also killed a man named Periklymenos.... He was the eldest son of Neleus and Chloris, and one of the Argonauts who sailed to retrieve the Golden Fleece.
Periklymenos's grandfather Poseidon [lord of the Sea] gave him boundless strength and the ability to assume any shape he desired. Periklymenos could transform into an eagle, an ant, a swarm of bees, a snake or any other form. Herakles came into conflict with Periklymenos in a rather sad and roundabout way.
Herakles committed many atrocious acts in his life and one of them involved the murder of a man named Iphitos.... Herakles went to Periklymenos's father Neleus and asked for absolution for his crime. Neleus refused. In a fit of rage, Herakles killed Neleus, Periklymenos and his brother Chromios. During the fight with Periklymenos, the goddess Athene warned Herakles about Periklymenos's shape-shifting abilities. When Periklymenos assumed the shape of a bird and perched on the yoke-boss of Herakles's chariot, Herakles killed Periklymenos with an arrow.
Alkmene looks down helplessly as an infant Herakles fights the snakes that Hera sent to destroy him. Herakles's brother Iphikles tries to escape as Athene [right] leans on her aegis and simply looks on.
The Quest for the Golden Fleece would not have been attempted or completed without the assistance of Athene and Hera. The two goddesses worked closely together so that a seemingly impossible task could be accomplished and become known as one of the most remarkable adventures of all time. The Quest took place one generation before the Trojan War which would date the Quest to circa 1280 BCE.
The primary mortal characters in the Quest were:
Pelias usurped the throne of Iolkos and made Aeson an outcast in his own kingdom. Aeson sent his infant son Jason into hiding so that Pelias could not harm him but when Jason became a man, he returned to Iolkos to claim the throne which was rightfully his. Pelias said that he would relinquish the throne if Jason would go to the distant land of Kolchis and retrieve the Golden Fleece.
From the very beginning, Hera was involved in orchestrating the Quest because of her love of Jason and also because she wanted to punish Pelias for his disrespectful behavior towards her.
Jason accepted Pelias's challenge and began making preparations for his journey. A ship was built and the finest young heroes in Greece joined the crew, some of the heroes came at the bidding of Athene.
The ship was called the Argo, meaning Swift. The Argo was inspired by Athene and constructed by a man named Argos to be the most magnificent and seaworthy ship ever built. The keel of the Argo was made of oak which Athene cut in Dodona and endued with a human voice. The crewmembers of the Argo were called Argonauts, i.e. Argo Seaman. When the Argo set sail, the Nymphs of Mount Pelion marveled as they beheld the work of Athene.
As vital as the Argo was to the Quest, Athene also gave Jason a wondrous shield to protect him and then drifted down on a cloud and into the sea to speed the Argo on its way. The Argo soon reached the Clashing Rocks which were two gigantic rocks the size of islands. When any ship attempted to pass between the rocks, they would clash together and crush it. When the Argo tried to sail between the Clashing Rocks, Athene held one of the rocks with one hand and pushed the ship safely through with the other.
As the Argonauts approached Kolchis, Athene and Hera tried to think of a way to help Jason obtain the Golden Fleece. They correctly assumed that King Aietes would never surrender the Golden Fleece voluntarily so a plan had to be devised to thwart Aietes's interference. They decided to enlist the help of Aphrodite and hesitantly approached the goddess of love. Aphrodite was willing to help and suggested that Eros [the primal god of love] might be induced to cast a love spell on Jason and King Aietes's daughter, Princess Medeia. Eros obeyed Aphrodite and shot Medeia with an arrow that infused her with an irresistible love for Jason. After being blinded by love, Medeia willingly helped Jason take the Golden Fleece without her father's knowledge.
The voyage back to Iolkos was not an easy one. Athene and Hera repeatedly helped calm the seas and inspire other Immortals to assist the Argonauts. When the Argonauts were stranded in the Libyan desert, the Nymphs of the desert helped them because they had once helped Athene when she had been born by the waters of nearby Lake Tritonian.
Before reaching home, the Argonauts built a shrine to Minoan Athene on the island of Crete to show their appreciation for all the help the goddess had given them during their perilous journey.
The Immortals all have a common heritage and it would seem that they should also share common goals and values. The actuality of the situation is quite different from the ideal. The Judgment of Paris caused a seemingly trivial rivalry between three goddesses to escalate into a conflict of truly epic proportions.
The Nereid Thetis was given in marriage to Peleus [a mortal] because of his undying devotion to the gods on Mount Olympos. The marriage was also a punishment for Thetis because she had rejected Zeus's amorous advances. The wedding of Thetis and Peleus was the prelude for a dramatic event which set the stage for the Trojan War. This event has come to be known as The Judgment of Paris although, at that time, it was just another demonstration of the frivolous jealousies of the Immortals.
In order to honor Thetis, Hera invited all the Immortals to the wedding. Athene polished an ashen spear which she, Cheiron and Hephaistos had fashioned for Peleus. The goddess Eris [Discord and Strife] was in attendance but she did not come to celebrate ... she came to do what she does best, cause trouble. Eris presented the assembled goddesses with a golden apple that had the inscription, 'For the most beautiful one.' Athene, Hera and Aphrodite all assumed that the prize was for them and when the intended conflict arose, the Trojan prince Paris [Alexandros], was asked to make the final decision as to which goddess deserved the golden apple. Aphrodite promised Paris the hand of the most beautiful mortal woman in Greece, Helen. Paris could not refuse such a prize ... he chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess. Hera and Athene never forgave the insult ... the walls of Troy toppled and all of Paris's family paid with their lives for his greed and desire.
After Agamemnon and Menelaos gathered the armies for the siege of Troy, they stopped at the costal city of Aulis. While the fleet was anchored at Aulis, Agamemnon offended the goddess Artemis with his boasting. Artemis called upon Boreas, the North Wind, to hold the fleet in port until she had been properly appeased. One of the commanders from the town of Teuthis in Arkadia became frustrated with the delay and quarreled with Agamemnon. The commander's name was either Teuthis or Ornythus. As he was preparing to lead his army back home, Athene took the guise of a man named Melas, the son of Ops, and tried to intervene. In his fury, the commander struck the goddess in the thigh with his spear and marched his army back home.
After the contingent from Teuthis had returned home safely, Athene appeared to the commander in a vision and showed him the wound in her thigh. Soon afterwards, a wasting disease and famine befell the people of Teuthis, without affecting any other Arkadian town. An Oracle from Dodona instructed the Teuthians to erect a statue of the goddess with a wounded thigh ... it would seem that the statue would be an admission of guilt as well as an apology ... regardless, the intention was to stay Athene's wrath. They did as the Oracle instructed and a statue of Athene with a purple bandage wrapped around her thigh was on display at Teuthis for over a thousand years after the Trojan War ended.
One of the most defining events of the ancient Greek world was the kidnapping of Helen and the resulting war at the gates of the city of Troy. This conflict was known as the Trojan War and divided the Greeks of the Balkan Peninsula from the Greek colonists along the coast of Asia Minor. The Trojan War also divided the Immortals of Mount Olympos ... Athene took the side of the Greeks and spared no effort to see the Trojans vanquished.
After ten brutal years of warfare, the armies decided to stop the fighting and let the two major figures of the dispute face one another in hand-to-hand combat. Helen's lawful husband, Menelaos, and her Trojan lover, Alexandros [Paris], agreed to fight ... the winner would take possession of Helen [and her dowry] and the war would be over. As the two men began to grapple, Pallas Athene descended from Mount Olympos and strode between the two armies to inspire a Trojan archer named Pandaros to commit a supreme act of treachery. Pandaros, against all sworn oaths, loosed the arrow which broke the fragile peace ... when the arrow injured Menelaos, Aphrodite spirited Alexandros away from the battlefield to the safety of his bedchamber. The bloody war was resumed to the delight of the Olympians.
To avenge Aphrodite's meddling, Athene gave the Greek warrior Diomedes the ability to see the Immortals on the battlefield and advised him to avoid them, but she suggested that if he saw Aphrodite, to attack her. Diomedes obeyed and Aphrodite was the first Immortal to be wounded on that bloody day.
The final conflict in the battle of Troy was not fought on the battlefield ... the Greeks resorted to an ingenious idea that has survived to this day as the icon of Greek treachery and ingenuity ... the Trojan Horse. Athene inspired the craftsman Epeios to construct a giant Wooden Horse that could be left as a tantalizing gift for the Trojans and give the illusion that the Greeks had given up the war and sailed home. The Greeks hid their best men inside the horse, burned their encampment and pretended to leave in their ships. When the Trojans saw the giant Wooden Horse outside their gates, they assumed that the war was over and that Greeks had left it as a peace offering. The Torjans debated the issue and the only man to suspect the deceit was a seer named Laokoon. Poseidon was also on the side of the Greeks and sent one of his sea creatures to quickly silence Laokoon. King Priam of Troy reasoned that the death of Laokoon was a favorable sign from the gods and ordered that the horse be brought into the city ... the Trojans celebrated their apparent victory. Helen was not convinced that the Trojan Horse was an innocent peace offering. She walked around the Wooden Horse imitating the voices of the wives of the men she thought most likely to be concealed inside ... in order to protect the men hiding in the horse, Athene distracted Helen. When the Trojans were exhausted from their merriment, the Greek warriors emerged from the hollow belly of the horse and began the final, victorious assault on Troy. It's ironic that Athene would inspire the device that would bring about the destruction to Troy because when the Trojans brought the Wooden Horse into the city, they wanted to dedicate the trophy to the Grim-Goddess as a tribute to her divine protection.
When the Achaeans were preparing to return to their homes with the spoils of Troy, Athene engineered a quarrel between the brothers Agamemnon and Menelaos. Agamemnon wanted to remain at Troy and appease Athene for the destruction of her temple but Menelaos wanted to leave as quickly a possible. Menelaos returned safely home with a few detours but Agamemnon sailed directly home to meet his death at the hands of his vengeful wife Klytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus.
During the final battle for Troy, the greatest Achaean warrior was killed ... the death of Achilles was the signal that the Trojan War was near its completion. The heroes had been given glory and death in equal measures and Zeus was content that all the old debts had been paid. When the body of Achilles was laying in the dust of the battlefield, both armies fought to gain possession of the body and his divine armor. While Odysseus fought to keep the Trojans away, Aias [Ajax] dragged the body of Achilles back to the Achaean encampment. At that point a bitter argument arose between Odysseus and Aias ... both men thought that they deserved Achilles's divinely crafted armor. The aged hero Nestor suggested that the dispute be settled by sending a spy to the walls of Troy to eavesdrop on the Trojans to see which of the two fighters, Odysseus or Aias, was most respected and feared. The eavesdropper heard two young women talking about the terrible fight for Achilles's body ... one woman remarked that Aias was the better man because he had actually carried Achilles's body from the fighting but at the contrivance of Athene, the other woman replied that even a woman could have carried the body from the fighting but only a brave and strong man like Odysseus could have withstood the fierce attack of the Trojan warriors. On this testimony, Odysseus was awarded Achilles's armor. Aias either killed himself in sorrow or was killed by Poseidon after he left Troy ... regardless, when Odysseus met the 'shade' of Aias in the Underworld, the sullen hero would not speak or acknowledge Odysseus even though they had fought side by side for ten long years.
When Troy was in ruins, Odysseus rescued the statue of Athene [the Palladium] from her temple inside the burning city. The Trojans claimed that they had made a duplicate of the Palladium and that the statue that Odysseus took was not the real one but Athene's hatred for the Trojans and her protection of Odysseus and his family suggests that the Trojan account was not true.
Odysseus and Diomedes taking the Palladium.
After the Trojan War was over [circa 1240 BCE], Athene did not abandon Odysseus or his family but she could not shield him from the vengeance of her uncle, Poseidon. On their voyage home, Odysseus and his crew landed on the island of the Cyclops where Odysseus blinded Poseidon's son Polyphemos in self-defense. Poseidon was outraged but Zeus would not allow him to kill Odysseus. Zeus said he would permit Poseidon to torment Odysseus and delay his homecoming but that the hero was not to be killed.
Athene tried her best to mitigate Odysseus's punishment but was not able to directly intervene until Odysseus was in the last stages of his homeward journey. When Odysseus was floundering in the sea near the island of the Phaiakians, Athene quieted the winds and waves to allow him to swim to the inhospitable shore. Odysseus would have been dashed against a rocky crag if Athene had not inspired him to grab the rock-face and cling to it. After the crushing wave had subsided, Odysseus was able to swim out beyond the breakers and find a more suitable place to come ashore.
Scheria, the island of the Phaiakians, was to be the last delay before Odysseus returned to Ithaka. Once Odysseus was safely ashore, Athene guided the actions and thoughts of everyone who came in contact with him to insure that he would be taken to his home on the island of Ithaka without further hindrance.
Princess Nausikaa was the daughter of King Alkinoos and Queen Arete of the Phaiakians. Instead of revealing herself or using a disguise, Athene contrived a plan where she would appear to Nausikaa in a dream and use the young girl to guide Odysseus to the king and queen.
Nausikaa slept in an elaborate bedchamber with four handmaidens. Athene came into the room like a breath of air and stood above Nausikaa's head. The goddess gave Nausikaa a divine dream where she likened herself to a girl named Dymas because she was Nausikaa's friend and of the same age.
In the dream, Dymas [Athene] scolded Nausikaa for being heedless of her parents. Dymas reminded her that she was of marrying age, and yet her beautiful garments were unwashed. Dymas urged Nausikaa to rise at the break of day and go to the river to wash her clothes.
Remembering the divine dream when she awoke the next morning, Nausikaa and her handmaidens went to the river to wash their clothes. Athene had arranged for Nausikaa to be at the river at precisely that time so that the laughter of the playful girls would awaken Odysseus from his sleep. Odysseus thought he heard the voices of Nymphs but still fearing that he might be in a lawless land, emerged from the underbrush like a lion.
Odysseus looked so wild and filthy that the handmaidens fled in terror. Athene put courage in Nausikaa's heart and took fear from her limbs. Nausikaa stood where she was and allowed Odysseus to approach her. He wondered if she was a mortal girl or a goddess because she resembled Artemis [goddess of the Hunt] in stature and form. Seeing the kindness in her eyes, Odysseus told Nausikaa of his journeys and the troubles he had endured on his quest for his home. Listening to him speak, Nausikaa correctly judged Odysseus not to be a bad man or lacking in understanding the ways of the gods and men.
Nausikaa called to her handmaidens and reminded them that the Phaiakians were dear to the Immortals and that no one had ever been allowed to come to their island with hostility. She instructed them to bathe Odysseus in a sheltered part of the river but due to his modesty, Odysseus insisted that he wash himself. The handmaidens left him a cloak and tunic, and olive oil to anoint his weathered body.
When Odysseus finished bathing, Athene made him appear taller and stronger. She made his hair flow with curls and shed grace upon his head and shoulders. Nausikaa saw how magnificent Odysseus looked and secretly told her handmaidens that this noble stranger had come to them by the will of the Immortals, perhaps to become her husband.
Nausikaa told Odysseus to accompany her back to the city and to the palace of her father. She told Odysseus that when they reached the city walls he should to turn aside and wait at the Grove of Athene until she had time to reach her father's palace.
Odysseus followed behind Nausikaa as she drove her wagon to the city and then turned aside when they reached the Grove of Athene. Once inside the sacred precinct, Odysseus prayed to Atrytone, the child of Zeus of the aegis, because he knew who his protector had been. The goddess was pleased with Odysseus but still did not want to reveal herself because she did not want to rekindle the wrath of Poseidon against Odysseus. When Odysseus left the sacred grove and ventured into the city, Athene put a mist around him so that the Phaiakians could not see him.
Odysseus encountered a young Phaiakian maiden carrying a pitcher and began to question her. The young maiden was Athene in disguise. She called him father and cautioned him against making eye contact with the Phaiakians they encountered or questioning them, knowing full well that the mist prevented them from seeing him. Athene, as the young maiden, told Odysseus of the heritage of the Phaiakians and particularly of Queen Arete. She said that the queen was held in high regard and settled disputes even among the men of the island. She told Odysseus to be bold when he entered the palace and to seek out Queen Arete for assistance.
When Odysseus entered the palace he was still shrouded in mist. He walked past the Phaiakian men in their council and went directly to Queen Arete. Athene dissolved the mist and everyone was astounded to see the strange man kneeling before the queen. Odysseus praised the queen's heritage and begged her to grant him conveyance to his home. Having said his piece, Odysseus sat humbly in the ashes of the fireplace.
Queen Arete and King Alkinoos welcomed Odysseus and arranged for a celebration to be held in his honor. Athene assumed the guise of King Alkinoos's herald and went through the city encouraging everyone to attend. Odysseus wept when he heard songs about the Trojan War because he remembered his companions and friends who went to the war but never returned. Athene induced the Phaiakian men to bestow gifts on Odysseus and made preparations for a ship to carry him to Ithaka.
The Phaiakian ship was fast as thought and sailed directly to Ithaka. Odysseus was asleep when they arrived so the Phaiakian sailors left him on the beach with the many gifts Athene had induced King Alkinoos and the other Phaiakians to give him. Athene had put a mist on the island so that Odysseus would not know where he was. When he awoke, the first person he encountered was a young herdsman who was actually Athene in disguise. The young man told Odysseus that he was on the island of Ithaka but the clever hero hid his delight and lied to the goddess as to his identity.
Athene was amused with Odysseus and transformed herself into a tall woman so that Odysseus would know who she was. She told him that she actually admired his cleverness and had tried to protect him as best she could but she had to be careful not the further evoke the wrath of her uncle, Poseidon.
Athene removed the mist from the land so that Odysseus could see that he was indeed home. In somber gratitude, he prayed to the Naiad Nymphs and Athene the Spoiler. Athene helped Odysseus hide the Phaiakian gifts in a cave of the Nymphs and then sealed the entrance with a stone.
Athene told Odysseus that the suitors of Penelope had been despoiling his home for the past three years and that she would stand beside him when the time came for him to spatter blood and brains. She also assured him that his son Telemachos was safe because she was protecting him. She then touched Odysseus with her wand and he took on the guise of an old and tattered man. He was now ready to explore the island and see first-hand how the suitors were squandering his possessions.
When it became obvious that Odysseus would be returning home soon, Zeus allowed Athene to go to the island of Ithaka to assure Telemachos that his father was not dead and that preparations should be made for his homecoming. Athene assumed several disguises in order to move freely around Ithaka and help Telemachos.
In the guise of a man named Mentes, Athene went to Odysseus's home to observe Penelope and the suitors who had invaded her house hoping to marry her when Odysseus was finally declared dead. Telemachos was the first to see Mentes and welcomed him with food and drink. Mentes said that he had been a guest/friend of Odysseus and that he did not understand the presence of the suitors. Telemachos explained that the suitors were only interested in eating, dancing and consuming Odysseus's property. Mentes advised Telemachos to call an assembly of the citizens of Ithaka and announce that he planed to go abroad in search of news of his father. Athene put hope in Telemachos's heart, gave sweet slumber to Penelope and then departed like a soaring bird. Telemachos knew that Mentes was not a man but in actuality the immortal goddess Athene.
When Telemachos was ready to address the assembly of citizens, Athene cast an enchantment of grace on him. He announced that he would leave Ithaka to search for news of his father and that he hoped that Zeus would punish the suitors for their indulgences. When Zeus heard the sage words of Telemachos to Penelope's suitors, he sent two eagles as a sign of his protection of Telemachos and as a warning to the suitors. In their arrogance, the suitors ignored the divine message and began plotting ways to kill Telemachos.
After the assembly, Telemachos walked along the shore and prayed to Athene for help. The goddess took the guise of Telemachos's tutor, Mentor, and told him that his journey to find news of Odysseus would not be in vain. Mentor then told Telemachos to return to his home and make the necessary preparations to sail to Pylos and Sparta.
Athene took the guise of Telemachos and went to the city to make arrangements for a ship and crew. Afterwards she cast a spell of slumber on Penelope's suitors so that Telemachos could leave the island unhindered. Penelope was not told that Telemachos was sailing for Pylos and when she finally realized that he had gone, she prayed to Athene to protect her son. Using the guise of Penelope's sister Iphthime, Athene spoke to Penelope in a dream to assure her that Telemachos was being protected.
When Telemachos arrived at Pylos, Athene [as Mentor] told him that he must trust his heart and the Immortals, and to be honest when he spoke with King Nestor. The goddess led Telemachos to King Nestor and sat with them as they drank wine. She gave Telemachos courage so that he could speak forthrightly. Nestor told Telemachos that Athene, the Gray-Eyed One, had been harsh with many of the warriors during the Trojan War but that she had always loved and protected Odysseus ... he likewise hoped that Athene would safeguard Telemachos.
After their meeting was over, Athene amazed everyone when she changed from Mentor to a vulture and soared into the heavens. Nestor had no doubt that Telemachos was protected by the goddess and made suitable sacrifices to honor her. Telemachos went from Pylos to Sparta to consult with King Menelaos. Menelaos recounted incidents from the Trojan War and commented that Athene had hated Aias [Ajax] and had thus given the armor of Achilles to Odysseus. After a brief stay at Sparta, Athene advised Telemachos to return to Ithaka. She sent a favoring wind to speed him on his way so that he could rendezvous with his father.
After hiding the Phaiakian gifts in the cave of the Nymphs, Odysseus followed the path Athene showed him and soon came to the house of the swineherd, Eumaios. When Telemachos arrived at Eumaios's home, Athene again touched Odysseus with her wand so that Telemachos could see that his father had indeed returned. Odysseus assured Telemachos that Athene and Zeus would fight with them against the suitors when the proper time came but until then, his presence should be kept a secret. Athene touched Odysseus with her wand again and he resumed the guise of a tattered old man.
Odysseus went to his home to mingle with the suitors and devise a plan for their destruction. His ragged appearance irritated the suitors and they instigated a fight with a beggar named Iros. Athene magnified Odysseus's strength and he gave Iros a severe beating. After the fight, the suitors became more unruly because Athene wanted to make them as obnoxious as possible so that Odysseus would have no choice but to kill them. She put a charm of enchantment on Penelope so that the suitors would desire her and act more aggressive thus inciting Odysseus's wrath.
In preparation for the inevitable fight, Athene held a lamp as Odysseus and Telemachos removed the weapons from the Great Hall so that the suitors would not be able to use them. Penelope came down from her chambers and insisted in speaking with the tattered stranger thinking that she might hear news of Odysseus. When she was satisfied that the stranger had once been a friend of her husband, she ordered the nurse Eurykleia to wash the pathetic looking old man. Eurykleia saw the childhood scars of Odysseus and knew his true identity but Athene turned Penelope's attention so that she could not share in the revelation.
The following day as the suitors were enjoying their usual indulgences, they began to harass Telemachos. Athene put the thought in Penelope's mind to challenge the suitors to try Odysseus's bow. She suggested that any man who could string and accurately shoot Odysseus's bow would be the equal of her long departed husband. Before the contest began, Penelope left the Great Hall and Athene cast sleep upon her eyes so she would not see or hear the horrific fight which was about to occur.
After each suitor tried and failed to string Odysseus's bow, Telemachos insisted that the tatted old man be given a chance to try his strength. The suitors were outraged but Telemachos placed the bow in Odysseus's hands. Odysseus notched the bowstring and Athene lifted his disguise. The battle began. Six suitors threw their spears at Odysseus but Athene deflected them. She waved the aegis of Zeus before the suitors and they became bewildered. With the aid of Telemachos and the loyal servants, Odysseus killed all the suitors and their henchmen.
When the fighting was over, Odysseus bathed and went to Penelope. In order for Odysseus and Penelope to renew their love, Athene went to Eos [Dawn] and would not let her harness her chariot until she was sure that Odysseus had had enough rest and contentment.
Odysseus knew that the relatives of the dead suitors would seek revenge so he decided to leave the city and make a stand at his father's house in the country. Shrouded in darkness provided by Athene, Odysseus, Telemachos and the loyal servants went to Laertes's country home and waited for the angry relatives.
On Mount Olympos, Athene asked Zeus how he intended to resolve the conflict between Odysseus and the enraged relatives of the dead suitors. Zeus told her to do whatever she wished.
As Odysseus prepared for the fight, Athene joined him in the guise of Mentor. Odysseus's father Laertes prayed to Athene to restore his youthful strength. She answered his prayer and made him stronger and more robust.
When the angry relatives reached Laertes's home, Athene called out to them and told them that they could settle their differences with Odysseus without bloodshed. Instead of hearing the reason of what was being said, fear infused them and they threw down their weapons and fled. When they began to retreat, Athene and Odysseus charged after them until Zeus hurled a lightning bolt in their path. Knowing her father's wrath, Athene told Odysseus to stop his attack and, still in the guise of Mentor, accepted the pledges of Odysseus and the angry relatives to settle their differences peacefully.
Athene is rightly called the Grim Goddess because she delights in warfare and carries the aegis of Zeus into battle. The aegis was made by the goddess Themis and decorated with images recalling scenes of battles with Amazons and Giants but the dominant image on the aegis is the head of the Gorgon, Medusa.
Athene was recognized as a powerful goddess by the ancient Greeks and her worship was fundamental to daily life in prehistoric Athens. The city of Athens was named after Athene in ancient times when she competed with her uncle Poseidon for domination of the unnamed city.
A competition was proposed to see which of the two Immortals could devise the most cunning gift for the mortals of the earth. Poseidon crafted the horse and Athene brought forth an olive tree. The olive tree was such a wonderful creation that Athene won the competition and Athens was named after her. The olive was used as food, oil and the wood from the larger trees was used for building ships. Poseidon's gift of the horse was by no means unappreciated ... the horse literally changed the shape of the ancient Greek world.
According to Plato, the city of Athens existed before 8600 BCE and was concurrent with Atlantis. The city was destroyed several times by natural disasters and then rebuilt with the guidance of Athene.
Although Athene was harsh and sometimes vengeful, the people of Greece adored her. Her 'Grim' attributes were accepted because she gave them skills and crafts which made their daily lives easier and richer.
One interesting prayer to Athene is from the makers of pottery ... it is from the Epigrams of Homer XIV:
Potters, if you will give me a reward, I will sing for you. Come, then, Athene, with hand upraised over the kiln. Let the pots and all the dishes turn out well and be well fired; let them fetch good prices and be sold in plenty in the market, and plenty in the streets. Grant that the potters may get great gain and grant me so to sing to them. But if you turn shameless and make false promises, then I call together the destroyers of kilns, Syntribos [Shatter] and Smaragos [Smash] and Asbetos [Char] and Sabaktes [Crash] and Omodamos [Crudebake] who can work this craft much mischief. Come all of you and sack the kiln-yard and the buildings: let the whole kiln be shaken up to the potter's loud lament. As a horse's jaw grinds, so let the kiln grind to powder all the pots inside. And you, too, daughter of the Sun, Kirke (Circe) the witch, come and cast cruel spells; hurt both these men and their handiwork. Let Cheiron also come and bring many Centaurs—all that escaped the hands of Herakles and all that were destroyed: let them make sad havoc of the pots and overthrow the kiln, and let the potters see the mischief and be grieved; but I will gloat as I behold their luckless craft. And if anyone of them stoops to peer in, let all his face be burned up, that all men may learn to deal honestly.
In the comic epic, The Battle of Frogs and Mice, the frogs and mice went to war ... the enormity [and ridiculousness] of the conflict caught the attention of the Immortals on Mount Olympos ... Zeus called upon Athene to go to the aid of the mice but she replied that she would do no such thing because when she was traveling, the mice ate holes in her fine robe and drank the oil from her lamp. She also said that she would not help the frogs because they had made such a racket that she could not sleep and gave her a headache. Without her divine intervention, the frogs and mice were destined to resolve their differences in the same way that mortals and Immortals have done throughout the ages, i.e. war.