Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pallas Athena

Athena also referred to as Pallas Athena , is the goddess of civilization, wisdom, strength, strategy, craft, justice and skill in Greek mythology. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is also a shrewd companion of heroes and the goddess of heroic endeavour. She is the virgin patron of Athens. The Athenians built the Parthenon on the Acropolis of her namesake city, Athens, in her honour .
Athena's cult as the patron of Athens seems to have existed from very early times and was so persistent that archaic myths about her were recast to adapt to cultural changes. The Greek philosopher, Plato (429–347 BC), identified her with the Libyan deity, Neith, the war-goddess and huntress deity of the Egyptians since the ancient predynastic period, also identified with weaving. This is sensible as some Greeks identified Athena's birthplace, in certain mythological renditions, as being beside Libya's Triton River. Classicist Martin Bernal created the "Black Athena Theory" to explain this associated origin by claiming that the conception of Neith was brought over to Greece from Egypt with "an enormous number of features of civilization and culture in the third and second millennia." Athena the goddess as philosophy became a part of the cult in the later fifth century and Classical Greece. She was the patroness of weaving, especially, and other crafts ; the metalwork of weapons also fell under her patronage. She led battles as the disciplined, strategic side of war, in contrast to her brother Ares, the patron of violence, bloodlust and slaughter-"the raw force of war". Athena's wisdom includes the cunning intelligence of such figures as Odysseus. Not only was this version of Athena the opposite of Ares in combat, it was also the polar opposite of the serene earth goddess version, Athena Polias, earning the title Athena Parthenos. A remnant of archaic myth depicts her as the adoptive mother of Erechtheus/Erichthonius by the foiled rape by Hephaestus. Other variants relate that the serpent who accompanied Athena, also called Erichthonius, was born to Gaia when the rape failed and the semen landed on Gaia, impregnating her, and that after the birth he was given to Athena by Gaia.
Though Athena was a goddess of war strategy, she disliked fighting without a purpose and preferred using wisdom to settle predicaments. The goddess would only encourage fighting if it was for a reasonable cause or to solve conflict.
In her role as a protector of the city, many people throughout the Greek world worshiped Athena as Athena Polias . Athens and Athena bear etymologically connected names.
In The Greek Myths , Robert Graves notes early myths about the birth of Athena whose worship began in Crete after arriving there as early as 4,000 BC. According to Graves, Hesiod (c. 700 BC) relates that Athena was a parthenogenous daughter of Metis, wisdom or knowledge, a Titan who ruled the fourth day and the planet Mercury. Other variants relate that although Metis was of an earlier generation of the Titans, Zeus became her consort when his cult gained dominance. In order to avoid a prophecy made when that change occurred, that any offspring of his union with Metis would be greater than he, Zeus swallowed Metis to prevent her from having offspring, but she already was pregnant with Athena. Metis gave birth to Athena and nurtured her inside Zeus until Zeus complained of headaches and called for Hephaestus to split open his head with his smithing tools. Athena burst forth from his forehead fully armed with weapons given by her mother. She famously wields the thunderbolt and the Aegis, which she and Zeus share exclusively.
The story of her birth from the head of Zeus was adapted by Christianity to parallel the emergence of arts and inventions from the mind of God. Plato, in Cratylus gave the etymology of her name as signifying "the mind of god", theou noesis. The Christian apologist of the second century Justin Martyr takes issue with those pagans who erect at springs images of Kore, whom he interprets as Athena:
"They said that Athena was the daughter of Zeus not from intercourse, but when the god had in mind the making of a world through a word (logos) his first thought was Athena"
On the other hand, John Milton's Paradise Lost interprets this myth as a model for the birth of Sin from the head of Satan.

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