Athena, Greek Goddess of Wisdom | Story, facts + 3 conflicts

Goddess Athena is one of the most popular Greek Goddesses of all. She is the Goddess of Wisdom and Warfare. You may know her as the patron of Athens, the city. But I assure you, there’s a lot more to know about her, including some of her conflicts with other beings.

In this post, you’ll learn her story, her symbols, her archetype, and a bit more.

You can watch the video below and continue reading the article for more details.

In Neo-Paganism, Athena fits the Maiden Face of the Triple Goddess.

Athena, as well as other Greek Goddesses, are in my free Goddess Oracle! Use the button below to access it, flip a card and receive a message from a Goddess!

Goddess Athena illustration

Goddess Athena – Who is she?

Athena is one of the most venerated Greek Goddesses of all and there’s a reason for this. She was the governor and founder of the city of Athens, the current capital city of Greece. The city of Athens has always been a very important center because of its commercial importance and strategic location.

Athens was also the main city in the ancient world.

As it is common among the Greek Deities, there are lots of temples dedicated to them throughout the land. The biggest temple of all was the Athena temple known today as the Parthenon. This temple was demolished during the Persian invasion.

Goddess Athena is related to wisdom, perspicacity, justice, and diplomacy. She is also one of the 12 Olympic Gods who set by a table on Mount Olympus and ruled over the cosmos.

Athena, Atena or Athens?

There’s a certain confusion about the Goddess’s name and the name of the city. See below the difference:

  • Athena – Name of the Goddess;
  • Atena – Name of the Goddess too. In some languages the H is not used;
  • Athens – Every time there’s the S, it’s referring to the city.

Goddess Athena and the foundation of Athens

There are 2 versions of how Athena became the governor of Athens. Regardless of the version, both have the very same conclusion which shaped society for many centuries.

In both versions, we have a conflict between her and Poseidon, the God of the Seas.

Version 1) There was a voting

The first version states that people from the city were called to vote for their favorite Deity to govern the city: Athena or Poseidon.

Men voted for Poseidon and women voted for her.

She won for 1 vote difference.

Version 2) There was a contest

The second version states that the Gods themselves chose who would rule the city through a contest.

They asked Athena and Poseidon to make offerings to people. He offered the waters, which were abundant; She planted the first olive tree.

This way, the Gods chose her for she was more capable of taking care of people.

So, the city became Athens.

From Athens to the world

In both versions, Athena won but men were not happy with this. So they laid down 3 laws that were approved by her, in an attempt to avoid turmoils:

  • Women were not considered citizens;
  • Women could not vote;
  • The offspring would carry the father’s name.

We see this today in many parts of the world.

Athena Roman Name

The equivalent to Athena in Roman Mythology is Minerva.

Minerva shares the same traits as her Greek counterpart, there’s not much difference between them.

THe origins of Athena: “Masculinization” and birth

As time passed by, there was an attempt to bring Athena’s image closer to men to favor them and to give the impression that the main city was governed by a God. Otherwise, this could “hurt” the patriarchy.

Her image was altered. Older images show the Goddess as a woman, associated with home, protection, and crafts. Later, her image became more and more warlike, leaving these other attributes behind.

Moreover, her depictions showed her with lots of war clothing, disguising her gender and making her look like a “neutral” gender.

Athena came fully formed from Zeus

Her birth was also altered. It’s pretty common for us to read that she was born from Zeus alone, a motherless Goddess. One day Zeus felt a very strong headache and, after having his head open, Athena emerged adult and ready for war.

However, there is a more complete version of this story.

Athena is the Daughter of Metis

Everyone knows that Zeus was uncontrollable and he used to rape every woman in front of him. One of his victims was Metis, a Titaness.

Metis was extremely intelligent and she was capable of shapeshifting into anything she wanted to. When Zeus went after her, she tried to escape by shapeshifting into different animals but Zeus caught her and she got pregnant.

Hence, Goddess Gaia prophesied that Metis was carrying two children who would be very intelligent and one of them would become the new king of people and Cosmos. Zeus, afraid of being dethroned, swallowed Metis completely.

After this, we have the conclusion that Athena came fully formed from Zeus when he had a very strong headache.

The other child is unknown.

Athena is the daughter of Pallas

In another version, she is the daughter of Pallas, Gaia’s giant son. When Pallas tried to rape her, she killed him and used his skin to make war clothes, earning the epithet of Pallas Athena.

Anyway, in all versions, we see that she is related to her own wisdom and the ability to defend herself. These features are also seen in her symbols.

Athena is a virgin mother

Goddess Athena is one of the few Greek deities who remained virgins and refused to get married. She was always independent and never wanted to get involved with anyone.

But some men already wanted to get involved with her… or rather, they wanted to force an involvement.

In addition to Pallas, her giant father in some myths who tried to rape her, she almost fell victim to Hephaestus, who later takes Goddess Aphrodite – against her will – as his wife.

Hephaestus tried to rape her when she visited his workshop to order weapons. He arrived, tried to catch her, but … SHE IS GODDESS OF WAR! Not even Ares, the God of War, could face her!

Apparently, without making any effort, she pushed Hephaestus away. But some of his bodily fluids fell on her thigh. Then, when she cleaned herself up, these fluids fell onto the ground in the fertile land of Gaia. And from there a serpent arose, son of Athena and Hephaestus, who she named Erechtheus.

In statues of the Goddess, it is quite common to see Erechtheus beside her. In fact, the snake is a strong symbol of Athena, in addition to the owl, of course. Her connection with snakes is older than you might think.

Athena Symbol

The main symbol of Athena is the owl. And the owl is the main symbol of knowledge. Therefore, she is very clear as the Goddess of Wisdom.

Athena's symbols
Athena’s symbols

The first coins used in Athens had the face of the Goddess on one side and an owl on the other. In statues and paintings, she appears with an owl on her shoulder or sometimes with one flying close by.

Another symbol of Athena is the snake. The snake represents protection, transformation and the power to stand one’s ground. Snakes were used to protect grains from rodents. Her connection with the snake also makes her a Goddess of Protection and Home, and also her capability to act as she wanted and to honor her wishes. In fact, before being related to war and war skills, she was a Goddess of Home, weave, and protection.

In addition to her son being a snake, there is another character who is related to snakes – but had a tragic fate because of her – which is Medusa. Her connection with Medusa shows opposite sides, but they get together in the end.

If you’re interested in this subject, read a full detailed explanation of the main symbols of Athena.

The conflicts of Athena

Like all deities in Greek Mythology, except for Goddess Hestia, vanity is always present. And that leads to conflicts, punishments, and wars – even if you have Eris, the Goddess of Discord, involved.

Athena, even with all her wisdom, was also vain enough to get into some fights and cause turmoil around.

Athena and Medusa

Why did Athena curse Medusa?

Medusa was said to be a beautiful woman. A normal woman.

But, for some reason – some attribute that she and Poseidon had sex in a temple of the Goddess, and others do not say the reason explicitly -, the Goddess was so angry with her that she punished her, turning her into the Medusa with snake hair that we know today.

After this, Medusa became a threat. She was petrifying everyone who looked into her eyes.

No one was able to defeat her. Then, the Goddess helped Perseus to kill her. Perseus handed Medusa’s head to Athena, who placed it on her shield.

In other versions, it is said she used Medusa’s head to make her clothes.

Athena and Arachne

Why did Athena turn Arachne into a spider?

Arachne, a normal woman, challenged the Goddess in a weaving competition saying she could weave better than the Goddess. The two competed.

Arachne depicted the Gods in strange ways, shaming them all. Other versions state that she depicted Zeus betraying Hera. The Goddess depicted the Gods punishing people who embarrassed them.

In fact, Arachne’s ability to weave was superior to the Goddess’s, so Athena, full of anger, destroyed Arachne’s work. Arachne was ashamed to have shamed the Gods and hanged herself to death! The Goddess felt sorry for Arachne and using some of Hekate’s herbs she transformed her into the first Spider.

Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera

A third conflict involving the Goddess was when Eris, the Goddess of Discord, threw a golden apple written “for the most beautiful” or “for the fairest”. That apple fell among Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite. The events related to this golden apple led to the biggest war in Greek Mythology: the Trojan War!

In short, the most guilty Deity was not her. It was Aphrodite. The Goddess of Wisdom bribed Paris offering him war skills while the Goddess of Love promised him the love of the most beautiful woman alive. BY accepting Aphrodite’s bribe, Paris got Helen from Sparta for himself and took her to Troy.

This led to the Trojan War, as the King of Sparta went after his wife, stolen from him.

Goddess Athena’s archetype

Goddess Athena’s intelligence and insight gave the owl, an animal that always accompanied her, the symbol of wisdom. It is no coincidence that today the owl symbolizes teachers and educators.

She was a peaceful Goddess, but she would make no effort to resolve conflicts. She is considered a Goddess of War, but this view is somewhat aggressive since the Goddess did not create conflicts just for fun or destruction.

The search for her strength and wisdom should not be done for violent or conflicting purposes. She always sought balance and used her strength to make justice. This is her true power and, like her, we must also exercise our intellect and our strength in everything we do.

This is her archetype.

When working with her, you’ll find yourself paying more attention to everything around you. You’ll start learning from all the details you can see, listen to and observe. Then, you’ll become aware of the choices and consequences.

Working with the Goddess of Wisdom is a rewarding experience, but it must be done cautiously. There’s always a shadow aspect from these archetypes. In this case, the shadow aspect will manifest as a tendency to become cold and skeptical toward other people.

As usual, accept the shadow. Tame it. There will be no problems at all.

Learn how to completely activate and use Athena Archetype.

Goddess Athena illustration
Goddess of Wisdom illustration

Athena’s images

Below you’ll find some of the images I used in this post. They are all formatted for you to save to your Pinterest folders!

General FAQ

What is Athena god of?

She is the Goddess of wisdom and also of war.

Who is Athena in love with?

No one! She is the only Greek Goddess who had no lover(s).

How did Athena get Pregnant?

She didn’t get pregnant. Hephaestus almost raped her, but she avoided him. When she cleaned her thighs from his body fluids, she threw them on the earth, and Erechtheus was born.

Why was Athena a virgin?

She simply chose to. Even being a virgin, she had Erechtheus as a son with Hephaestus.

Was Poseidon married to Athena?

No. Poseidon is an uncle of hers. They competed over the city of Athens. She was victorious in all versions of the myth.

Why did Athena curse Medusa?

There are different versions of this myth. One of them states that Medusa – a normal woman – had sex with Poseidon on one of the Goddess’s temples. She punished Medusa transforming her into the monster with snake hair.

Why did Athena turn Arachne into a spider?

Because she lost to Arachne in a weaving competition. Other versions of this myth state that Arachne shamed the Gods in this competition and this angered the Goddess.

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