The Ancient Library

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On this page: Athene (continued)



Erechtheug in the temple named after him (the Erechtheum), the oldest sanctuary on the Athenian Acrfipolis. The names of her earliest priestesses, the daughters of Cecrops, Aglaurus, PandrSsus, 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 Athene, 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 CallyntSrw, and PlyntSrm, the SclrOphSrfa, the Arrhfphfirta or Hersgphdria, and the OschSphtfrta, which were common to Athene with Dionysus. (See dionysia.) Even her chief feast, the Prmathlncea, was originally a harvest festi­val. It is significant that the presentation of the pgplis 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.

Athene was very generally regarded as the goddess of war; an idea 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, Dldmedes, 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 Promach6s ("champion," "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 PhrMrlce, 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 PoKas, Poliuchus). Elsewhere she presides over the larger unions of kindred peoples. The festival of Athene Itonia at Coronea was a confederate festival of all Bceotia. Under the title of Pandcha'is 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 Danius 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 Pallddidn 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 Ergdne. 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.

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All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.