Age of Gods – Athena
As I mentioned on my previous post, goddess Athena, was the patron divinity of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, arts, crafts, justice and skill.
Athena was also a shrewd companion and patron of heroes. She is the goddess of heroic endeavour. The metal work of weapons also fell under her patronage. She led battles as the disciplined, strategic side of war. Although she was the goddess of war strategy, she disliked fighting without a purpose and prefered to use wisdom to settle predicaments. She only encouraged fighting for a reasonable cause, or to resolve conflict.
Goddess – Inspired Jewelry
Next to God Zeus, the king of ancient Greek Gods, Athena was the second most important goddess in Ancient Greece. She was Zeus’s favorite daughter and she was the only one that he actually birthed himself – according to the myths. It is said that her mother was Metis, the Titan goddess of wisdom and the original wife of Zeus.
Here is Athena’s interesting birth story: Zeus came to power by overthrowing his father Chronus. Cronuses’s mother, the great earth goddess Gaia, foretold a prophesy in which one of Cronuses’s children will eventually overthrow him and take control of both gods and men alike. Cronus decided that the solution to this problem was to devour each and every one of his children after they were born. Eventually, his wife, Rhea, couldn’t take it anymore and gave him a stone wrapped in a baby blanket, which he promptly swallowed – thus saving her last son, Zeus, from this terrible fate.
Eventually Zeus fulfilled the prophesy by overthrowing his father. He became king of gods and men and the days of the Titans rule were gone. Gaia had another prophesy once Zeus became an adult – she foretold that his wife, Metis, would give birth to a son who would overthrow Zeus the way he overthrew his father. Knowing this, Zeus devoured Metis while she was pregnant. His plan worked that he never had a son by Metis, but what Zeus didn’t realize was that his daughter by Metis [ the baby was a girl] was more strong-willed than he imagined.
After a bout of terrible headaches Zeus begged the blacksmith God Hephestus to split his head open to relieve the pressure. Out popped the goddess Athena, fully dressed in armor and ready to do battle – according to the myths and legends. Her father was the most powerful and her mother the wisest among the gods, so Athena was the combination o the two – power and wisdom harmoniously blended.
In contradiction with her brother Ares, the god of war, chaotic battle, blood lust, ferocity, courage and violence, Athena was the goddess of strategy, organized fighting, advanced weaponry and skilled manipulation on the battlefield. If Ares was offence, Athena was defence. If Ares represented pure force Athena represented controlled strength. It was her wisdom and strategic planning that often turned the side of the battle to the victor. Athena is usually shown with the Goddess Nike (Victory) at her side.
Images above and below. Giagantomachia (Battle of the Giants) marble relief sculpture frieze from the Great Altar of Zeus at Pergamont.
Athena battles Alkyoneus in the War of the Giants. The giant is winged with the serpentine legs. His mother Gaia, top image, rises up from the earth [Chronus had more children after Zeus split him open in his attempt to overthrow him, the rest of the children spilled out from his body] besides him. Athena is attended by the winged goddess Nike. Hellenistic style200 BC.
Athena is mostly depicted armed holding an Argolic shield [featuring the head of gorgon Medusa at its center] and a spear. She is crowned with a crested golden helmet usually pushed back to reveal her elegant beauty. Her helmet is usually ornamented in the most beautiful manner with griffins, heads of rams, horses and sphinxes. Her garment is usually the Spartan tunic without sleeves, and over it, she is wearing a snake-trimmed Aigis cloak wrapped around her breast and arm -adorned with the monstrous head of gorgon Medusa. Her general expression is of thoughtfulness and earnestness. Her whole figure is majestic, strong and slender and usually she is holding some of her favorite objects such as an olive tree branch [symbol of peace and prosperity] and an owl [symbol of clarity, vision and wisdom].
It is important to note that Athena was known as well for her role as a judge, diplomat and mediator. Her decisions were renown for their fairness and compassion. She was frequently called upon to settle disputes between gods and various mortals. The goddess of wisdom was known for her superb logic and intellect. Her decisions were usually well-considered, highly ethical, and seldom motivated by self-interest.
More than any other of the ancient Greek gods and goddesses, Athena, remains an icon, a timeless symbol of civilization, useful knowledge, noble reasoning, logic and wisdom. She is such an inspiration to me as an artist and in creating my new Spring ’12 jewelry collection: Age of gods – Athena.
Coming soon Age of Gods ATHENA collection – Spring’12 by Susanna Galanis