Athena’s Relationship with Other Gods and Goddesses

Athena’s Relationships with Other Gods and Goddesses
by JewelofAset

Relationship with Zeus
At Athena’s birth, she sprung forth from Zeus’s head in full armor, her war cry resounding through the Heavens and Earth. Zeus bestowed upon her these honors: his Aegis and she alone save Zeus can wield the power of the Thunderbolt.

Both of them can bring storms to those at sea. Zeus and Athena shared many epithets and spheres of expertise.

Deacy states them as (Athena/Zeus):
Savior (Soteria/Soter), Of the Council (Boulaia/Boulaios), Of the Olive Tree (Moria/Morios), Founder of the City (Archegetes/Archegetis), Of the City (Polias/Polieus) and patrons of Phratries (Phratria/Phratrios) (1).

Relationship with Hera
Hera as the wife of Zeus would be Athena’s “Mother” (Step-Mother in our parlance). In Hera’s Temple at Olympia there was a statue of Athena wearing a helmet and carrying a spear and shield (2). Within the Illiad, Hera’s dress was hand woven by Athena for her (3).

At the Proteleia Festival, a Priestess of Athena gave Athena a sacrifice or offering to aid in the marriages, fertility and childbearing of young brides. Hera as the Goddess of Marriage par excellence would have most likely been given a sacrifice as well (4). This is an example of where their cults may have intersected.

Both Goddesses are also patrons of housewives, domestic work and the tending of the home.

Relationship with Ares
Athena is a deity of war. She is both the goddess of just war and the horrors of war. Ares is the god of war, par excellence, while Athena is a goddess of war when it is necessary. She is the goddess of war and has many other attributes. At Olympia, Athena Hippia and Ares Hippios were honored together as deities associated with horses (5). Both of these deities were associated with war. Athene was more associated with just or defensive war, while Ares was more linked to the bloodshed, carnage and chaos of war.

Relationship with Hygeia
Pausanias in his Description of Greece mentions that the goddess Hygeia (Health) is the daughter of Asklepios (Healing God) and Athena Hygeia (Health) (6).

Relationship with Poseidon
Both Athena and Poseidon wanted Athens to be their patron city. Each offered a gift to the city, Poseidon offered a body of water and Athena planted the first olive tree. The sea water would offer fish and some shipping expeditions at certain times of the year, and Athena’s olive tree would offer fruit, oil and wood. Athena was awarded the city. In anger, Poseidon flooded the plains (7). In another version of this myth, Poseidon offered the horse instead of the sea. He still lost to Athena (8).

On the Hill of Kolonos, Poseidon Hippios and Athena Hippia were worshipped together as deities related to horses (9). In one Libyan myth, Athena was blue-eyed as she was the daughter of Poseidon and Lake Tritonis (10).

Athena’s maritime attributes include building of ships, piloting vessels and navigation (11). She could brew up storms upon command; she destroyed ships returning from Troy after they had committed sacrilege in her temple (12).

Relationship with Hephaistos
Athena was a goddess who weaved her own clothing. As the patron of women who worked at the loom, she aided women in domestic chores in their homes or those who sold their woven crafts at the market (13). Hephaistos on the other hand was a god of the forge, metal working and smiths.

According to Deacy, the difference between Athena and Hephaistos was that the goddess’s crafts were made from wool and other animal parts while Hephaistos’s crafts were things made in a forge. They share a festival (the Chalkeia) where they are honored together as Holy Powers associated with blacksmiths and artisans (14).

Relationship with Hestia
Athene was associated with the work women did in the home. Hestia is the goddess of the home and hearth itself. These two have over-lapping influence here.

Both Goddesses had fires associated with them. Athena’s cult also contained a flame within an eschara vessel which was re-lit by a Priestess every day. The difference here between flame of Hestia and this flame of Athena was that Hestia’s was a perpetual flame while Athena’s was re-kindled daily (15). Also Athena’s name may mean “vessel containing a flame” which is what an eschara does while Hestia’s name means “hearth” which is where the fire was lit in the home (16).

Relationship to Erichthonois
After being rejected by Aphrodite, Hephaistos tried to have sex with Athena. His sperm ended up on her leg. In disgust, she wiped it off with some wool and threw it to the ground. In some versions of the story, the goddess Gaia came up from the earth and gave the baby Erichthonois to Athena. Athena gave him to some of her priestesses to raise in Athens. Erichthonois was kept in a box with a snake; the Priestesses were never to open it. Athena was trying to make her son immortal. Two of the priestesses opened the box.

The two women who opened the box were either killed by the snake or were driven mad by the goddess herself and flung themselves off the Akropolis (17). Athena then raised the child in her own temple. According to myth, Erichthonois placed the first statue of the goddess there and founded the festival of Panathenaia for Athena (18).

There was a snake-spirit who was the guardian of the Akropolis. Each month he was given a honey-cake to elicit his protection. There is a statue of Athena with a serpent. This serpent is believed to be the guardian-spirit.

Pausanias describes the snake of Athena Parthenos statue as Erichthonois. Erichthonois was both a ancestor raised by Athena and an guardian serpent spirit of the Akropolis who was petitioned to for protection (19).

Relationship with Hades
In the town of Koroneia in Boeotia, Athene was worshiped with Hades. Strabo says that it came about because of a spiritual or religious mystery. And in Plato’s Laws, the Athenian names Athena as “our Kore and Despoina” which means “our Persephone” (20). Kerenyi also states that both Persephone and Athena are associated with the pomegranate (21).

Sources

(1) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 78-79.

(2) Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 17. 2

(3) Neils, Jenifer. “Pride, Pomp and Circumstance,” in Worshiping Athena: Panathenaia and Parthenon. University of Wisconsin Press, 1996), 196-197.

(4) Connelly, Joan Breton. Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece. (Princeton University Press, 2007), 200.

(5) Kerenyi, Karl. Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion. Translated by Murray Stein. (Spring Publications, 1988), 46.

(6) Pausanias. Description of Greece: Books 1-2. translated by W. H. S. Jones. (Loeb Classical Library, 1918; Harvard University Press, reprint), 117.

(7) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 79-80.

(8) Kerenyi, Karl. Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion. Translated by Murray Stein. (Spring Publications, 1988), 46.

(9) Kerenyi, Karl. Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion. Translated by Murray Stein. (Spring Publications, 1988), 46.

(10) Pausanias. Description of Greece: Books 1-2. translated by W. H. S. Jones. (Loeb Classical Library, 1918; Harvard University Press, reprint), 75. 1.14.6; Pausanias says that this was at a Temple of Hephaistos where the statue of Athena had blue eyes.

(11) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 49.

(12) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 49.

(13) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 51.

(14) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 52-53.

(15) Kerenyi, Karl. Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion. Translated by Murray Stein. (Spring Publications, 1988), 35.

(16) Kerenyi, Karl. Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion. Translated by Murray Stein. (Spring Publications, 1988), 30.

(17) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 80-83.

(18) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 85.

(19) Deacy, Susan. Athena. (Routledge, 2008), 88.

(20) Kerenyi, Karl. Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion. Translated by Murray Stein. (Spring Publications, 1988), 32.

(21) Kerenyi, Karl. Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion. Translated by Murray Stein. (Spring Publications, 1988), 31-32.

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