Athena was the goddess of wisdom. She could get angry, but more
typically, she was wise, and kind, and understanding. Athena was
born very oddly. Her father was the mighty Zeus. But she did not have a
mother. Instead, as the myth goes, she was born directly out of Zeus' brain. Zeus loved all his
children. But one of his favorites was Athena.
Athena held a powerful position
in the ancient Greek god world. She was an Olympian, one of
the council of 12, who held a seat on Mount Olympus. She also had a home there.
Here is a myth about Athena that shows how
clever and practical she was.
Nearly every town in ancient Greece had a god
that looked after the townspeople. Gods could look after more than one town.
But towns rarely had more than one god to keep an eye on their best
Poseidon loved watching over towns. He usually
picked coastal towns since he was the Lord of the Sea. Poseidon was a very
powerful god. His brothers were Zeus and Hades. Poseidon was a moody fellow,
but he loved his wife and children and he loved attention. He liked having
people build temples in his honor and bring him gifts. They were not very
useful gifts for a god, but he enjoyed getting them anyway. As Greece grew and
developed, new towns sprang up all the time. Poseidon was always on the
lookout for new coastal towns.
was not the only god who loved to be in charge. Athena, along with other gods,
enjoyed that role as well. One day, both Athena and Poseidon claimed a new
Most of the time, humans were grateful when
they were selected to be under the care of a god. But two gods? That was one
too many. Poseidon wanted them to chose which god they wanted. But the people
did not want to choose. They could see only trouble ahead if they did.
Athena, goddess of wisdom, and daughter of
Zeus, understood their worry. She challenged her uncle Poseidon to a contest.
Both gods would give the town a gift. The townspeople could decide which gift
was the more useful.
Poseidon slapped his specter against the side
of the mountain. A stream appeared. The people were excited. A source of fresh
water was so important! But when they tried to drink the water, they
discovered it was not fresh at all. It was salt water!
Athena waved her arm and an olive tree
appeared. The people nibbled at the olives. They were delicious! The people
were excited. The olive tree would provide wood for building homes. Branches
would provide kindling for kitchen stoves and fireplaces. The olives could be
used for food. The fruit could pressed to release cooking oil. It was
But theirs was a coastal village. The people
could not risk angering the Lord of the Sea, the mighty Poseidon. As it turned
out, they did not have to choose. Poseidon chose for them. He laughed his
mighty laugh, sending waves crashing against the shoreline. He proclaimed his
niece the winner!
That's how a small village gained a most
powerful and wise guardian, the goddess Athena, a guardian who helped them
rise to fame. In her honor, they named their village Athens.