born without a mother. Her father was the mighty
Zeus, king of all the gods. Athena was born directly
out of Zeus' brain.
Zeus loved all his children, but if he had to
pick a favorite, it would probably have been Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
Athena was a powerful force, and one of the 12
deities who held a seat on Mount
There are many myths about Athena in Greek
mythology. Here is one of them.
In ancient Greece, each town had a special
deity, a god that looked after them. Poseidon was Zeus' brother. He was
Athena's uncle. He was also Lord of the Sea. Poseidon was a very powerful god.
He loved attention. He loved having towns build temples to worship him. He
loved the gifts people brought him.
Poseidon was always on the lookout for towns
that had not yet been claimed by a god. He wanted as many towns as possible to
call his own. Although towns could only have one god to watch over them, gods
could watch over as many towns as they chose.
One day, Athena, goddess of wisdom, and
Poseidon, lord of the sea, both claimed the village of Athens. Back then,
Athens was pretty small. Normally, the people would have been thrilled to be
selected by a god to watch over them. But two gods at once? A town could have
only one guardian, and they did not want to choose. They did not want to anger
Athena, who was wise as well as beautiful,
understood their worry. She suggested that both gods should give the town a
gift. The townspeople could decide which gift was better.
Poseidon loved the idea. The townspeople, if possible, were even more nervous
Poseidon tapped the side of the mountain. Water
flowed out in a beautiful stream. Fresh water was so important. The people
were sure Poseidon had won. When they tasted the water, they tried to smile,
but they had to spit the water out. It was salt water!
Then Athena waved her hand. An olive tree began
to grow. The people tasted the olives. Smiles broke out. The olives were
delicious. The olive tree would provide food, shelter, and oil for cooking. It
was a magnificent gift indeed.
But no coastal town in their right mind would
risk angering the lord of the sea, the mighty Poseidon. Fortunately, for the
people of Athens, they did not have to choose.
Poseidon threw back his head and laughed his
hearty roar. "Yours is a far better gift than mine, my lovely niece. I
award you Athens."
And that is how Athena became the
guardian of the city-state of Athens. Even today, Athena's special tree is the
It is said there were many people in ancient
Greece who were sure that Athens rise to fame was due mostly to Athena's wise
direction. But that is probably just a myth.