The war goddess of the ancient Greeks was Athena often called
Pallas Athena, or simply Pallas. The Romans identified her as
Minerva and ranked her third among their gods, after Jupiter and
Juno. Athena was also worshiped as the goddess of wisdom and of
crafts, especially spinning and weaving.
According to mythology, Athena was the favorite daughter of
Zeus. She was said to have sprung from his
head full grown and clothed in armor. The goddess was usually shown
wearing a helmet and carrying a spear and shield. Like her father,
she also wore the magic aegis a goatskin breastplate, fringed with
snakes, that produced thunderbolts when shaken. Athena was very
different from the war god Ares. She
represented the intellectual and civilized side of war she was not
so much a fighter as a wise and prudent adviser.
Athena was regarded as the protector of all cities and states. She
was wise not only in war but also in the arts of peace. She
supposedly invented the plow and taught men how to yoke oxen.
Athens became the most important seat of the worship of Athena.
Zeus had decreed that the city should be given to the god who
offered the most useful gift to the people. Poseidon gave them the horse. Athena struck the
bare soil with her spear and caused an olive tree to spring up. The
people were so delighted with the olive that Zeus gave the city to
Athena and named it after her. Athena is often shown with an olive
branch, a symbol of peace and plenty.
On the hill of the Acropolis the Athenians built a beautiful temple
to Athena called the Parthenon (from parthenos, meaning . In the
temple stood the ivory and gold statue called the Athena Parthenos,
by Phidias, the greatest Greek sculptor.The Athenians held their
most important festival, the Panathenaea, on the day considered to
be the goddess' birthday. It was celebrated by a procession,
sacrifices, and games.