The Heroic Strategist
Wisdom, Strategy, Heroes, Mathematics
Owl, Olive Tree, Helmet
"It is she who saves the people as they go out to war and come back"
Homer, epic poet and historian
It is prophesied that the daughter of Metis, goddess of deep thought and cunning, will be greater than her father and will depose him. When Metis became pregnant with Zeus' child the god panicked and swallowed the goddess, attempting to subvert the prophecy. Months later, Zeus was struck by terrible headaches and complained constantly about the pain. Ares tired of the noise and took his axe to Zeus' head. From the wound a fully-armed adult Athena leapt with a mighty battle cry.
Born after the Titanomachy, Athena proved herself a powerful god and a capable fighter during the Gigantomachy. The most powerful of the giants, Enceladus, shrugged off assaults from the other gods. Seeing this, Athena picked up the Aegean island of Milos and dropped it on Enceladus, trapping the giant beneath the rocks.
Coming from the mind of a god and the body of a goddess, Athena is the embodiment of thought and the patron goddess of art, inspiration, law and wise counsel. She is also the goddess of just warfare, strategy and heroic endeavour. A war-god like her brother Ares, she focuses on using thought in war, in contrast to her brother's delight in violence and bloodshed. She dislikes wrongful wars and needless fighting, preferring wisdom and intelligence to resolve conflicts. Her focus on cleverness and thoughtful action makes her the favourite of artisans, politicians and philosophers.
Athena is fond of heroes and their courage and will help them in their endeavours, though she is not above as using them for her own ends. She was a sponsor of Odysseus who earned her favour with his cunning and resolve. With the wise counsel she gave him throughout his voyage he escaped Poseidon's schemes and traps. When Odysseus arrived home Athena came to him in disguise and help him reclaim his throne. Through this benevolent meddling she ensured that the island of Ithaca retained its wisest and cleverest king.
Herakles enjoyed her assistance throughout his tasks, proving himself to the gods. When an oracle at Olympus had prophesied that the war with the giants could not be won by gods alone, Herakles was summoned to Olympus. Once more Athena provided wise counsel as Herakles battled the giant Alkyoneus. They defeated Alkyoneus together, thus ending the Gigantomachy.
Athena raised an adopted son called Erichthonius who became the founding king of Athens. Throughout his reign the goddess intervened to protect her king and city and Athens grew strong. Through this link, Athens gained its name and its love of philosophy and new ideas.
Unlike most of her relatives, Athena is sexually conservative, preferring modesty to lust. To her, wanton sexual passions dulls the mind and leads to unwise acts. Desecrating the modesty of her temples is one of the few ways to provoke the goddess' anger. A priestess of Athena called Medusa took an oath to remain chaste whilst in her service. She was seduced by Poseidon and lay with him on the altar in the temple of Athena. The breach of the divine oath and the sullying of the altar infuriated Athena, and she turned the young woman into a gorgon for her crimes.
All Greeks praise Athena for her beauty and she revels in the adulation. This vanity led her to start the Trojan War alongside Hera and Aphrodite. The goddess of discord, Eris, put the three goddesses at loggerheads over who was the most beautiful. Zeus refused to get involved, so they turned to the Trojan prince Paris to make a judgement. Each goddess attempted to bribe him. Aphrodite won by promising Helen of Sparta to Paris, so Athena supported Helen's husband Menelaus in the subsequent war. However, she attacked the Greek fleet with a storm for failing to punish the Greek hero Ajax for desecrating her shrine in Troy.
Whilst Athena was keen to show her beauty to Paris, she punished another mortal for glimpsing her bathing. The man, Tiresias, was struck blind as a punishment. She displayed mercy on the poor man by allowing him to understand the language of birds which he used to foretell the future.
Athena emerged long after her father's generation deposed the Titans. Whilst she doesn't fear their wrath should they return, she will still fight against them. She has a sense of loyalty to her fellow Olympians and knows that Cronus' rule of absolute law would obliterate any original thought or innovation. Her champions are selected based on their cleverness and courage and are used to improve the world.
Athena always appears as a young adult woman with a toga draped over her body. A shield bearing her owl symbol sits on her left arm, a spear in her right hand and a helmet on her head.
Athena comes close to embodying her realms. She always displays intelligence and is quick to reward mortals who do so too, encouraging behaviour she wants to see in the world. This is evident in her sponsorship of mortal heroes. As goddess of wisdom she is stern but fair in her punishments. She is also an arch-manipulator, with many heroes finding their paths altered to suit her long-terms goals.
Most of the other Olympians get on well with Athena and she is one of Zeus' closest advisors. She is respected for her strength by Apollo but clashes with Ares over his bloodthirsty approach to war. The relationship is full of spite and malice and is the greatest blight on Athena's character. She is not afraid of direct confrontations, most notably during the Trojan war when the two came to actual blows on the battlefield. Her champions are often used to carry out plots against Ares. It was Athena's hero Herakles who killed Ares' Amazonians and Thracian kings.
Relations between her and Aphrodite are still tense. The goddess of love likes to remind Athena of Paris' judgement and mocks her stance of sexual modesty. The only other god she clashes with is Poseidon, whose claim to Athens she denied, and whose pride she wounded by getting Odysseus past him to Ithaca.
Neither Athena nor Zeus have forgotten the prophecy that she will overthrow him. Only Athena knows if she will ever take direct action against her father or if in her wisdom she will find subtler ways to surpass the king of gods.
Athena is celebrated across Greece, though less so in Sparta, Corinth and Macedon. She is not a household goddess like Hestia or Hecate but is worshipped through ceremonies and parades rather than small household shrines.
The cult of Athena is centred on Athens where the greatest temple in Greece is in her name. The Parthenon towers above the city on its outcrop and attracts worshippers from all over the world. Smaller temples can be found throughout Greece.