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by Jason Stowe

Period 2

The god to be the topic of discussion in this report is Athena. Athena was an

important member of the Olympic pantheon. She was born fully armed from the

forehead of Zeus, the chief god. Athena was Zeus's favorite child. He

entrusted her with the Aegis, his breastplate, and with his thunderbolt.

Athena's role as a goddess varied. She was a major warrior and most images

depict her dressed in armor and holding a spear. In Homer's Iliad, she is

described as a fierce battle goddess who continually intervened on the side of

the Greeks. She also took an interest in handicrafts and agriculture. The

olive tree, which she said to have created, is sacred to her. She was noted for

her wisdom which explains her close association with the owl, an ancient symbol

of wisdom and reason. The most famous temple to Athena was the Parthenon (5th

century BC) which was named for Parthenos ("the Maiden"), which still stands

atop the Acropolis in Athens. The interior of the Parthenon stands a statue of

Athena Parthenos, sculpted by Phidais. When I was reading through myths, I

decided I would talk about "The Gift of Athena" which, in my opinion, best

illustrates Athena's colorful personality. Here is how "The Gift of Athena"


Long, long ago, when this old world was a very young place, and when the few

people there were had just begun to live together in groups for their own

protection, the great gods selected the places for humans to build the cities.

They looked down upon the earth, through the clouds that shrouded their home on

the very peak of the high mountain called Olympus, and they chose the sites they

thought would provide everything mortals needed to live and prosper. Now, each

god and goddess was eager to have a great city built in his or her honor, and so

the prime locations-the very best places for the great cities to be built came

to cause much bickering and jealousy among the many deities for all wanted a

great city built in their honor, a city whose people would worship that

particular god or goddess above all others. It happened that great Zeus, the

king and ruler of all the gods, had found a spot on earth that appeared

absolutely ideal for the building of a noble city; indeed, he foresaw that the

city that would be built there would someday become the noblest city on earth.

Well, you can imagine that all the gods and goddesses wanted this city for their

own, and you would be right. But the two who wanted it most of all were Athena,

the goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, the god of the seas and rivers. Now,

Athena was one of Zeus's daughters, and you might expect that her father would

honor her request, but Poseidon was Zeus's brother, and Zeus did not want to

disappoint him, either. Poseidon appealed to Zeus, saying that this location

would provide the city with the greatest natural harbor in all of the world and

destine it to be a great seaport. Therefore, as god of the sea, it was only

right that he, Poseidon, should be its chief god. But Athena argued just as

earnestly that the greatness of this city would not lie in its commerce, but

rather in the respect its people would someday have for art and learning. As

goddess of wisdom, therefore, she should be its guardian. Zeus, at last, decided

upon a way to end this quarrel and to choose, fairly, between the two. He

called for a great council to be held at the very site of the new city, and

there, with all of the gods and goddesses arrayed before him, Zeus spoke from

his golden throne in a clear, commanding voice. "Listen," he said, "to the will

of Zeus, who judges now between Poseidon and Athena. The city that is desired

by each shall bear the name of that god who shall bring forth from the earth the

better gift for the mortals who will dwell here. If Poseidon's gift be judged

more useful, this city shall be called Poseidonia, but if Athena's gift be

deemed the better, the city shall forever after be known as Athens." Upon

hearing this, Poseidon arose in all his majesty, and he struck his trident (that

is, the long, three-pronged spear that he always carried)-he struck this trident

hard into the ground right where he stood. The earth shook violently all around

until, at last, a great crack opened up in the surface. Out of this steaming

chasm leaped a magnificent horse, his powerful white body fully arrayed in

battle gear, a war-horse like none had ever seen before. "Behold my gift," said

Poseidon, "and call the city after my name, for who can give these mortals a

better present that the horse, which will ensure their protection from all their

enemies." But Athena looked steadfastly with her keen gray eyes at the assembled

gods, and she stooped slowly down to touch the earth where she stood. She said

nothing but continued to gaze calmly on that great council. Presently they all

witnessed a small shoot growing from the ground where Athena had touched her

hand. It grew swiftly and in minutes had sprouted thick and luscious boughs and

leaves; higher and higher it rose until green fruit appeared on its clustering

branches. "My gift is better, O Zeus, than that of Poseidon," she said. "The

horse he has given shall bring war and strife and anguish to these morals and

their children, but my gift-the olive tree-is the sign of peace and plenty, of

health and strength, and the pledge of happiness and freedom. Is it not more

fitting, then, that the city to be founded here should be called after my name?"

Then the voices of the gods rose in the air as one: "The gift of Athena is

better by far, for it is the token that this city shall be greater in peace than

in war, and nobler in its freedom than it its power. Let the city be called

Athens forevermore." Hearing their appeal, Zeus then bowed his head as a sign of

his judgment that the city should be named for Athena. The earth trembled as he

rose from his golden throne to return to the halls of Olympus. Athena stood

gazing over the land that her victory had given her, and she decided that it was

here that she would make her home. "Here," she said, "my children will grow up

in happiness, and they will come to understand that freedom is the greatest gift

a people can receive. And when the torch of freedom has gone out in Athens, it

will be passed on to other peoples in other lands throughout the world."

This myth shows how Athena longed for peace and wisdom rather than war. Also,

Poseidon held a trident. Trident is actually a combination of a Latin prefix

tri-, meaning "three" and the Latin root or stem dent-, meaning "tooth". So,

the trident is like a spear with three teeth! Words like tricycle, triangle,

etc. also originated from this tri- prefix. Words like dentist and denture

originated from this dent- stem. So, these are good examples of how today's

words originated from the Greek and Roman times!

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