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Mia Maher

Honors English 10

Mrs. Dietrich

1 March 2017


When many people are in trouble, they are able to call upon their guardian angel for help

and protection. Athena is able to provide this help and protection for Odysseus in Homers The

Odyssey. In the way she helps Odysseus, along with her background and what she protects as a

goddess, she plays a large role and is very significant in The Odyssey.

Athena is a Greek goddess who is one of Zeuss daughters. When his wife, Metis, was

pregnant with their child, Zeus knew if she bore a son that he would become greater than Zeus,

possibly even replacing him (Pinsent 32). To avoid this happening, Zeus swallowed Metis, so

Athena was born from her fathers head. She was born fully equipped in armor and already

grown (Cartwright). Athenas armor is known to be made from the skin of a giant, and has very

elaborate details. Mark Cartwright describes this armor as, aegis made, in some accounts, from

the skin of a Giant, hung with tassels of gold (Athena). She was very thin and tall, and had

stunning blue-green eyes (Greek-Gods.info). Athena and her father had a very strong

relationship. Because she was his favorite daughter, he widely trusted her. She was often

entrusted with his important items, such as his thunderbolt (Greek Gods and Goddesses). Athena

was also one of the few virgin goddesses, along with Hestia and Artemis (Greek Gods and

Goddesses). Therefore, she never had a family of her own.

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John Pinsent explains Athenas title, the Athenian one in his book, Greek Mythology.

He says this title refers to another manifestation of the pre-Greek mother-goddess worshipped,

as she continued to be worshipped, in the Parthenon on the Acropolis at Athens (31). He also

later names Athena as, Defender of the City, Promahos, she who fights for it (62). Another

title for Athena, Tritogeneia, and its origin is explained in Mortford and Lenardonss book,

Classical Mythology (5th ed.), as [referring] to a region sometimes associated with her birth, the

river or lake Triton, or Tritonis (121). Athena is well known as the goddess of wisdom and of

war. While these are the most widely known, Greek Gods and Goddesses state that, She is

goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, strategic warfare,

mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill,(Athena). Athenas wisdom is one of

her most well-known attributes.

Along with her wisdom is her great courage as a warrior. Athena was seen to be born

into divine power, yet in society as an unmarried warrior (Pinsent, 32). She showed great

courage and was always helping those in battle, especially making sure to protect those from her

country who were returning from battle (Greek-Gods.info). Athenas skills do not end there,

however. She is also skilled in the taming and training of horses, interested in ships and

chariots, and the inventor of the flute, (Morford and Lenardon 125). Along with the flute,

Athena is also recalled to have invented many other useful items such as the rake, pot, trumpet,

and chariot (Karas and Megas). Besides her own inventions and skills, Athena was able to teach

various tasks to mankind through her wonderful talents. Athena was notable at tasks such as

weaving, sewing, and agriculture. Humans greatly benefited from Athenas teaching in these

fields (Greek-Gods.info).
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Due to Athenas actions and accomplishments, she has symbols that specifically

represent different milestones she reached. One of Athenas symbols is the spear, due to its

significance in her battle with Medusa, or the olive tree, a gift Athena gave to the city of Athens

as a sign of peace. Another of Athenas commonly known symbols is the owl, an animal

considered to be the symbol of wisdom (Greek-Gods.info).

When many people think of Athena, the city Athens in Greece comes to mind. Athens is

named after Athena due to her great protection of the city. The people of Athens chose Athena as

patron of their city, following her gift of the olive tree, symbol of peace and plenty,

(Cartwright). Athena beat Poseidon to this honor with her gift, the olive tree, as they were in a

contest for the city. Just as Athena is honored in Athens, she was honored in other cities as well,

while having a different name. Karas and Megas state, Athena was called Mykene in the city of

Mycenae and Thebe in the city of Thebes, (Greek Mythology).

Athena was a warrior who encountered many conflicts and battles, showing her great

power over others. One of the most well-known stories of Athena is the story of Arachne.

Morford and Lenardon tell the story as follows:

Minerva [Athena] disguised herself as an old woman, white-haired and supporting

herself upon a stick, and spoke as follows: Not everything that old age brings is to be

avoided Arachne glowered at heras she attacked disguised Minerva with these

words: You old fool, enfeebled by advanced old age. Too long a life has done you no

good... Then Minerva cried: She has come! and throwing off her disguise she showed

herself as she was, the goddess Minerva Angered by Arachnes success [Minerva]

raised her up with these words: stubborn girl, live, yet hang With these

wordsArachnes hair dropped off; her nose and ears vanished, and her head was
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shrunken; her whole body was contracted. From her side thin fingers dangled for legs,

and the rest became her belly. (123-125)

This story shows Athenas great power over humans, also suggesting how the spider came to be.

Besides her conflict with Arachne, Athena encountered many battles and disagreements with

many supernatural characters. One of these conflicts occurred between Tritons daughter, Pallas,

and Athena. Athena had fought with Tritons daughter, then killed her, regretting it shortly after

(Morford and Lenardon 122). Athena also had a conflict with Poseidon for the land of Ittica

(Pinsent, 86), and a large quest and battle to kill Medusa, who had the power to turn any man to

stone (Greek Gods and Goddesses). Athena proved superior in both of these incidents, knowing

how to defeat each obstacle. These events show how Athena puts her wisdom and war effort to


Athena plays a large part in the Trojan War, and later Odysseuss life as seen in The

Odyssey. Cartwright describes Athenas character in the Trojan War as a protagonist, supporting

and encouraging different gods and goddesses involved (Athena). Thorough this and her

wisdom, she was able to directly influence different parts of the Trojan War. The Trojans felt

protected during and after the war by the Palladium, a statue of Athena that they considered

sacred (Greek Gods and Goddesses). After the Trojan War, as Odysseus is making his journey

back home, Athena returns to help him before he returns home to face the suitors. Athena helped

Odysseus to disguise himself, allowing him to enter his house without the suitors, or even his

wife, recognizing him. She also helps to put Odysseuss plan to defeat the suitors in action by

helping to reunite Odysseus once again with his son, Telemachus. Once the two are together,

Athena encourages Odysseus to reveal himself to his son, but Odysseus does not at first. Athena

transforms Odysseus in front of Telemachus, leaving Telemachus wonderstruck (Homer 1146).

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Once the two of them arrived back at the castle, Odysseus, with the help of Athenas disguise,

was able to trick the suitors into thinking he was an old beggar. He defeated the men in their

contest of stringing Odysseuss bow to win Odysseuss wife, Penelope. Athena, who is still with

them, encourages Odysseus and Telemachus as they battle, but holds off her supernatural help in

order to let them prove themselves to the suitors alone. In turn Odysseus was able to reunite with

his beloved wife (Homer 1154-1160). Without Athenas quick thinking and wisdom, Odysseus

would have had much more trouble overcoming the obstacles of returning home and winning his

wife over again.

Athena greatly influenced The Odyssey and Odysseuss journey home through her

thorough background in wisdom, reason, and battle. Because of this background in battles and

assistance to others, Athena shows herself to know exactly what needs to be done in any given

situation, especially involving her wisdom. Athenas traits help her to show herself as a strong

and important character in The Odyssey, one which the story would not be the same without.
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Mia Maher

Honors English 10

Mrs. Dietrich

1 March 2017

Annotated Bibliography

Athena. Greek Gods and goddesses. 19 Sept 2014. Web. 19 Feb 2017.

This page gives many facts about Athena, such as her family background and many of the
things she is known for ruling over as goddess (such as wisdom and war). It also tells about her
symbols and her role helping other gods and goddesses.

Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. Greek Gods Info. N.p., n.d., Web. 19 Feb 2017.

This source helps to form a better understanding of Athenas family, her role, her
appearance, and her symbols. It also describes Athenas connection to the city of Athens.

Cartwright, Mark. Athena. Anchient. N.p., 24 May 2012. Web. 19 Feb 2017.

This source gives insight to everything Athena is associated with. It specifically discusses
the city of Athens and her connection to it, as well as her role in the Iliad.

Homer. The Odyssey. Print.

This source serves as the main point of research for the paper. It explains how Odysseus
was directly helped by Athena in the story.

Karas, Michael and Charilaos Megas. Athena. Greek Mythology. N.p., n.d.. Web. 19 Feb 2017.
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This source specifically discusses Athenas position in wars and how she became the
patron goddess of Athens after certain wars. It also talks about her alternate names and the
significance of her symbols.
Morford, Mark P.O. and Robert J. Lenardon. Athena. Classical Mythology. 5th ed. White

Plains, New York: Longman, 1995. Print.

This source discusses Athenas birth, titles, character, and legends. It specifically shows
stories and appearances of the goddess Athena. It helps you to have a deeper understanding of
specific events in Athenas life.

Pinsent, John. Athena. Greek Mythology. Middlesex, England: Hamlyn, 1969. 31+. Print.

This source explains the origin of Athenas name and her family history. It also explains
the story of her birth and her place in the Greek god/goddess world. It gives insight to her