Athena was an Olympian goddess of wisdom, strategy, warfare and skill. Also known as a goddess of civilization, inspiration and laws, she was the virgin patroness of the city of Athens. The ancient Greeks even built Parthenon on the acropolis of Athens in her honour. Athena was also a patroness of various crafts, especially weaving and metalwork of weapons. Her intelligence and expertise in warfare strategies and discipline led to successful victories without too many casualties. Just the opposite of Ares, a patron of violence and slaughter, who led his disciples to the raw force of war, causing devastation. Athena was also very compassionate and caring because she was ready to help anyone in desperate times.
Most of the time, she is depicted as a fully grown woman in combat armor, wearing a crested helm and holding a shield in one hand and a spear in the other. Sometimes, she is depicted with an owl on her shoulder, as her symbol and a sacred animal.
Birth of Athena
Athena was a daughter of Zeus and a goddess Metis. In a myth of the birth of Athena, Zeus pursued Metis in his young age with extreme determination. She wanted to escape from the embrace of Zeus, but that was never meant to be because eventually she just gave up and let the vigorous Zeus to impregnate her. Metis was finally at ease for a while until Zeus heard a prophecy from Gaea and Uranus that he will lose his kingdom to the firstborn son. He was looking for her again and when finally found her, Zeus swallowed Metis to prevent the child from being born. This, however, hadn't solved problems for Zeus because he was having a painful headache. After a while, when the headache was getting worse, he sent Hermes for Hephaestus in order for the crafty god to open his head and look for the reason behind it. Later on, when Hephaestus split Zeus' head with his axe, Athena jumped out as an adult, with a spear in her hand and dressed in her armour. The rest of the gods were shocked and in awe of the bright-eyed goddess. It is also said that upon birth earth shook, making horrifying sound, and the seas trembled. Zeus was surprised and amazed and instantly Athena became his favourite daughter.
Becoming patroness of Athens
It is said that the goddess was involved in a myth to become a patron of the city. She was fighting in a contest with her uncle Poseidon over the city of Athens. In order to win city's deviotion, they had to produce a useful gift for its population. Poseidon was first to act and struck his trident hard in earth, creating a well with streaming water. However, the water turned out to be salty and not so useful for the people. Athena was next and created the olive tree by planting an olive branch into the hole that she made with her spear. People were delighted with olives, olive oil and quality timber and they chose Athena over Poseidon. The citizens named the city after the goddess and olive tree became a symbol of peace, wisdom and triumph. In another version of the story, Poseidon presented them a horse instead of a well with water but result was the same as they chose Athena as the patroness of the city.
Attempts on her chastity
Athena was also heavily involved in the war of the gods against giants. The gods were prophesied that in order to finish off the giants, they will need help from a mortal hand. And it was Athena who helped Zeus to recruit Heracles on their side and guide the gods in the war. Later in a myth, she was able to defeat a giant called Pallas who wanted to violate her chastity and, out of his skin, she made herself an aegis rope for better protection. But this was not the only attempt on her virginity as in the next myth, it was Hephaestus who wanted her. Clouded by the spell of Aphrodite, he fell in love with Athena when she came to him with the desire for fashioning her arms. He began pursuing her in order to embrace her but she did not submit to him and therefore, when he got close, he dripped his seed on her leg. Disgusted by his act, she wiped the seed with wool and threw it on the ground. And from the earth Erikhthonios, a giant serpent, was born. Some sources indicate that it was Gaea who made this birth possible and credit her as a mother of the serpent, while others simply say that Athena is its mother. Anyway, Athena felt responsible for the serpent and brought him to the other gods, demanding to make him immortal. Then she closed him in a chest which she committed to Pandrosus, a daughter of Cercops. She ordered Pandrosus never to open the chest. But she opened it out of curiosity and was consequently killed by the serpent which then took control over the city and expelled Amphictyon, a previous king of Athens. So Erikhthonios then himself became a king of the city and set up the wooden image of Athena on the acropolis and instituted the festival of the Panathenaia.
Helping heroes in their quests
Athena helped Perseus in his quest to defeat Medusa. She instructed him to find Hesperides who would tell him how to defeat the gorgon. Later in this myth, she borrowed him a polished shield with which he was able to see medusa indirectly and not getting turned into stone. Athena also helped Heracles in his first task of twelve labors. He had to slay the Nemean Lion and bring back its skin. But the skin was too thick to penetrate by his weapons and therefore he wrestled with the creature and was able to kill it with strangulation. Even though, the lion was dead, Heracles almost withdraw from the task because of his frustration to remove the skin. Athena came to rescue in the guise of an old crone and helped Heracles, to realize that the best tools, to cut the hide, were the creature’s own claws which allowed him to complete his task. The goddess also helped Jason and the Argonauts when they were on the way to Colchis, where they were nearly squeezed by two gigantic rocks. She came, when the two rocks were suddenly started closing in on each other, and held the rocks until the argonauts came trough. She also gave a golden bridle to Bellerophon with which he was able tame Pegasus and helped Cadmus in the quest of founding Thebes by giving him instructions, after the hero had sacrificed the cow to her. Athena was also helping Odysseus. She was there for him in the Iliad and all the way through Odyssey.
Like most of the gods, Athena supported the Greeks during the Trojan war, mostly because she was not chosen by Paris as the "fairest" of the three goddesses. In the end, she inspired Odysseus and Epeios to build a wooden device in the shape of a horse, with which the Greeks gained an entry to the city. However, during the war she turned against the Greeks on few occasions. She sent violent storm at the Greek ships, after they had failed to punish Ajax for rupturing her Trojan shrine, and drove the amazon called Penthesileia to face Achilles in a single combat upon her arrival at Troy.