Greek Mythology: Athena And Olive Tree

In Greek religion and mythology, Athena or Athene (/əˈθiːnə/ or /əˈθiːniː/; Attic: Ἀθηνᾶ, Athēnā or Ἀθηναία, Athēnaia; Epic: Ἀθηναίη, Athēnaiē; Ionic: Ἀθήνη, Athēnē; Doric: Ἀθάνα, Athānā), also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene (/ˈpæləs/; Παλλὰς Ἀθηνᾶ; Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη), is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. 

Athena Parthenos a sculpture of the Greek goddess Athena,
made by Phidias Read more 
Athena is also a shrewd companion of heroes and is the goddess of heroic endeavour. She is the virgin patroness of Athens. The Athenians founded the Parthenon on the Acropolis of her namesake city, Athens (Athena Parthenos), in her honour. [1]

Athena was a goddess in the Aegean in the Minoian and Mycenaean period. A-ta-na-po-ti-ni-ja (Mistress Athena) is referred to in the Knossos [Linear B text V 2, cited by linguist John Chadwick. T].

his is the Mycenaean attempt to translate the name of the Minoan goddess, A-ta-no-dju-wa-ja. This name means Sun Goddess - the prefix atano is related to Luwian astanus = sun, and the final part is the Minoan spelling of what we know from ancient Greek as Diwia (Mycenaean di-u-ja or di-wi-ja). [2]

The Olive Tree Story

Once, a long, long time ago first king of Athens, King Cecrops (quite an extraordinary king himself as he was part human and part snake) set out to find a patron deity for his city state; already a prosperous and vibrant city. 
Poseidon, Athena  & the first king of Athens, King Cecrops
He called on Athena and Poseidon because both in fact desired to be the patron of this beautiful city. Their rivalry was so intense that they almost went to war and just as they were about to attack each other, Athena, with her typical, wise approach suggested that they should hold a contest for the city. 

With King Cecrops the judge they set up the contest and decided that whoever presented the city with the best gift would be rewarded with the city itself as the grand prize. In the midst of a huge crowd, with King Cecrops presiding over the contest they went up to the Acropolis to present their gifts to the city. 
The Olive Tree & Acropolis of Athens
Poseidon was to go first, and he lifted his massive trident (three pointed spear) and struck the earth with it. At the point where the spear struck, a frothy spring burst out producing a sea which is now called Erekhtheis. The people loved it but as they went closer to taste the water, to their dismay the water was salty

Don’t forget that Poseidon was ruler of the sea and the water sources he controlled were inevitably salty, just like the seas he ruled.

When it was Athena's turn her act was far less dramatic. She quietly knelt and buried something in the ground which in time grew into an olive tree. This turned out to be a much more useful gift, granting the Athenians, not only the olives themselves as sustenance, but also a source of oil for their lamps and for cooking their food as well as the wood from the olive tree to build their boasts and houses

Athena's sacred olive tree growing in front of the Erechtheion,The Acropolis of Athens
Athena's sacred olive tree growing in front of the Erechtheion,The Acropolis of Athens

Clearly Athena's gift was deemed by far the better by Cecrops and he declared her the winner, and the patron deity of Athens. Athena became the protector of the city (polis), many people throughout the Greek world worshiped her as Athena Polias (Ἀθηνᾶ Πολιάς "Athena of the city"). [3]

God Poseidon, however, was not pleased with the decision of Cecrops and cursed the city of Athens to never have enough water from then on. After that, it is said that a major problem of water shortage started in Athens, which continues until nowadays.
The west pediment of the Parthenon, The Acropolis of Athens - today

The contest for the city of Athens was later carved into the stone relief on the rear pediment in the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis [4] with both of our heroes appearing in the center of the composition with the goddess holding her olive tree and Poseidon his trident.

Reconstruction of the west pediment of the Parthenon, The Acropolis of Athens
Photo: Greek God info

Reconstruction of the west pediment of the Parthenon, The Acropolis of Athens
Photo wiki

Reconstruction of the west pediment of the Parthenon, The Acropolis of Athens


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