Athena in the Classical World

Athena in the Classical World

Athena in the Classical World

Athena in the Classical World


Among ancient Greek deities, none has enjoyed as rich a life as Athena - goddess of war, wisdom and the arts - and she continues to fascinate and challenge today. This volume sheds light on the goddess more comprehensively than has previously been attempted. It brings together the latest research, centring on Greek and Roman religion, literature and archaeology, yet also encompassing ancient Near Eastern, Indo-European, and modern interpretations. Cults and myths are explored, as are political, social, and gendered roles, and art historical and etymological developments. Recurrent themes are investigated, as are the many dividing lines and contradictory aspects which characterise representations of the goddess. The volume will enhance our understanding of Athena, and will be a source of inspiration for new ideas and interpretations for years to come.


Susan Deacy and Alexandra Villing

Consider these creatures, these people who are not people, these inhabitants of
heaven. The god has a headache, his son wields the axe, the girl springs forth
with bow and shield. She is walking towards the world. Her owl flies before her.
It is twilight. Look at these clouds, this limitless and impenetrable sky. This is
what remains. A crease runs athwart it like a bloodless vein. Everything is
changed and yet the same.

I. Why Athena?

Among ancient Greek deities, none has enjoyed as rich a life in modern times as Athena. Along with her Roman incarnation Minerva, she has been a constant feature in the literature and art of the Western world. Images of her are found in many cities, on, or in front of, such buildings as parliaments, museums, libraries, universities, and even a London gentlemen's club. Publishing houses, too, not least Brill Academic Publishers, the publisher of this volume, have chosen to place their activities under her aegis. She has also 'lived on' in images of armed females such as Roma and Britannia, and has served as a role model for European rulers, both male and female. Just how topical the values embodied by Athena are in modern times can be gleaned from a study of allegorical female figures which draws parallels between the

J. Banville, Athena (London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1995), 232. Reprinted by
Picador, 1998. Permission granted by Picador.

The current emblem, which represents Athena/Minerva (scholarship) in the
company of Hermes/Mercury (trade), has been used by Brill since 1952, having
been slightly updated in 1990. It supersedes a similar emblem (here illustrated on p.
viii) which was in use from c. 1910 and is based on a painting executed by Nicolaas
Ryers for the Leiden publisher Luchtmans, taken over by Brill in the nineteenth cen
tury. Luchtmans had used Athena and the motto 'tuta sub aegide Pallas' (which was
popular among institutions of learning in Leiden at that lime) since around 1714.
For the history of the emblem, see B.A. van Proosdij, “250 Jaar Tuta sub aegide
Pallas”, De Antiquum 2.4 (1971), 81–92.

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