the name of a Roman goddess, identified by the later Grecizing Romans with the Greek Athene, whom she greatly resembled, though, like all the old Latin divinities, there was nothing anthropomorphic in what was told concerning her. Her name is thought to spring from an old Etruscan word preserved in the roots of mens (the mind) and monere (to warn or advise); and the ancient Latin scholar and critic, Varro (ap. August. De Civ. Dei, 7:28), regarded her as the impersonation of divine thought — the plan of the material universe, of which Jupiter was the creator, and Juno the representative. Hence all that goes on among men, all that constitutes the development of human destiny (which is but the expression of the divine idea or intention), is under her care. She is the patroness of wisdom, arts, and scienices, the personification, so to speak, of the thinking, inventive faculty-and was invoked alike by poets, painters, teachers, physicians, and all kinds of craftsmen (Ovid, Fast. 3:809, etc.; August. 1.c. 7:16). She also guides heroes in war; and, in fact, every wise idea, every bold act, and every useful design, owes something to the high inspiration of this virgin goddess (Livy, 45:33; Virgil, AEn. 2:615). Popular tradition accounted for her origin as follows: "She was the offspring of the brain of Jupiter, from which she issued in full armor." She was always represented as a virgin. In war she was contradistinguished from Mars (the god of brute force) as the patroness of scientific warfare, and hence, according to the ancient poets, was always superior to him. The favorite plant of Minerva was the olive, and the animals consecrated to her were the owl and the serpent. As she was a maiden goddess, her sacrifices consisted of calves which had not borne the yoke or felt thesting (Fulgentius, page 651). She had many temples and festivals dedicated to her. Her oldest temple in Rome was that on the Capitol. Her most popular festival was held in March, and lasted five days, from the 19th to the 23d inclusive. Minerva was popularly believed to be the inventor of musical instruments, especially wind instruments, the use of which was very important in religious worship, and which were accordingly subjected to an annual purification, which took place during the festival just alluded to (Ovid, Fast. 3:849).
Athene, Or Pallas Athene, the Greek goddess corresponding, as we have said, to the Roman Minerva, was one of the few truly grand ethical divinities of Greek mythology. Different accounts are given of her origin and parentage, probably from the jumbling together of local legends; but the best known, and, in ancient times, the most orthodox version of the myth represented her as the daughter of Zeus and Metis. Zeus, we are told, when he had attained supreme power after his victory over the Titans, chose for his first wife Metis (Wisdom); but being advised by both Uranus and Gaea (Heaven and Earth), he swallowed her, when she was pregnant with Athene. When the time came that Athene should have been born, Zeus felt great pains in his head, and caused Hephaestus (Vulcan) to split it up with an axe, when the goddess sprang forth — fully armed, according to the later stories. Throwing aside the thick veil of anthropomorphism which conceals the significance of the myth, we may see in this account of Athene's parentage an effort to set forth a divine symbol of the combination of power and wisdom. Her father was the greatest, her mother the wisest of the gods. She is literally born of both, and so their qualities harmoniously blend in her. It is possible that the constant representation of her as a strictly maiden goddess, who had a real, and not a merely prudish antipathy to marriage, was meant to indicate that qualities like hers could not be mated, and that, because she was perfect, she was doomed to virginity.
Athene is not represented, however, by the Greeks as a cold, unfeeling divinity; on the contrary, tradition will have it that she warmly and actively interested herself in the affairs of both gods and men. She sat at the right hand of Zeus, assisting by her councils. She was regarded as the patroness of poetry and oratory; agriculture also she was supposed to protect and cherish; and as a warlike divinity she was regarded as the protectress in battle of those heroes who were distinguished as well for their wisdom as their valor. Pope, in his Temple of Fame, alludes to her twofold character as the patroness of arts and arms, where he says:
"There Caesar, graced with both Minervas, shone." In the Trojan war she fought for the Greeks — who, in point of fact, were in the right. The poets feigned that Neptune and Minerva disputed for the possession of Attica, which the gods promised to him or her who should produce the most useful gift to mankind. Neptune, striking the earth with his trident, produced a warhorse, and Minerva produced the olive (the symbol of peace), by which she gained the victory. She was sometimes called Pallas, Parthenos (i.e., "virgin"), Tritonia or Tritogeneia, and other names.
Her worship was universal in Greece, and representations of her in statues, busts, coins, reliefs, and vase paintings were and are numerous. She is always dressed, generally in a Spartan tunic with a cloak over it, and wears a helmet, beautifully adorned with figures of different animals, the sagis, the round argolic shield, a lance, etc. Her countenance is beautiful, earnest, and thoughtful, and the whole figure majestic. There was a celebrated statue of Minerva, called "Palladium," which was said to have fallen from the sky. and on which the safety of Troy depended (Milman, Hist. of Christianity, see Index). See G. Hermann, Dissertatio de Graeca Minerva (1837); Hartung, Die Religion der Rome, 2:78 sq.; Guigniaut, Religions de l'Antiquite; Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, s.v.; Vollmer, Mythol. Worterbuch, s.v.; Biographie Universelle (Partie mythologique); Chambers, Encyclop. s.v.