Pallas Athena

Athena’s mother was Metis, one of the titans, and the goddess of wisdom, justice, prudence and good sense. She was the first wife of Zeus, in the pre-Hera days, and he valued her for her wisdom and wise counsel. She became pregnant, and Zeus learned through a prophecy that if he had a daughter by Metis, she would be his equal, but if he had a son, he would be superior to his father and would conquer him. Unwilling to take the risk, Zeus swallowed Metis whole, thus avoiding a possible son by her, but at the same time, keeping her wisdom and wise counsel close within him.

He didn’t expect what would happen… One day he became blinded by a terrible headache, one so awful that his cries of pain summoned all the gods in fear to his side. Hephestus knew what needed to be done; he took his hammer and split Zeus’ head open. Out of the gap sprung a warrior goddess fully grown and in full armor. As her feet hit the ground, the earth shook and the heavens were filled with radiant light.

The Goddess of Wisdom and Battle, the future patron of Greece’s golden city of Athens, and arguably the most important figure in the Greek pantheon, was born.

The story of Athena’s triumphant birth is told by Hesiod (circa 800-700 B.C.E.) at the end of the Theogony.

Athena played a major role in the Trojan War (as told by Homer in the Iliad circa 800-700 B.C.E.) siding with and aiding in battle the Greeks who were eventually the victors. At one point in battle, Athena, Goddess of Battle, defeated her half-brother Ares, God of War, causing him to flee the scene.

Pallas Athena is protectress and guide to both Odysseus and his son Telemachus throughout the Odyssey (Homer, circa 800-700 B.C.E.) the story of Odysseus’s long and perilous journey home from the victory at Troy. She counsels both men in various guises and appeals to the Gods on his behalf throughout.

Ancient Greek Hymns to Athena

Books about Pallas Athena

Athene: Image and Energy

Athena : A Biography – Lee Hall

Athena (Greek and Roman Mythology Series) – Nancy Loewen

Bright-Eyed Athena : Stories from Ancient Greece – Richard Woff

The Sanctuary of Athena Nike in Athens : Architectural Stages and Chronology (Aia Monograph New Series, 2) – Ira S. Mark

Books About The Parthenon

Athena’s Temple in Athens and the pinnacle of Greek architecture, the Parthenon stands on the Acropolis overlooking Athens. In the 1800s, much of the statuary and marble sculpture was dismantled and transported to England by Lord Elgin, where it now sits in the British Museum–a subject of great controversy.

Lord Elgin and the Marbles – William St. Clair
The best book I’ve found on the subject so far. Clear, detailed and easy to read; and objective and dispassionate examination of a controversial subject.

The Elgin Affair : The Abduction of Antiquity’s Greatest Treasures and the Passions It Aroused – Theodore Vrettos
If you read the William St. Clair book above, you really don’t need this one, which is a less scholarly, more soap opera book that covers in less detail same material.

The Elgin Marbles : Should They Be Returned to Greece? – Christopher Hitchens, Robert Browning (Contributor), Graham Binns

The Parthenon of Ancient Greece – Don Nardo

The Parthenon and Its Impact in Modern Times – Panayotis Tournikiotis (Editor)

The Parthenon – Peter Chrisp

The Parthenon Frieze – Ian Jenkins

Books About The Controversial Theory Of The ‘Black Athena’

Black Athena : The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985) – Martin Bernal

Black Athena : The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization : The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence – Martin Bernal

Not Out of Africa : How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth As History – Mary Lefkowitz

Heresy in the University : The Black Athena Controversy and the Responsibilities of American Intellectuals – Jacques Berlinerblau

Books About Goddesses and Female Mythology

Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood : A Treasury of Goddess and Heroine Lore from Around the World – Merlin Stone, Cynthia Stone (Illustrator)

The Divine Feminine : Exploring the Feminine Face of God Throughout the World – Andrew Harvey (Editor), Anne Baring (Editor)

Goddess : Myths of the Female Divine – David Leeming, Jake Page

The Heart of the Goddess : Art, Myth and Meditations of the World’s Sacred Feminine – Hallie Iglehart Austen, Jean Shinoda Bolen

When God Was a Woman – Merlin Stone

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Ancient Greek Hymns to Athena

translations and notes by Shawn Eyer to commemorate the dedication to Athena Parthenos of the temple and statue which bear her name

Original translations Copyright © 1996 by Shawn Eyer

The Homeric Hymns

The religious poetry to which we refer as the Homeric Hymns was attributed in ancient times to Homer, the poet of the Iliad and Odyssey. Although nobody today regards them as the work of Homer, they are quite skillfully composed and may be dated very early. For scholars they represent an important source of information about Greek religion. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, for instance, is a key document in the understanding of the Eleusinian mysteries.

There are two Homeric Hymns to the goddess Athena, one extolling her virtues as patron of the city, the other recounting beautifully her birth from the cleft brow of father Zeus.

Homeric Hymn 11 To Athena

I begin to sing of Pallas Athena, the dread Protectress of the city,
who with Ares looks after matters of war, the plundering of cities, the battle-cry and the fray.
It is She who protects the people, wherever they might come or go.
Hail, Goddess, and give us good spirits and blessed favor!


I begin to sing of Pallas Athena…
Pallas is an ancient epithet of Athena. Although some have argued that it is a form of pallo, to brandish, most feel that pallas is in fact an archaic word for maiden.

…dread Protectress of the city…
"City-protecting" (erusiptolis) is a common epithet of Athena.

Homeric Hymn 28 To Athena

I begin my song of Pallas Athena, illustrious goddess with sharp grey eyes.
Crafty one, She, with a heart relentless,
modest Virgin, Protectress of the city!
The valiant Tritogeneia was roused by Zeus the wise
from his own awesome brow, the tools of battle on her arm,
glittering and gold: All the immortals were stunned.
Without delay she leapt from the ever-living skull
to come before Zeus, master of the aegis,
and the sharp javelin rattled in her hand.
Mighty Olympos was sent madly spinning
by the potency of her, of the Grey-eyed one.
From every direction the earth let loose a chilling scream.
Waves, deep and dark, stirred up in the seething ocean,
and all at once spray jetted from the sea.
The shining son of Hyperion brought his swift steeds to rest, waiting long,
until the Maiden divested her incorruptible shoulders of the godlike armor…
She, Pallas Athena! Wise Zeus laughed!
That is why I say it too: Hail to you, Daughter of aegis-wielding Zeus!
While now I sing a different song, I always remember you!


illustrious goddess with sharp grey eyes…
This term (glaukopis) is an epithet of Athena throughout Homeric literature and is found in later sources as well. Often it is simply rendered "grey-eyed." However, the sense of the word may refer less to the color of the eyes as to their glare or opacity owing to the gemstones used for the eyes of statues of Athena.

modest Virgin, Protectress of the city…
"Virgin" is parthenos, for which the Parthenon is named.

The valiant Tritogeneia was roused…
Although Tritogeneia ranks with Pallas as an ancient epithet of Athena, its exact meaning is now unknown. "Born of the Triton" and "triple born" are typical suggestions.

Zeus, master of the aegis…
The aegis was a magical shield in the property of Zeus. The Homeric Hymn twice refers to Zeus as "aegis-holder."

The Orphic Hymn to Athena

The Orphic Hymns are a collection of eighty-seven ritual invocations which were probably used by certain initiates of the Orphic mystery cult. Though some have placed them far later (as well as far earlier), they were probably composed between 100 BCE and 150 CE.

The Orphic Hymn to Athena celebrates the goddess with a dizzying barrage of colorful and often baffling imagery.

To Athena, with an incense of aromatic herbs.

Pallas, you only-begotten One, born of mighty Zeus, awesome you are, and divine:
Goddess so blessed, lifting high the turmoil of the fray,
Mighty One unspeakable yet so well spoken of!
Great-named One at home in a vault of stone,
Caught up in haughty hills and wandering the shaded mountain’s ridge,
You who put a dance in the heart and glory in embattlements,
You can put the sting of mania into a mortal soul!
Athletic Maiden with a heart sublime,
Slayer of the Gorgon, fugitive of the bridal bed,
Mother of Art in all your abundance, catalyst of progress!
You bring folly to the corrupt and a sense of purpose to the pure!
Indeed, you are male and female in one,
Patron of war and wisdom,
You are fluid of form, a dragon,
Infused with inspiration of the Gods!
Rightly-honored One, who brought Phlegran giants down to defeat,
You driver of steeds, Tritogeneia, save us from evil, bearing Victory in your arms!
Day and night, eternally, in even the loneliest hours,
Hear my prayer, and grant us an abundant peace, fulfillment, good health.
Make prosperous the hour, gray-eyed One, inventor of Art,
The object of the people’s ceaseless prayers–
My Queen!


Pallas, you only-begotten One…
This term, monogenes, means only-born. It is interesting to note that another important Wisdom-figure, the divine Logos, is described as "the only-begotten of God" in the Johannine literature of the New Testament.

Mighty One unspeakable yet so well spoken of…
The Greek arrhete refers to a reverent, even fearful, silence. In the hymn it is followed immediately by rhete, its opposite.

Great-named One at home in a vault of stone…
The Greek word antrodiaitos literally means "to make one’s home in a cavern" or "grotto." This seems an unexpected chthonic attribution, although one might understand the Parthenon as an artificial cavern of sorts.

Slayer of the Gorgon, fugitive of the bridal bed…
An epithet of Athena, who aided Perseus in the act of destroying the monsters. Athena’s statue in the Parthenon depicted the head of the Gorgon on her breastplate, the aegis.

You driver of steeds, Tritogeneia, save us from evil, bearing Victory in your arms…
The name Tritogeneia is of uncertain derivation and meaning. Nikephore means "carrying victory," and in the ancient Parthenon Athena was shown carrying Nike, victory personified.

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The Curse of Minerva

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George Gordon, Lord Byron
From the book "Byron, Complete Poetical Works"

— ‘Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas
Immolat, et poenam scelerato ex sanguine sumit.’ Aeneid, lib. xii.

Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
Along Morea’s hills the setting sun;
Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light;
O’re the hush’d deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave that trembles as it glows;
On old Aegina’s rock and Hydra’s isle
The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O’er his own regions lingering loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine.
Descending fast, the mountain-shadows kiss
Thy glorious gulf, unconquer’d Salamis!
Their azure arches through the long expanse,
More deeply purpled, meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course, and own the hues of heaven;
Till , darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian rock he sinks to sleep.

On such an eve his palest beam he cast
When, Athens! here thy wisest look’d his last,
How watch’d thy better sons his farewell ray,
That closed their murder’d sage’s latest day!
Not yet–not yet–Sol pauses on the hill,
The precious hour of parting lingers still;
But sad his light to agonising eyes,
And dark the mountain’s once delightful dyes;
Gloom o’er the lovely land he seem’d to pour.
The land where Phoebus never frown’d before;
But ere he sunk below Cithaeron’s head,
The cup of woe was quaff’d–the spirit fled;
The soul of him that scorn’d to fear or fly,
Who lived and died as none can live or die.

But, lo! from high Hymettus to the plain
The queen of night asserts her silent reign;
No murky vapour, herald of the storm,
Hides her fair face, or girds her glowing form,
With cornice glimmering as the moonbeams play,
There the white column greets her grateful ray,
And bright around with quivering beams beset,
Her emblem sparkles o’er the minaret:
The groves of olives scatter’d dark and wide,
Where meek Cephisus sheds his scanty tide,
The cypress saddening by the sacred mosque,
The gleaming turret of the gay kiosk,
And sad and sombre ‘mid the holy calm,
Near Theseus’ fane, yon solitary palm;
All, tinged with varied hues, arrest the eye;
And dull were his that pass’d them heedless by.

Again the Aegean, heard no more afar,
Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war:
Again his long waves in milder tints unfold
Their long expanse of sapphire and of gold,
Mix’d with the shades of many a distant isle
That frown, where gentler ocean deigns to smile.

As thus, within the walls of Pallas’ fane,
I mark’d the beauties of the land and main,
Alone, and friendless, on the magic shore,
Whose arts and arms but live in poets’ lore;
Oft as the matchless dome I turn’d to scan,
Sacred to gods but not secure from man,
The past return’d, the present seem’d to cease,
And Glory knew no clime beyond her Greece!

Hours roll’d along, and Dian’s orb on high
Had gain’d the centre of her softest sky;
And yet unwearied still my footstep trod
O’er the vain shrine of many a vanish’d god:
But chiefly, Pallas! thine, when Hecate’s glare,
Check’d by thy columns, fell more sadly fair
O’er the chill marble, where the startling tread
Thrills the lone heart like echoes from the dead.
Long had I mused, and treasured every trace
The wreck of Greece recorded of her race,
When lo! a giant form before me strode,
And Pallas hail’d me in her own abode!

Yes, ’twas Minerva’s self; but ah! how changed,
Since o’er the Dardan field in arms she ranged!
Not such as erst, by her divine command,
Her form appear’d from Phidias’ plastic hand:
Gone were the terrors of her awful brow,
Her idle aegis wore no Gorgon now;
Her helm was dinted, and the broken lance
Seem’d weak and shaftless e’en to mortal glance;
The olive branch, which still she deign’d to clasp,
Shrunk from her touch and wither’d in her grasp;
And, ah! though still the brightest of the sky,
Celestial tears bedimm’d her large blue eye:
Round the rent casque her owlet circled slow,
And mourn’d his mistress with a shriek of woe!

‘Mortal!’–’twas thus she spake–‘that blush of shame
Proclaims thee Briton, once a noble name;
First of all the mighty, foremost of the free,
Now honour’d less by all, and least by me:
Chief of they foes shall Pallas still be found.
Seek’st thou the cause of loathing?–look around.
Lo! here, despite of war and wasting fire,
I saw successive tyrannies expire.
‘Scaped from the ravage of the Turk and Goth,
Thy country sends a spoiler worse than both.
Survey this vacant violated fane;
Recount the relics torn that yet remain:
These Cecrops placed, this Pericles adorn’d,
That Adrian rear’d when drooping Science mourn’d.
What more I owe let gratitude attest–
Know Alaric and Elgin did the rest.
That all may learn from whence the plunderer came,
The insulted wall sustains his hated name:
For Elgin’s fame thus grateful Pallas pleads,
Below, his name–above, behold his deeds!

Be ever hail’d with equal honour here
the Gothic monarch and the Pictish peer:
Arms gave the first his right, the last had none,
But basely stole what less barbarians won.
So when the lion quits his fell repast,
Next prowls the wolf, the filthy jackal last:
Flesh, limbs, and blood the former make their own,
The last poor brute securely gnaws the bone.
Yet still the gods are just and crimes are cross’d:
See here what Elgin won and what he lost!
Another name with his pollutes my shrine:
Behold where Dian’s beams disdain to shine!
Some retribution still might Pallas claim,
When Venus half avenged Minerva’s shame.

She ceased awhile, and thus I dared to reply,
To soothe the vengeance kindling in her eye:
‘Daughter of Jove! in Britain’s injured name,
A true-born Briton may the deed disclaim.
Frown not on England; England owns him not:
Athena, no! they plunderer was a Scot.
Ask’st thou the difference? From fair Phyle’s towers
Survey Boeotia;–Caledonia’s ours.
And well I know within that bastard land
Hath Wisdom’s goddess never held command;
A barren soil, where Nature’s germs, confined
To stern sterility, can stint the mind;
Whose thistle well betrays the niggard earth,
Emblem of all to whom the land gives birth;
Each genial influence nurtured to resist;
A land of meanness, sophistry, and mist.
Each breeze from foggy mount and marshy plain
Dilutes with drivel every drizzly brain,
Till, burst at length, each wat’ry head o’erflows.
Foul as their soil, and frigid as their snows.
Then thousands schemes of petulance and pride
Despatch her scheming children far and wide:
Some east, some west, some everywhere but north,
In quest of lawless gain they issue forth.
And thus–accursed be the day and year!
She sent a Pict to play the felon here.
Yet Caledonia claims some native worth,
As dull Boeotia gave a Pindar birth;
So may be her few the letter’d and the brave,
Bound to no clime, and victors of the grave,
Shake off the sordid dust of such a land,
And shine like children of a happier strand;
As once, of yore, in some obnoxious place,
Ten names (if found) had saved a wretched race.’

‘Mortal!’ the blue-eyed maid resumed,
‘once more Bear back my mandate to thy native shore.
Though fallen, alas! this vengence is yet mine,
To turn my counsels far from lands like thine.
Hear then in silence Pallas’s stern beehest;
Hear and believe for time will tell the rest.

‘First on the head of him and all his seed:
My curse shall light,–on him and all his seed:
Without one spark of intellectual fire,
Be all the sons as senseless as the sire:
If one with wit the parent brood disgrace,
Believe him bastard of a brighter race:
Still with his hireling artists let him prate,
And Folly’s praise repay for Wisdom’s hate;
Long of their patron’s gusto let them tell,
Whose noblest, native gusto is–to sell:
To sell and make–may shame record the day!–
The state receiver of his pilfer’d prey.
Meantime, the flattering feeble dotard, West,
Europe’s poor dauber, and poor Britain’s best,
With palsied hand shall turn each model o’er,
And own himself an infant of fourscore.
Be all the bruisers cull’d from St. Giles’,
That art and nature may compare their styles;
While brawny brutes in stupid wonder stare,
And marvel at his lordship’s "stone shop" there.
Round the throng’d gate shall sauntering coxcombs creep,
To lounge and lucubrate, to prate and peep;
While many a languid maid, with longing sigh,
On giant statues casts the curious eye;
The room with transient glance appears to skim
Yet marks the mighty back and length of limb;
Mourns o’er the difference of now and then;
Exclaims "These Greeks indeed were proper men!"
Draws slight conparisons of these with those,
And envies Laïs all her Attic beaux.
When shall a modern maid have swain like these!
Alas! Sir Harry is no Hercules!
And last of all amidst the gaping crew,
Some calm spectator, as he takes his view,
In silent indignation mixed with grief,
Admires the plunder, but abhors the thief.
Oh, loath’d in life, nor pardon’d in dust,
May hate pursue his sacreligious lust!
Linked with that fool that fired the Ephesian dome,
Shall vengeance follow far beyond the tomb,
And Eratostratus and Elgin shine
In many a branding page and burning line;
Alike reserved for aye to stand accursed,
Perchance the second blacker than the first.

‘So let him stand through ages yet unborn,
Fix’d statue on the pedestal of Scorn;
Though not for him alone revenge shall wait,
But fits thy country for her coming fate:
Hers were the deeds that taught her lawless son
To do what oft Britannia’s self had done.
Look to the Baltic–blazing from afar,
Your old ally yet mourns perfidious war.
Not to such deeds did Pallas lend her aid,
Or break the compact which she herself had made;
Far from such councils from the faithless field
She fled–but left behind her Gorgon shield;
A fatal gift that turn’d your friends to stone,
And left lost Albion hated and alone.

‘Look to the East, where Ganges swarthy race
Shall shake your tyrant empire to its base;
Lo! there Rebellion rears her gastly head,
And glares the Nemesis of native dead;
Till Indus rolls a deep purpureal flood
And claims his long arrear of northern blood.
So may ye perish! Pallas, when she gave
Your free-born rights forbade you to enslave.

‘Look on your Spain!–she clasps the hand she hates,
But boldly clasps, and thrusts you from her gates.
Bear witness, bright Barossa! thou canst tell
Whose were the sons that bravely fought and fell.
But Lusitania, kind and dear ally,
Can spare few to fight and sometimes fly,
Oh glorious field! by Famine fiercely won,
The Gaul retires for once, and all is done!
But when did Pallas teach, that one retreat
Retrieved three long olympiads of defeat?

‘Look last at home–ye love not to look there;
On the grim smile of comfortless despair:
Your city saddens: loud though Revel howls,
Here Famine faints and yonder Rapine prowls.
See all alike of more or less bereft;
No misers tremble when there’s nothing left.
"Blest paper credit;" who shall dare to sing?
It clogs like lead Corruption’s weary wing.
Yet Pallas pluck’d each premier by the ear,
Who gods and men alike disdained to hear;
But one, repentant o’er a bankrupt state,
On Pallas calls,–but calls, alas! too late:
Then raves for ** ; to that Mentor bends,
Though he and Pallas never yet were friends.
Him senates hear, whom never yet the heard,
Contemptuous once, and now no less absurd.
So, once of yore, each resonable frog
Swore faith and fealty to his sovereign "log",
Thus hail’d your rules their patrician clod,
As Egypt chose and onion for a god.

‘Now fare ye well! enjoy your little hour;
Go, grasp the shadow of your vanish’d power;
Gloss o’er the failure of of each fondest scheme;
Your strength a name, your bloated wealth a dream.
Gone is that gold, the marvel of mankind,
And pirates barter all that’s left behind.
No more the hirelings, purchased near and far,
Crowd to the ranks of mercenary war.
The idle merchant on the useless quay
Droops o’er the bales no bark may bear away;
Or, back returning, sees rejected stores
Rot piecemeal on his own encumber’d shores:
The starved mechanic breaks his rusting loom,
And desperate mans him ‘gainst the coming doom.
Then in the senate of your sinking state
Show me the man whose counsels may have weight.
Vain is each voice where tones could once command;
E’en factions cease to charm a factious land:
Yet jarring sects convulse a sister isle,
And light with maddening hands the mutual pile.

‘ ‘Tis done, ’tis past, since Pallas warns in vain;
The Furies seize her abdicated reign:
Wide o’er the realm they wave their fiery hands.
But one convulsive struggle still remains,
And Gaul shall weep ere Albion wear her chains.
The banner’d pomp of war, the glittering files,
O’er whose gay trappings stern Bellona smiles;
The brazen trump, the spirit stirring drum,
That bid the foe defiance ere they come;
The hero bounding at his country’s call,
The glorious death that consecrates his fall,
Swell the young heart with visionary charms,
And bid it antedate the joys of arms.
But know, a lesson you may yet have taught,
With death alone are laurels cheaply bought:
Not in the conflict Havoc seeks delight,
His day of mercy is the day of fight.
But when the field is fought, the battle won,
Though drench’d with gore, his woes are but begun:
His deeper deeds as yet ye know by name;
The slaughter’d peasant and the ravished dame,
The rifled mansion and the foe-reap’d field,
Ill suit with souls at home, untaught to yield.
Say with what eye along the distant down
Would flying burghers mark the blazing town?
How view the column of ascending flames
Shake his red shadow o’er the startled Thames?
Nay, frown not, Albion! for the torch was thine
That lit such pyres from Tagus to Rhine:
Now should they burst on thy devoted coast,
Go, ask they bosom who deserves them most.
The law of heaven and earth is life for life,
And she who raised, in vain regrets, the strife.’

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