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athena: Zeus and Athena

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Zeus and Athena

Zeus and Athena

Zeus was the father of Athena, but did you know he also gave birth to her himself? Keep reading to learn about the amazing birth of Athena and what it meant for her kingly father!

Athena was the daughter of Zeus. While the king of the gods had many children, his relationship with Athena was unique.

In many ways she was seen as his favorite child, or at least one of his most well-loved. Athena was often shown in close council with her father and even convincing him toward a course of action when none of the other gods could.

This closeness can be attributed, at least in part, to the unique circumstances of Athena’s birth. Having swallowed her mother, Zeus brought forth his fully-grown daughter from his own head.

Their bond, however, goes deeper than familiar affection. The birth of Athena, and the uniqueness of the event, signaled the end of a bloody line of succession and ensured Zeus’s rule continued unchallenged.

The Relationship Between Zeus and Athena

When the gods of Olympus first took power and made Zeus their king, he married one of the Titanesses. His wife Metis had been the one to help him free his siblings from their father’s stomach and had been a valuable ally throughout the war.

Shortly after their marriage, however, Zeus received a disturbing prophecy. He was told his new wife would have two children, a daughter followed by a son, and that his son would one day overthrow him.

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He decided to swallow his wife so that she could never have a son who would challenge his rule. Zeus turned Metis into a fly and swallowed her whole.

What Zeus did not know was that Metis was already pregnant with the first child promised by the prophesy. After months of terrible headaches Zeus split his head open to reveal Athena.

Athena was born from her father’s skull. From the moment she was born she was fully grown and exceptionally beautiful.

She was also dressed in armor and carrying weapons. The headaches that had tortured Zeus had been the result of Metis forging her daughter’s armor inside his head.

Athena was always closely associated with her father and worked alongside him in many myths. When no other god could counsel their king or ask his favor, Athena was often able to.

Zeus honored his daughter so much that he allowed her to carry his shield. One of Athena’s chief attributes was her father’s aegis, which she was allowed to carry as his favored child.

My Modern Interpretation

The birth of Athena was an important event in Greek mythology not only because it marked the arrival of one of the pantheon’s most important goddesses.

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Zeus was not the first god to be threatened with a violent end to his reign by his own son. In fact, the Greek story of creation centers around a bloody line of succession.

Zeus had only recently overthrown his own father. Cronos himself had overthrown his father, Uranus, a generation before.

Faced with the same fate as his father and grandfather, Zeus needed to ensure that his son could never take power away from him.

Cronos had swallowed his children at birth, but Zeus had been saved by his mother and returned to free his siblings. He knew that allowing Metis to ever have his child would make it impossible to avoid his fate.

Athena was usually said to have been born of Zeus himself. While Metis had been her mother, there was no trace of the Titaness left by the time Athena was born.

As a female Athena would never be able to take Zeus’s throne. And because Metis was rarely named as her mother, there was no threat from the prophecy.

The birth of Athena marked the end of the succession story of the Greek gods. Because Metis only had a daughter and Zeus brought forth the child himself, his had successfully avoided the decree of fate.

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Athena’s birth was thus a reflection of Zeus’s own hold on power. Ending the succession story ensured that Zeus’s reign would not be challenged by another god and that he would rule over Olympus forever.

Athena carried Zeus’s shield not just as a favorite daughter, but because she herself was emblematic of her father’s unchallenged rule.

Furthermore, Athena’s role as the goddess of wisdom was a continued reflection of Zeus’s right to rule forever. Athena was known to only support those whose cause was just and to be a strong enforcer of law, so her close association with her father was a further sign that his reign was meant to be.

Of course, Zeus was still careful to avoid other pitfalls of fate. He eventually married his sister, Hera, after being assured that her children would never be as strong as their father.

Worshippers of Athena took special pride in their patron goddess’s relationship to her father as well. Athena was descended from Zeus himself and only him, making their connection to the king of the gods and his endless rule stronger than it would be if he had only been one of their patron’s two parents.

In Summary

Athena was the eldest daughter of Zeus. He swallowed her mother, the Titaness Metis, so that a prophecy could not be fulfilled that said a son would overthrow him.

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Metis, however, was already carrying his child. Athena was born as a fully-grown goddess from her own father’s head.

The goddess of wisdom and war was highly venerated by the people of Greece, and seemed to be held in special esteem by her father as well. She was often seen as his advisor and companion and was frequently shown asking him to rule for just causes.

Athena even carried her father’s shield, the iconic aegis. The use of her father’s shield was so much a part of her character that it became one of her defining attributes.

The birth of Athena did more than just bring to life an important goddess and beloved daughter, however. By stopping the prophecy Zeus was able to avoid the same fate that had befallen his father and grandfather before him.

The birth of Athena was the event that ensured that Zeus’s rule would continue for eternity and he would never have a son who could threaten to take his power.

My name is Mike and for as long as I can remember (too long!) I have been in love with all things related to Mythology. I am the owner and chief researcher at this site. My work has also been published on Buzzfeed and most recently in Time magazine. Please like and share this article if you found it useful.

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