Discourse 1 & 2
 
 
Historical Paper:1
 
    Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Crafts, is a complex and contradictory female figure whose image has survived the ravages of time to intrigue us today.  The heavy influence of ancient Greece on Western civilization has preserved Athena through  artistic and literary works. In her constant revival throughout the ages, from Renaissance paintings to New Age psychology, Athena has been adapted and molded by each new generation to fit its beliefs and interpretations.  Feminists adopt her for their cause; artists continue to be inspired by her; and classical scholars and historians argue over her significance and authority.  Her essence remains long after her civic power has waned and the states she ruled have crumbled.  Of course, much has been lost of Athena’s ancient culture, which leads to difficulty in research and speculation, but of all the Greek goddesses Athena has by far the most authentic and extensive proof of her popularity and power within Ancient Greek civilization.  Her status as an ancient mother figure, as well as a symbolic representation of her country, give Athena depth and intrigue as to her true nature and purpose.  The worship of Athena is contradictory and surprising within the misogynistic Greek patriarchal society.  The paradox of Athena’s character is manifested through her status as a powerful female goddesses who exudes mother-like qualities despite her virginity and masculine nature and foreshadows other images of women as the mothers of states.
     Athena is the most complex goddess in Greek mythology as her power encompassed many different, and even contradictory, aspects.  Athena’s complicated and active persona is unlike that of her female counterparts, the Olympian goddesses Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis and Demeter.  Most female Greek deities possessed one or two stereotypical aspects of female nature and thereby were powerless by their limited scope and sexuality.  Hera was portrayed as the harping, jealous wife, while Aphrodite was solely a sexual goddess with powers only pertaining to the realm of love.  Artemis, also a virgin goddess, shied away from men and society, thereby exemplifying the connection of women in nature, the wild unpredictable forces that challenged the male deities of order and civilization.  Only Demeter, who later eclipsed Athena on a more earthy plane, develops power; yet it was not on the civic level of Athena, but in the home, hearth and hearts of women.
      Athena was depicted with many symbolic objects such as an owl, the bird of wisdom, and the head of Medusa on her breastplate.  The loom, harness, olive tree and serpent were all identified with her and represented different areas of her influence and sponsorship.  She wore full armor, which could conceal her sex and allow her to fight or act as a man, and also illustrates the protection of her virginity.  The famous classicist Sarah Pomeroy asserts that, “Athena is the archetype of the masculine woman who finds success in what is essentially a man’s world by denying her own femininity and sexuality.  Thus, Athena is a virgin -- and, what is more, a virgin born not of woman but of man”(4).
    The story of her birth is sometimes related as a virgin birth, but Athena did in fact have a mother, the beautiful nymph Metis, who is rarely acknowledged.  The poet Callimachus writes of Athena’s birth, “No mother bare that goddess, but the head of Zeus.”  Zeus, afraid that his offspring will overthrow him as he did to his forebears, swallows the impregnated Metis to destroy her and her child.  Later, when Zeus complains of a pounding headache, his son Hephaestus splits his head open with an ax from which Athena springs fully formed and armored.  She quickly becomes Zeus’ favorite and his consort in many matters.  She wore his aegis, a goatskin breastplate fringed with snakes, and was the only other deity allowed to touch and use Zeus’ thunderbolts.  It is no wonder Athena was the patroness of many male heroes and sided with the patriarchy in every matter as she is her father’s daughter in all respects.  She was the product of parthenogenetical male birth, the triumph of male as a creator.  Her birth from her father’s head, thereby characterizing (male) wisdom reinforced this concept.
     She was the goddess of wartime strategy yet also the patron of crafts, especially weaving, often depicted with a spear in one hand and a spindle in the other.  She loved strategy, victory, and logic as opposed to the bloody carnage her counterpart Ares preferred.  Her characteristics were as varied as her skills, emphasizing the dual nature of her sexuality.  Hesiod describes her in Theogony as “Grey-eyed Athena, the awesome, battle-rousing, army-leading, untiring lady, whose pleasure is fighting and the metallic din of war”(87).  Otto also interprets her as more male than female:  “Athena is a masculine woman; some might label her androgynous.  She is female in appearance and associated with the handicrafts of women and the fertility of the olive, but many of her attributes are traditionally associated with males.  She is a patroness of wisdom, considered a masculine quality by the Greeks.  She is also a warrior goddess, protector of the citadel, armed with shield, spear, and helmet”(4).  All of these traits amount to a powerful deity, even though she is a female within a patriarchal theological system and society where venerated female wisdom was a rarity, and woman warriors were not allowed within the civilized city state of Athens.
     Athena’s characteristics were not accidentally combined, but had symbolic meaning for the Greeks.  Greek men realized the importance and inescapability of female traits, as well as the influence of older mother deities within their society.  Therefore, Athena’s traits of wisdom and warfare, as well as agriculture, are the blending of male qualities with the best female qualities to insure a goddess under the ruling of the patriarchy.  Although female, Athena was masculinized for male purposes.  Her virginity also took her away from the realm of the sexual and into a “manly” realm of the intellectual.
     Athena was a revered goddess, but ultimately became a head of state figure, like the United State’s Lady Liberty.  This image, reproduced again and again, throughout history and in different areas, is a noble and inspirational figure.  This abstract woman embodies grace, beauty and wisdom while remaining distant enough to keep her otherworldly mystique.  While the Virgin Mary’s chastity and saintly character inspired men through her perfection, Athena likewise was construed as a perfect, sacred concept.  She was the beautiful, wise, brave woman who came to her countrymen’s aid without the baggage of sexual interest.  She was also an eternal mother to whom men could turn to her for comfort and aid, much like the Virgin Mary whose sanctity was without reproach.  Later figures have copied this image of Athena as representatives of state: a beautiful woman, sometimes in armor, inspiring her people to victory and greater deeds in the name of their homeland.
     Thus, Athena’s influence throughout history has manifested itself in a variety of ways.  Seltzman asserts that “Athena had changed into another kind of goddess, emblem of the state, symbol of an empire, from which was to be copied as time marched on in other very similar female figures named ‘Roma’, ‘Britannia’, and ‘Columbia’(59).   Athena’s image was found on Greek coins and later, Alexander the Great put her on the currency of his vast empire, spreading her likeness.  Athena’s image expanded to Rome in the form of Minerva when Greece waned and the Roman Empire began its long rule.  Her spirit and characteristics are immortalized in works of art from Ancient Greece and throughout history and permanently engraved in many literary works.  Later, when Christianity conquered paganism, Athena still lingered in her shrine, the Parthenon.  Seltzman reveals that, “at last, when the closing of all pagan temples were ordained, the Parthenon became a Christian church, and the cults of the virgin goddess of Athens were replaced by that of the Virgin Mary”(59).  In essence, these figures of women as the symbolic representation of countries are ultimately an abstract, empty, beautiful figure  -- often what “women” are reduced to.
     Athena’s origins and characteristics, according to myths and historical research, have many influences from earlier goddesses, yet her nature is uniquely Greek.  Her name is believed to have pre-Hellenistic roots, which leads to comparisons between other ancient mother goddess figures from Summaria, the Near East, India and Egypt.  Unequivocally, her power was very old and based on that of prior female deities which the Greeks adopted to their own beliefs, just as she in turn influenced the Roman Minerva and other representations of countries and states.
     Her power was curtailed in certain aspects because, as Pomeroy notes, she was a “warrior, judge, and giver of wisdom, but she was masculinized and denied sexual activity and (physical) motherhood”(8), one of the most significant elements of womanhood.  Her power surpassed the other two-dimensional Greek goddesses, but she never inspired the cults or following of women who worshipped Demeter, the goddess of fertility and growth.  Demeter’s festival, the Thesmophoria, was attended only by women and celebrated fertility and life over death.  It took place over three days and had many similarities to the Christian Easter.  Athena, conversely, was the patroness of male heroes and written stories of her encounters with females had violent endings due to her anger or jealousy.  Even the Goddess of wisdom was prone to lapses in character, especially towards “female” emotions.  Anne Shearer quotes Jane Harrison as seeing Athena as a “sexless thing, neither man nor women” whose birth from her father’s head is a “desperate theological expedient to rid an earth-born female of her matriarchal conditions-- a dark, desperate effort to make thought the basis of being and reality”(3).  Therefore, Athena’s seemingly contradictory position as a powerful female goddess within the patriarchal Greek society is not as surprising as it may first appear.  Female figures have always been venerated even where the status of women has been repressed.  Gods and symbolic figures do not usually correspond with earth-bound reality, and pictorial evidence is not always accurate or honest.  Therefore it is impossible to discern the exact relationship between Athena’s power and the actual status of women.  Often, what is worshipped in theory does not correlate to societal behavior, actions or mindset.
 From the records available, one can deduce that the worship of Athena was at a civic level, a celebration of patriotism and the power of Athens within ornate and elaborate ceremonies.  Although Athena was one of the most powerful Olympians, arguably second to only Zeus himself, she did not seem to have a strong specifically female following, as one would assume.  In fact, Athena’s patronage of Athens was used as an excuse to keep women powerless.  According to myth, both she and Poseidon (her uncle) laid claim to the city that would become Athens.  Poseidon caused a salt-water spring to rise from the earth while Athena created the first olive tree.  The citizens were told to vote for their patron deity on the basis of these gifts.  Of course, the men voted for Poseidon, while the more numerous women voted for Athena and the olive tree.  In punishment for their victory, the females forever more lost their status of citizens within the Greek city-state of Athens.  Therefore, Athena can be perceived as a repressive force against women instead of an empowering figure.
   Her obvious devotion and guidance to male heroes and her love of battle and strategy assist her alienation towards women. She was instead lavishly worshipped by both men and women as the omnipresent, yet distant, patron Goddess of Athens. Seltman notes that “there is no clearer proof of the love which the Athenians felt for their goddess than the temple which they built for her.  The Parthenon, made of solid Pentelic marble, was not the largest Greek temple, but was incomparably the finest” (58).  Inside her temple, the Parthenon, stood a symbolic statue of her as the figurehead of the state, over forty feet tall, made of gold and ivory by the master sculptor Pheidias.  This was the earthly manifestation of the goddess, larger than life, striking, powerful, and towering majestically over her people.  The majority of the massive freize that encircles the Parthenon depicts Athena and her life.
   Athena was devotedly worshipped mainly by men seeking her protection, wisdom and guidance in battle; she was most famously the patron goddess of the Greek heroes Perseus, Herakles and Odysseus, to whom she represented a combination of  mother-figure, goddess, deity, mentor and protector.  Man’s idolization of Athena was similar to the awe and sanctity that men later lavished on the Virgin Mary.  This reverence is illustrated in The Odyssey, in which Athena is a central character.  Homer’s insights into Athena’s actions as she organizes Odysseus’ rescue offer a humanistic interpretation of the goddess by taking her off of lofty Mt. Olympus and placing her among men on earth.  She is omnipresent in the Odyssey, constantly changing forms, organizing expeditions and protecting her favorite heroes.  Unfortunately, Athena did not show the same devotion towards women.   While Athena’s popularity and worship did not appear to empower the heavily restricted Greek women, she did empower women in specific situations.  Pomeroy reports that the priestess of Athena, which was a “hereditary position from the noble family of Eteoboutadae, had great importance and some influence”(75).  Religious activities were really the only area where women, especially the upper class, were allowed to participate within Greek public culture.   The Panathenaea was held on Athena’s birthday and attended by all people living in the state, both males and females, citizens and foreigners, which were rare in this ridged society.  The procession of Greek men, women and children leading up to the Acropolis is depicted on the freize of the Parthenon.
     Besides portraying a mother-figure to the numerous heroes she protected and assisted, Athena embodied many unconventional motherhood qualities.   Foremost, Athena was a mother to her citizens, a symbolic figurehead of Athens.  She was the wise protectress of the citizens of Athens who could glorify her without the baggage of sexuality.  Surrounding Athena is a strange myth of virgin birth in which Athena has a son, called Erichthonios.  As Shearer says, “Athena would not be the last goddess, as she was not the first, whose mysteries included the bearing of a child while remaining perpetually virgin” (33).  The crippled god Hephaestus was said to have struggled with Athena in an attempted rape during which he ejaculated on the ground near her.  From this encounter came Athena’s son who was at times portrayed as a serpent, and usually shown curled by her feet in sculptures.
      The complexity of Athena’s nature and character allow her to be interpreted in numerous, personal ways.  In one aspect she was like the Virgin Mary, a mother to her people, the citizens of Athens, yet a virgin herself.  She was almost anti-feminine, yet venerated for her beauty, rationality, agricultural skills, and wisdom as a woman.  Her strong character -- she was not a weak or vengeful Hera, or a sexual being like Aphrodite -- but a deity who was prayed to by heroes, war generals and craftswomen alike.  Otto claims that “belief in Athena arose from no individual need or individual longing of human life.  She is the meaning and actuality of a complete and self-contained world -- the clear, hard, glorious masculine world of design and fulfillment whose delight is in struggle.  This world includes the feminine also.  Not, however, as lover or mother, as dancing girl or Amazon, but as a knowledgeable and artistically constructive nature does woman belong to Athena”(60).   Though her qualities may have been seen as male and purely symbolic in ancient Greece, she personifies a strong, wise, athletic being -- prototype young women are free to embody today.  Her abstract persona of the mother and protectress of her people is an image that is still used today through different incarnations.
 

 
 
 
 
 

Literary Paper:2

      The image of Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and patroness of Athens, in Greek literature and art is both complex and prominent.  Her character, which was defined within the Greek culture, has evolved and been used throughout history as a symbolic, cultural figure.  Her culturally constructed nature can be fully interpreted through ancient artistic and literary sources. Her position as a “manly” mother figure both to the state and individuals is reinforced within The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer’s ancient epics in which gods and men interact, wherein Athena is a central character.  She is also mentioned by Hesiod, within the Homeric Hymns and in many ancient Greek plays, notably Ion by Euripides, in which she has a speaking role.  In The Iliad and The Odyssey, Athena is the most emphasized deity and the descriptions of her, and her actions, are much more detailed than any of the other gods who are mentioned.  In the Homeric Hymns, Athena is described as “distinguished among the blessed gods”(79, 315).  However, Athena is also ubiquitously represented in society through art and architecture.  Many towns erected prominent temples to her and lauded her civic importance.  Established and reinforced through artistic and literary representation, Athena’s status as a complex mother figure and figurehead has influenced subsequent ideas and representations of women.
  Athena is portrayed as having many womanly and motherly qualities in literature, especially seen in her interaction with men on an individual level.  Foremost is her physical motherhood, although she is a virgin.  Her status as a virgin mother to Erichthonius is described within Euripides’ Ion, a play dealing with lineage and motherhood in which Athena ultimately solves the problem of succession by promoting the father-right.  Within Ion, the custom of putting gold snakes in nurseries is described as dating “back to Erichthonius, whom Athena furnished with a brace of snakes to be his bodyguard”(Ion,105).  Also, “snakes in gold” were given to young children as presents from Athena because “she likes children to have them in memory of Erichthonius”(Ion,154).  The icon of a serpent has been incorporated with Athena in both artistic renderings and literary allusions.  The precursor to the deity of Athena is thought to be found in pre-Hellenistic Minoan serpent goddesses found at Ancient Knossos.
    Statues of Athena were always recognizable by the fact that she was the only goddess to be depicted in armor and the snake-covered aegis was almost always present with the symbolic head of Medusa, in the center.   In many statues, Athena had a snake curled around her feet, thought to symbolize Ericthonius, and therefore, the lineage of Athenian Kings.  The Varvakeion Athena, which is a third century copy of the Athena Parthenos (the huge statue thought to have occupied the Parthenon) by Pheidias, depicts the serpent curled around her shield.
     In Ion, the aegis is described as being covered with crawling snakes made from the skin of Medusa.  Strangely, Athena was said to have used this snake-infested breastplate as a baby sling for young Erichthonius.  Exhibiting the many contradictions within Greek mythology, the serpent shown with Athena stood for both motherhood and a severing of Athena’s own ties to matriarchy.  Her symbolic motherhood was a corporeal reality needed by humanity to establish a divine lineage of Athenian Kings.  Thus, with her venerated chaste status and her giving virgin birth to Erichthonius, who becomes king of Athens, there are similarities to Christianity’s Virgin Mary.  Christianity conquered paganism and established itself as the new religion, while borrowing heavily from old ideas and beliefs.  Athena’s temple the Parthanon even became a shrine to the Virgin Mary.  And, as Warner points out, the characteristics associated with Athena such as chastity, bravery and wisdom, were easily transferable ideals that Christianity also celebrated.  Why personify these characteristics within a woman’s form?  Because women are judged on their outer qualities, it is no stretch to glorify an empty, highly gendered symbol.  Warner suspects that due to the “Christian belief that woman are morally weaker, their strength is all the greater if they actually manage to be good”(65).  Athena’s role as an omnipresent mother figure that is prayed to and called upon for assistance is similar to the position of the Virgin Mary.
     Unquestionably, Athena personifies a mother figure to, most prominently, both Telemachus and Odysseus and also to other male heroes, notably Perseus and Herakles.  In The Odyssey Athena is portrayed as a wise, prevalent force who organizes expeditions, solves problems and protects those deemed worthy of her attention.  The mother-like love Athena shows to Odysseus is widely known as King Nestor comments: “never saw I such open affection on the part of the Gods as was there displayed by Pallas, who would stand openly by his (Odysseus’) side”(The Odyssey, 34).   Athena is undoubtedly the central divinity in The Odyssey and is portrayed as a wise mother protectress, yet unfeminine and often in the guise of men.  The fact that she often took the form of a man is an action that should not be overlooked in its ramifications in Athena’s character, for she often reverted to male form when interacting among humans.
     In The Iliad, Homer describes her as a protectress and mother of her favorite warriors:  “Athena, the Fighting Daughter of Zeus, warded off the piercing dart, like a mother driving a fly away from her gently sleeping child”(80).  When her favorites are harmed or threatened, she flies into a rage like a mother protecting her children, but she also exemplifies sensibility, especially in contrast to bloodthirsty Ares, the God of War.  In The Iliad Athena proclaims, “I came from heaven in the hope of bringing you to your senses”(28), when Achilles is overcome with anger and violence.  In this portrayal she is the calm, feminine force.  Countless times in The Iliad, Athena shields and protects warriors from the enemy’s attack.  She also joins in the battles and rallies her men -- “Athena Daughter of Zeus, the Lady of Triton, went through the ranks herself and spurned on any laggards she saw”(The Iliad, 90).   Homer poetically depicts the wise, graceful, brave warrior goddess in the opening of The Odyssey:  “She drew upon her feet those golden sandals (whose fairness no use could dim) that carried their mistress as surely and wind-swiftly over the waves as over the boundless earth.  She laid hold of her guardian spear, great, heavy, and close-grained, tipped with cutting bronze.  When wrath moved the goddess to act, this spear was her weapon: with it, and stayed by her pride of birth, she would daunt serried ranks of the very bravest warriors”(The Odyssey,3).  This portrayal of a beautiful, yet dangerous warrior who is moved to terrible anger when one of her “children” is in trouble is one manifestation of her mother persona.
  On a civic level Athena is represented as a mother symbol to her people, a figure that was later adopted by other countries in an attempt to symbolize the glory that Ancient Greece had stood for by using these ancient figures in their own society.  As the protectress of Athens and its people, Athena is the image of perfection and is omnipresent throughout the city due to her numerous shrines, especially the imposing Parthanon.  Throughout these ancient literary works, prayers are constantly invoked to Athena, portraying her importance as a civic deity.  In the Iliad, for example, she answers Diomedes’ prayer and “makes a new man out of him.”  Surprisingly, a large number of ancient Greek cities, both large and small, had temples created for Athena, exemplifying her popularity as a civic goddess in art and architecture.
     The Hymn to Athena  portrays her as the “ mighty defender of cities” and the “awesome one.”  Importantly, she is a protectress as she “saves the people as they go out and return”(147, 4).  In another hymn to her, Athena’s attributes are greatly praised; she is “resourceful, with an unyielding heart, the reverent maiden, a glorious goddess”(160).  In the Theogony, a chronicle of the gods, Athena is again described in these same virtuous, glowing terms:  “From his own head he (Zeus) gave birth to owl-eyed Athena, the awesome, battle-rousing, army leading, untiring Lady, whose pleasure is fighting and the metallic din of war”(87, 929-931).  These described characteristics are portrayed in The Iliad where Athena is both a civic and individual figure to her troops and warriors.  Homer  characterizes her as a force that should not be confronted, powerful and wise, unlike Aphrodite who “was a timid goddess, not one of those that play a dominating part in the battles of mankind, such as Athena”....(The Iliad,101).  Zeus agrees with this when he tells Aphrodite “fighting, my child, is not for you.  You are in charge of wedlock and tender passions.  We will leave the enterprising War-god (Ares) and Athena to look after military affairs”( The Iliad,103).  All of these images provide the reader with a picture of Athena’s character, as if she was a real being.  These assigned characteristics along with her actions within Homer’s epics present a “woman” who is not conventionally womanly; instead, she represents the male within a female virginal body.   A humorous insight that reinforces this concept is the relationship between Athena and her father. When Ares complains to Zeus about the war wound Athena has given him, he reveals the daughter-father bond: “We are all at loggerheads with you for having cursed the world with that crazy Daughter of yours, who is always up to some devilment or another.  The rest of us, including every god on Olympus, bow to your will and stand in awe of you.  But when it comes to her, you neither say nor do a thing to check the creature: you let her have her head, because she is a Child of your own, who was born for mischief”(The Iliad,16).  Athena obviously is her father’s favorite as she reinforced Zeus’ patriarchal line and supremacy as a father.
     While Athena is portrayed as wisdom in The Odyssey, in The Iliad she is all warrior and strength, leaving no doubt about her patriarchal ties and “manly” nature.   The personification of her as a warrior is a recurring theme: “On her father’s threshold, Athena Daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus shed her soft embroidered robe, which she had made with her own hands, put on a tunic in its place, and equipped herself for the lamentable work of war with the arms of Zeus the Cloud-compeller.  She threw round her shoulders the formidable tasselled aegis, which is beset at every point with Fear, carries Strife and Force and the cold nightmare of Pursuit within it, and also bears the ghastly image of a Gorgon’s head, the grim and redoubtable emblem of aegis bearing Zeus.  On her head she put her golden helmet, with its four plates and double crest, adorned with fighting men of a hundred towns.  Then she stepped into the flaming chariot, gripping the huge long spear with which she breaks the noble warriors ranks when she, the almighty Father’s child, is roused to anger”(112).  Of course, within the Greek culture, Athena the warrior is not viewed as a threat to patriarchal structure because her loyalty lies with her father; in fact, she is a direct representation of Zeus, the supreme male ruler, as she personifies male wisdom due to her birth from Zeus’ head.
     In a different twist on her character Athena is also the mother of invention, who bestows agricultural and technological gifts to her people.  She is portrayed in the Homeric Hymns as a goddess of sensibility and warfare, wise in both aspects.  She is immune to Aphrodite’s love charms and cannot be deceived by her: “For the daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus, gray-eyed Athena, the deeds of golden Aphrodite do not bring her joy, but wars are pleasing to her, and the work of Ares, and battle songs and preparing glorious deeds.  She first taught earth-dwelling craftsmen to make carriages and chariots worked with bronze; and the soft skinned maidens in the halls she taught glorious deeds, placing skill in the minds of each”(Homeric Hymns, 126, 7-15).   Her status as a generous and enlightening goddess evoke images of motherhood.  Her people honor her for her agricultural and technological gifts that allow them to be a cultured and mighty society, enriching their lives in numerous ways.
    Depiction of Athena’s character and symbolic qualities in ancient texts has been reincarnated throughout history in varied female symbols.  The figure of Athena has influenced later female symbols such as the Virgin Mary, Britannia and Lady Liberty.  As Marina Warner asserts, “Athena, the virgin born, chaste goddess of wisdom, the unyoked guardian of the city, the patroness of women’s skills and work, is the immediate model of those exemplification’s of Justice, Prudence, Fortitude, and Temperance...Divorced from the religion that created her, disinfected of pagan cult and ritual, Athena provided the mold in which the language of virtue was first cast in the Renaissance and again, during the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  The examples of personification which still surround us, like Britannia, often return directly to Athena”(Monuments and Maidens,87).  Her qualities of beauty, wisdom, bravery, chastity, and, most importantly, her ties to the patriarchy, create a perfect stereotypical woman to be romantically venerated as a symbolic representation.  She is not a chaotic, uncontrollable female force, but one that is a representative of the male within the virginal body of a woman.
     To the Western world, Athena symbolized the glory of Athens, which other countries wished to duplicate its once powerful status.  Athena was reincarnated by future societies because she was not a subversive figure.  Although a woman, she reinforced the rule of patriarchy in her abstraction and characteristics.  As Warner comments, “this warrior woman could not have been acceptable as a figure of good to Western civilization, almost at any time and certainly not to the Victorians, if she were not predicated on an unimpeachable ethic of proper feminine conduct”(Monuments and Maidens,103).  Britannia, and later the United State’s Lady Liberty, both draw on Athena’s characteristics and the awe that she evoked.  She rallied her forces onward with the perfect combination of strength and beauty.  Besides the obvious external similarities between these womanly figures lies their symbolic characteristics that are used to represent a whole country and its values.  The representation of warrior woman in armor, sometimes with spear, shield and helmet illustrates strength and invincibility, while also guarding chastity and promoting virtue.  Usually these women have strong, unfeminine, proud features and a womanly body cloaked in a loosely flowing tunic so as not to be overtly sexual, of course.  Sometimes winged victory is depicted in hand, a tradition that originated with the Athena Parthanos statue.  Although these symbolic representations were used to characterize a nation, one must remember that in no way did they reflect the status and freedom of women in their societies.  Instead they were the unreachable, glorified models that men could look to for inspiration, but women could never obtain.
     In ancient literary works Athena’s character comes through most clearly as she is the main focus and vividly described.   The Odyssey and The Iliad show both sides of her character, as a cunning, brave warrior and peacekeeping, wise mentor.  Ion exemplifies her wisdom and loyalty to the father, while giving the history of Ericthonius’ strange birth.  Theogony describes her own birth from the head of her father, while the Homeric Hymns sing her praises. And, in Monuments and Maidens,  Marina Warner examines the influence of Athena in the depiction of the female form and image throughout history.  Almost every aspect of her is portrayed with symbolic objects that today are known personifications of characteristics such as victory or chastity.  Her characteristics, outlined within these literary and artistic works, have later been adapted to other figureheads of state, such as Lady Liberty and Britannia, who personify Athena’s qualities, only with a different name and country.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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