Gods and goddesses were some of the most important and noteworthy aspects of Greek mythology. The people worshiped and paid homage to them thereby making their influence on humans stronger and more significant. These deities also constantly interfered in the affairs of humans to gain respect as well as more following. Some of these divine interference with human affairs is often done to show superiority to fellow deities as well, just like in the case of Troy.
Even the goddesses were not left out of this hunger for power. Athena particularly was one of the most feared goddesses in Greek Mythology. She was born fully armed so it is clear why she always held her own against the most powerful gods on Olympus including Poseidon - her uncle who was known to hold a grudge against her. Perhaps her victory over the god of the sea in the duel for a human city started it all.
The Foundation Of The Duel That Forged The Greek City Of Athens
According to the legend, as described by Herodotus and other ancient writers, the most prosperous and flourishing city in Ancient Greece needed a name and while Cecrops - The first King of Athens sought to name the city after himself, that ambition was soon cut short after Poseidon - the god of the sea became interested in the status of the city’s Patron. But the sea god was not the only one interested in becoming the patron of this beautiful Greek city. Athena - the goddess of wisdom and war shared the same ambition.
The Duel Begins
Poseidon and Athena did not engage in physical combat because it was clear that the former was much stronger by the measure of strength. The battle was to win over the hearts of the citizens of the city and Cecrops stood as the judge of this divine duel.
With the stage set, Poseidon - the first contender presented his gift; a stream of seawater which gushed out of the ground after he struck it with his strident. Poseidon’s gift represented naval power and an assurance that the city would never know dryness. The god argued that the people would benefit more from his offering since they also relied on sea trade.
Athena’s Offering And The People’s Choice
With the attention now turned to Athena, the goddess proceeded to present her offering. It was an olive tree that had grown after she dropped its seed onto the ground. To the eyes of the people and the King, this offering was beautiful and enticing as it presented three vital elements - oil, fruit, and wood. So the people led by their king made their choice and Athena became the patron goddess of the city.
Connection of the Rivalry To The Limited Rights Of Ancient Athenian Women
Throughout the history of Classical Athens, Women had limited rights. They were not allowed to participate in matters such as voting and even large economic transactions. The primary role of women in Ancient Athens was to give birth so they were only taught domestic skills by their mothers and banned from all other educational impartation such as -political education, physical education, and others.
This limited privilege of women in Ancient Athens later became connected to the rivalry between Poseidon and Athena. It was believed that Athena became the patron god of the city by the majority vote of the women of the city. The men in the city who worked and stayed mostly on the sea chose the gift of Poseidon while the women who stayed more on land chose the gift of Athena. This gave Athena the victory as the women outnumbered the men. The god of the sea became furious with the women of the city and it was then decided that the only way to appease his anger was to punish the women by denying them civic rights and only allowing them the right to participate in religious activities. After this was done, the city was spared from the wrath of Poseidon. It took several thousand years for the women of Athens to regain their voting rights.
The Future Of Athens, Greece
After the whole rivalry and the declaration of Athena as the Patron of the city, the people erected Parthenon - a temple dedicated to the goddess and named the city after her. Even though Poseidon had been appeased, it was clear that he still held a grudge against his niece due to the humiliating defeat.
Clearly, Athena hated him too but feared his power. The result of this mutual hatred can be seen in the curse of Medusa by Athena after Poseidon raped her (Medusa) in the temple of the goddess. Although there is much more to be learned about Athens, this legend makes the Ancient city more appealing. In addition, Athens is also regarded as the place where democracy was birthed and this legend strongly reveals the active democratic system of the Ancient people of this Greek region.