Study Guide

Minerva and Arachne Minerva (Athena)

Minerva (Athena)

If Arachne embodies the Greek concept of hubris, then Minerva embodies the Greek idea of punishment. She's the one who steps in and puts Arachne back in her place. Given that Minerva is the goddess of crafts (which includes weaving) it seems only fair that she be the one to deliver Arachne's punishment. Under most circumstances this would be the end of the discussion. Arachne = hubris, Minerva = punishment. Simple. Fortunately for us, Minerva's character complicates this reading. (Yes, this really is fortunate. We like complicated. Complicated is interesting. Simple is boring.)

Minerva's role as punisher is complicated by her questionable motives. Yes, Arachne definitely commits the sin of hubris, but is Minerva really any better? Minerva acts out of jealousy and anger, and not the righteous kind of anger, either. Petty, spiteful anger. When she examines Arachne's weaving and can't find a flaw she becomes outraged. Not only does Arachne claim to be the better weaver, but it might actually be true. Minerva can't accept this, and so she bludgeons Arachne into submission.

Because of the raw anger and human-like jealousy that Minerva displays we're forced to accept her also as a representation of the flawed morality of the Greek gods. Minerva proves that the Greek gods and goddesses are subject to human emotion; they can have emotional outbursts, and they can make mistakes.

In a more modern context, Minerva has effectively taken over as the patron deity of high learning and military strategy. Statues and other representations of Minerva are found at schools, libraries, and military institutions across the world. Here's a short list of the organizations that pay homage to Minerva:

  • A statue of Minerva graces the dome of the US Capitol Building, in Washington DC.
  • An image of Minerva is the logo for the Max Plank Society for the Advancement of Science, located in Germany.
  • Minerva's helmet is the insignia for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington DC.
  • Minerva's image is displayed on the Medal of Honor, the highest decoration offered by the US military.
  • A mosaic of Minerva resides in the Library of Congress.
  • A statue of Minerva belongs to the Minneapolis Central Library, in Minnesota.

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