Study Guide

Minerva and Arachne Minerva (Athena)

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Minerva (Athena)

Recap: Minerva is the Roman version of Athena. She is the goddess of wisdom, courage, justice, military strategy, arts and crafts, and bunch of other stuff. Her mother is Metis, one of the original Titans, and her father is Zeus. Popular mythology explains that she was born fully grown out of Zeus's head. Don't believe us? Check out her page here at Shmoop. Anyway, she hears a rumor that a young weaver is claiming to be better than her. Because she's the goddess of crafts, it's not possible for some puny girl to be better than her at weaving. She goes to Lydia to confront Arachne. The two end up having a weaving contest, after which Minerva beats the snot out of Arachne. Arachne commits suicide, but Minerva brings her back to life and transforms her into a spider.

Minerva is the absolute most awesome and wonderful character we can possibly hope for out of a myth. Why? Because she's angry, arrogant, petty, jaded, jealous, and vengeful. In short, she possesses all of humanity's worst emotions.

But she's not a human.
Unlike the gods of modern religions, who are always shown as being immune to human emotion, the Greek gods and goddesses are basically just humans with special powers. They lie, cheat, steal, murder, and rape just like humans. They become jealous, get angry, and do stupid things that they regret. The only thing separating them from the average Greek citizen is that they can do cool stuff like turning into a goat. Well, maybe turning into a goat isn't that cool, but they can do other stuff as well.

The idea that the Greek gods are subject to mistakes, regrets, emotional outbursts, and other human experiences is an essential aspect of Greek myth. It's one of the key elements that separate ancient mythologies from their modern counter-parts. It also goes a long way toward explaining why ancient Greeks sometimes behaved like such rascals. Greek citizens justified their actions by believing that the gods were just as messed up as they were. When Minerva gets wind that Arachne is moving in on her territory, she gets a little bugged. She hurries to Hypaepa for a throw down, ready to slap some sense into Arachne. After the weaving contest, Minerva realizes that Arache really is that good, and in her rage she beats the poor girl to death. When your gods go around beating people up it tends to make you less judgmental of yourself.

Like most of the Greek gods, Minerva is the subject of a rich and extensive history in art and culture. Her status as the patron deity of both wisdom and warfare has ensured her inclusion in the history of both subjects. Schools and other places of learning, especially, often recognize the goddess somewhere in their architecture or symbolism. Statues or crests of Minerva grace such schools as:

  • Darmstadt University of Technology, Germany
  • Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • National Autonomous University, Mexico
  • Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania
  • The United States Military Academy

She's also featured on the state seal of California, and a statue of her is included in a replica of the Greek Parthenon built in Nashville, Tennessee.

For more info, check out her page here at Shmoop

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