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Heracles and Athena | Athenian red-figure kylix C5th B.C. | Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich
Heracles and Athena, Athenian red-figure kylix C5th B.C., Staatliche Antikensammlungen

ATHENA was the Olympian goddess of wisdom, war, heroism and crafts.

This page contains tales of Athena's favour as the patron goddess of heroes. In old Greek epic she invariably stood beside each of the heroes of myth--for, as the Greeks said, a man was "nothing without the gods." However, with the loss of most of the old epic poems, her integral role in the stories is mostly preserved in ancient art.


AKHILLEUS (Achilles) A prince of Phthia in Malis (northern Greece) who was supported by Athena during the Trojan War.

ARGONAUTOI (Argonauts) The heroes of the Quest of the Golden Fleece were assisted by Athena in their voyage.

BELLEROPHON A prince and hero of Korinthos (southern Greece) who was assisted by Athena in his adventures: including the capture of the winged horse Pegasos and the slaying of the Khimaira.

DIOMEDES A prince and hero of Argos (southern Greece) who was supported by Athena in the Trojan and Epigoni Wars.

HERAKLES (Heracles) A prince and hero of Mykenai in Argolis (southern Greece) who was assisted by Athena during the completion of his twelve Labours and his later war campaigns. She also fetched him up to Olympos to join the gods from the pyre on Mount Oita.

KADMOS (Cadmus) A king of Thebes in Boiotia (central Greece) who was supported by Athena in the slaying of the drakon and the sowing of its teeth.

ODYSSEUS A king and hero of the island of Ithaka (central-west Greece) who was supported by Athena during the Trojan War and his subsequent return home to Ithaka.

PERSEUS A king and hero of Mykenai in Argolis (southern Greece) who was aided by Athena in his quest to slay the Gorgon Medousa.

THESEUS A prince and hero of Athens in Attika (southern Greece) who was assisted by Athena in his quest to slay the Minotauros of Krete.

TYDEUS A prince of Argos (southern Greece) who was Athena supported in the War of the Seven Against Thebes. She was even prepared to grant him immortality, until he tasted the brain of a slain opponent on the battlefield.



LOCALE : Various locations in Europe and Africa


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 37 - 41 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Polydeketes assigned him [Perseus] the task of fetching the Gorgon's head. So with Hermes and Athena as his guides Perseus sought out the daughters of Phorkys [the Graia] . . . sisters of the Gorgones . . .
Perseus took flight and made his way to the ocean, where he found the Gorgones sleeping . . . All who looked at them were turned to stone. Perseus, therefore, with Athena guiding his hand, kept his eyes on the reflection in a bronze shield as he stood over the sleeping Gorgones, and when he saw the image of Medousa, he beheaded her."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 46 :
"Perseus [after returning to Seriphos and disposing of King Polydektes] . . . gave the sandals, kibisis and helmet back to Hermes, and the Gorgon's head to Athena . . . Athena placed the Gorgon's head in the centre of her shield."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 21. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[A wild Libyan woman] reached Lake Tritonis, and harried the neighbours until Perseus killed her; Athena was supposed to have helped him in this exploit, because the people who live around Lake Tritonis are sacred to her."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 250 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Tritonia [Athena] thus far had accompanied her gold-born brother [Perseus, in his quest]. Now [complete] she left Seriphus wrapped all about in cloud."


Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 740 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[After slaying the Sea-Monster] water was brought and Perseus washed his hands, triumphant hands . . . Then he built three turf altars to three gods, the left to Mercurius [Hermes], the middle Jove's [Zeus'], the right the warrior queen's [Athena's], and sacrificed a cow to Minerva [Athena], to the wing-foot god [Hermes] a calf and to the king of heaven [Zeus] a bull."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 46 ff :
"[When the Aithiopian prince Phineus and his allies tried to kill Perseus] Pallas [Athena] warrior goddess, then appeared to guard her brother Perseus with her shield and give him heart."

Perseus and Athena | Boeotian black-figure bowl C5th B.C. | Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Perseus and Athena, Boeotian black-figure bowl C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston


LOCALE : Thebes, Boiotia (in Central Greece)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 4. 1-2 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The god [the Delphic oracle] told him [Kadmos] . . . to be guided by a cow, and to found a city wherever she should fall down for weariness . . . And after traversing Boiotia, it sank down where is now the city of Thebes. Wishing to sacrifice the cow to Athena, he sent some of his companions to draw water from the spring of Ares. But a Drakon, which some said was the offspring of Ares, guarded the spring and destroyed most of those that were sent. In his indignation Kadmos killed the dragon, and by the advice of Athena sowed its teeth. When they were sown there rose from the ground armed men whom they called Spartoi. These slew each other, some in a chance brawl, and some in ignorance . . . However, five of them survived [the ancestors of the Theban noble houses]."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 101 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Gliding down out of the sky Pallas [Athena] appears and bids him [Kadmos] plough the soil and plant the Serpent's teeth, from which a future people should arise. Cadmus obeys, and with his plough's deep share opens wide furrows, then across the soil scatters the teeth [from which sprout the Spartoi]."


LOCALE : Korinthos, the Isthmos (Southern Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 4. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[In Korinthos] is the temple of Athena Khalinitis (Bridler). For Athena, they say, was the divinity who gave most help to Bellerophontes, and she delivered to him Pegasos, having herself broken in and bridled him."


LOCALE : Various (see below)


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 71 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Arms from the gods . . . Herakles [before setting out on his twelve labours] was given a sword from Hermes, bow and arrows from Apollon, chest-armour of gold from Hephaistos, and a peplos from Athena."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 69 :
"Erginos [King of Orkhomenos] brought an army against Thebes, but Herakles, who was placed in command [of the Theban army] with weapons from Athena, slew Erginos, routed the Minyans."


Hesiod, Theogony 306 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"The evil-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom . . . [Herakles] together with warlike Iolaos, destroyed with the unpitying sword through the plans of Athene the spoil-driver."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 17. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Depicted on the chest of Kypselos :] Herakles, with Athena standing beside him, is shooting at the Hydra, the beast in the river Amymone."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 30 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Under Minerva's [Athena's] instructions he [Herakles] killed her [the Hydra], disembowelled her, and dipped his arrows in her gall; and so whatever later he hit with his arrows did not escape death."

Heracles, Athena, Iolaus and the Hydra | Athenian black-figure lekythos C5th B.C. | Musée du Louvre, Paris
Heracles, Athena, Iolaus and the Hydra, Athenian black-figure lekythos C5th B.C., Musée du Louvre


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 92 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"For the sixth labour Herakles was ordered to drive off the Stymphalian birds . . . Herakles was stumped by the problem of driving the birds out of the woods, but Athena got some bronze noise-makers from Hephaistos and gave them to him, and by shaking these from a mountain adjacent to the lake he frightened the birds. Not enduring the racket, they flew up in fear, and in this maner Herakles reached them with his arrows."


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 121 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Returning with the apples [of the Hesperides], he [Herakles] gave them to Eurystheus, who made a present of them to Herakles. But Athena retrieved them from him and took them back, for it was not permitted by divine law to locate them anywhere else."


Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 18. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[In Homer] Athena says that Zeus does not remember that because of her he kept Herakles safe throughout the labours imposed by Eurystheus : ‘For if I had known this in my shrewd heart when he sent him to Hades the gate-keeper, to fetch out of Erebos the hound of hateful Hades, he would never have escaped the sheer streams of' the river Styx.’"

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 15. 3 :
"[Depicted on the Painted Portico of Athens :] Theseus is represented as coming up from the underworld, [with] Athena and Herakles."


Homer, Iliad 20. 145 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The stronghold of godlike Herakles, earth-piled on both sides, a high place, which the Trojans and Pallas Athene had built him as a place to escape where he could get away from the Ketos (Sea Beast) when the charging monster drove him away to the plain from the sea-shore."

Heracles, Erymanthian boar, Eurystheus and Athena | Athenian black figure amphora C6th B.C. | Musée du Louvre, Paris
Heracles, Erymanthian boar, Eurystheus and Athena, Athenian black-figure amphora C6th B.C., Musée du Louvre


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 35-37 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"There was an oracle among the gods that they themselves would not be able to destroy any of the Gigantes, but would finish them off only with the help of some mortal ally . . . With Athena's help he [Zeus] called for Herakles to be his ally. Herakles first sent an arrow at Alkyoneus, who by falling to the earth recovered somewhat. Athena advised Herakles to drag him outside of Pallene, which he did, and Alkyoneus thereupon died."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 138 :
"When Herakles had destroyed Kos [the island kingdom], he found his way with Athena's help to Phlegra where he helped the gods reduce the Gigantes."

See also Athena & the War of the Giants


Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 10 (from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.156) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Hesiod says that he [Periklymenos son of Neleus] changed himself in one of his wonted shapes and perched on the yoke-boss of Herakles' horses, meaning to fight with the hero; but that Herakles, secretly instructed by Athena, wounded him mortally with an arrow. And he says as follows : ‘. . . And he possessed all manner of [shapechanging] gifts which cannot he told, and these then ensnared him through the devising of Athene.’"

Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 25. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"It is said that, when Herakles was leading an expedition against Pylos in Elis, Athena was one of his allies. Now among those who came to fight on the side of the Pylians was Haides, who was the foe of Herakles but was worshipped at Pylos."


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 144 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Herakles gathered an army against the Lakedaimonians . . . When he reached Arkadia he told Kepheus that he would be honoured to have him and his twenty sons as allies, but Kepheus declined, for he feared to leave Tegea lest the Argives march against it. Whereupon Herakles, who had received from Athena a lock of Gorgon's hair in a bronze urn, gave it to Kepheus' daughter Sterope, with instructions to hold it up three time s from the walls in the event of an invasion, and, if she didn't look in front of her, the enemy would reverse its direction. Since that was so, Kepheus and his sons joined the expedition."

For the REST of this story see Athena Wrath: Auge


Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 13. 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[At Delphoi in Phokis there is a statue group of:] Herakles and Apollo are holding on to the tripod, and are preparing to fight about it. Leto and Artemis are calming Apollon, and Athena is calming Herakles."


Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 19. 12 :
"The Megarians who are neighbors of Attika built a treasury [at Olympia] and dedicated in it offerings, small cedar-wood figures inlaid with gold, representing the fight of Heracles with Akheloos. The figures include Zeus, Deianeira, Akheloos, Herakles, and Ares helping Akheloos. There once stood here an image of Athena, as being an ally of Herakles."


See The Shield of Heracles attributed to Hesiod


Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 18. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Depicted on the throne of the Amyklaian at Amyklai in Lakedaimonia :] Athena is taking Herakles to dwell henceforth with the gods."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 19. 5 :
"Wrought on the altar [of the Amyklaian, at Amyklai in Lakedaimonia] is also Herakles; he too is being led to heaven by Athena and the other gods."

Heracles, Athena and Zeus | Athenian black-figure kylix C6th B.C. | British Museum, London
Heracles, Athena and Zeus, Athenian black-figure kylix C6th B.C., British Museum


LOCALE : Various

Ovid, Metamorphoses 12. 359 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Theseus' triumphs [in the battle of the Lapiths against the Centaurs] in the fight were too much for [centaur] Demeleon. He tried with a huge heave to uproot an ancient pine, a sturdy trunk, and, when his efforts failed, he snapped it off and threw it at his foe. But as the missile came Theseus drew back beyond its range, on Pallas's [Athene's] advice (or so he'd have us think)."


LOCALE : Thebes, Boiotia (Central Greece)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 6. 8 (trans. Frazer) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[During the War of the Seven Against Thebes :] Melanippos, the remaining one of the sons of Astakos, wounded Tydeus in the belly. As he lay half dead, Athena brought a medicine which she had begged of Zeus, and by which she intended to make him immortal. But Amphiaraus hated Tydeus for thwarting him by persuading the Argives to march to Thebes; so when he perceived the intention of the goddess he cut off the head of Melanippos and gave it to Tydeus, who, wounded though he was, had killed him. And Tydeus split open the head and gulped up the brains. But when Athena saw that, in disgust she grudged and withheld the intended benefit."


Colchian Dragon disgorging Jason, and Athena | Athenian red-figure kylix C5th B.C. | Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Vatican Museums
Colchian Dragon disgorging Jason, and Athena, Athenian red-figure kylix C5th B.C., Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Vatican Museums

LOCALE : Iolkos, Thessalia (Northern Greece) & Kolkhis (On the Black Sea)


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 110 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Argos builds the Argo. As preparation for his expedition Iason (Jason) enlisted the help of Argos, the son of Phrixos, who under the direction of Athena built a fifty-oared ship known ast he Argo after its builder. In the prow Athena fitted a piece of the Dodonian oak that had the power of speech."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 14 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Argus, son of Danaus, was shipbuilder [of the Argo] . . . This is the ship Argo, which Minerva put in the circle of stars because she built it. When first this ship was launched into the sea, it appeared among the stars from rudder to sail. Cicero in his Phaenomena [a translation of Aratus] described its appearance and beauty . . . This ship has four stars on her stern; on the right of the rudder, five; on the left, four--all alike; in all, thirteen."

MORE INFO: Quotes from the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius and of Valerius Flaccus have yet to be compiled for this section.


LOCALE : Troy, Troad (Anatolia) & Greek Aegean


See Athena and the Trojan War


Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 467 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Hero Narycius [Ajax] for a virgin's [Kassandra's] rape brought from the Virgin [Athena] on us all [the Greeks] the lash that he alone deserved, we were dispesed. Raped by the winds across the hostile main, we Greeks endured storms, lighning, darkness, wrath of sky and sea and, crowning tragedy, the cliffs of Caphereus . . . But me [Diomedes] Minerva [Athena], warrior goddess, saved and rescued from the waves."


LOCALE : Ithaka (Western Greece) & various other locations

Cinaethon of Sparta or Eugammon of Cyrene, Telegony Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Cherstomathia 2) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 6th B.C.) :
"[Odysseus after his return to Ithaka :] goes to Thesprotis where he marries Kallidike, queen of the Thesprotians. A war then breaks out between the Thesprotians, led by Odysseus, and the Brygoi. Ares routs the army of Odysseus and Athena engages with Ares, until Apollon separates them."

MORE INFO: Quotes from Homer's Odyssey have yet to be compiled for this section.


LOCALE : Kolkhis (on the Black Sea)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 128 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Aeetes ordered him [Iason, Jason] to sow some Drakon-teeth which he had received from Athena: they were half of the teeth which Kadmos had sown in Thebes."


LOCALE : Mount Pelion, Thessalia (Northern Greece)

Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 5 (from Scholiast on Homer's Iliad 17. 140) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"At the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, the gods gathered together on Pelion to feast and brought Peleus gifts. Kheiron gave him a stout ashen shaft which he had cut for a spear, and Athena, it is said, polished it, and Hephaistos fitted it with a head. The story is given by the author of the Cypria."

Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 6 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Peleus, it is said, received on the occasion of his marriage [to Thetis] . . . from Athena a flute."






The quotes for this page are still being compiled.


A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.