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Athena and Arachne

The Greek myth of Athena and Arachne is a myth of a wonderful contest in which the skills of  a goddess were matched against the skills of disrespectful mortal Arachne.  The young Arachne was of a very low status in society, and for this reason the goddess Athena took pity on her and taught her the art of weaving. Arachne was a very quick learner and soon she became a master weaver, excelling in the skill of weaving. So talented had Arachne become that the nymphs would gather to see her beautiful designs.

Athena in all her glory

 People would gather in the hope of learning from Arachne's great skill.  Soon questions began to appear, "Arachne who taught you how to weave so beautifully?", "No one" would reply Arachne.  Arachne had become engulfed in her self-conceit that she could not even give credit to her teacher. However, everyone new that the only one who could teach her this fine art was Athena, and they could not understand how a mortal could have such disrespect towards a god.   Athena was saddened by the disrespect of her pupil so she decided to pay her a visit in the hope that she could make Arachne realize the folly of her ways. Athena came to her in the form of a very old woman with jagged and torn old clothes, she told Arachne that she should respect the gods as even the wise do, as true skill comes with age and wisdom.  Arachne would have none of this, why should she respect someone who in her eyes did not help her? She proceeded to mock the goddess and challenged her to an open contest.

Such disrespect Athena could no longer handle. Under the shadow of the old woman appeared the glory of the god of wisdom and war Athena.  All who were present trembled in fear and bowed down to the goddess Athena offering her praise except Arachne.

The competition then began and each competitor proceeded to weave beautiful masterpieces. Athena wove the story of how she won the competition with Poseidon for the naming of Athens. The story told of how Poseidon had struck the ground of Athens with his trident and brought forth salt water, where as Athena struck the ground with her staff and brought forth an olive tree. The people of Athens chose Athena as their patron goddess over Poseidon as they found her gift more useful to their city.  Along with this creation she created images of mortals being transformed to hideous beasts from gods as a result of their disrespect.

Athena in contest with Poseidon

Arachne's disrespect was magnified in her marvelous design  a clear mockery of her teacher and the gods, she wove scenes of the brutality of the gods showing them in compromising situations. Athena quickly became angered, looking for fault in the girl's work she found none. Athena  grew angry and rose up hitting Arachne in the face with her tool. Upon being struck Arachne realized the magnitude of her arrogance and hung her self.

Upon seeing the death of the girl Athena became saddened and decided that the girl should continue to weave as should her descendants for all time. She sprinkled her with a magic potion  and transformed her into a spider.. and till this day we can find her descendants spinning their magnificent webs throughout world. 


Other Greek Myths:

  Creation Myths:

  Other Myths:

  • Oedipus and the Sphinx Oedipus defeats the riddle of the Sphinx yet in the end meets a tragic fate!
  • The Naming of Athens Read about the contest of two gods of Olympus for the naming of the city of Athens.
  • Echo and Narcissus The story of the Nymph Echo, and unreturned love.
  • Persephone The beautiful daughter of Demeter, and how she became queen of the underworld.
  • King Midas and the Golden Touch King Midas and how all the riches of the world could not satisfy him, until his greediness became his curse.
  • Medusa the Gorgon Who was Medusa and her Gorgon sisters? Why were they so hideous? This is their story.
  • Pandora This is the little girl that the ancient Greeks believed released the plagues on our world.  How did she do it, and why?
  • Thesseus and the Minotaur How Thesseus became a great hero by removing the curse of the Minotaur.
  • The Flight of Icarus King Minos ruled the land and the sea how could Deadalus escape with his son?  Through the air! 
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