Pallas Athena was the champion of heroes and veterans, and the distinguished virgin-goddess of reasoning. She stood alongside Ares, her brother, the god of war, known for bloodlust and slaughter.  She was the daughter of Metis, the goddess of wisdom joined to Zeus, who attempted to foil the birth of the child.  Legend has various origins of Athena: as coming via Crete, or Plato indicates from the river Triton in Libya, both indicating an early Egyptian origins.  The city of Athens was built in her honour, and so called Athena Parthenos. Plato indicates that the word Athena may contain the idea of “the mind of god”, theou noesis; “This is she who has the mind better than others. Nor shall we be far wrong in supposing that the author of it wished to identify this Goddess with moral intelligence [en ethei noesin], and therefore gave her the name ethonoe” (1) A concept broadened by Justin Martyr: “”They said that Athena was the daughter of Zeus not from intercourse, but when the god had in mind the making of a world through a word (logos) his first thought was Athena” (2)

The image of the standing Athena in the following gallery has been used in the imagery of contemporary Europe. The features of Athena have been minted into a 10 Euro coin, and are seen within the figure on a pillar in front of the Austrian Parliament: http://maps.google.com.au/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=48.207977,16.359423&spn=0.001067,0.004281&t=h&z=19

But most definitive visible expression of Athena was Athens (or Athenae) a plural term defining all those who were the sisters of Athena, both as a term for those influenced by her, the inhabitants surrounding Athena and also a term of the geographical location of their dwellings. An ongoing battle for the site of Athens was conducted between Poseidon and Athena, similar to the struggle between Apollo and Poseidon over Conrinthos.

The height of the achievement of Athena was the conquering of the persian fleet under Xerxes at the battle of Salamis in september 480BC. Salamis is an island in the Saronic gulf separated from Athens by a small body of water.

It was to this city that Paul came, alone, agitated that the whole city was given over to idolatry, given over to hearing some new thing, given over to superstition Acts 17:16,22 Paul uses the origins of Athena as part of his argument: “we are his (Zeus) offspring” Acts 17:28 quoting one of the poets. Argument now is what Hero you want: a dead graven statue or a real resurrected life imparting hero Acts 17:30,31

THINGS TO SEE AT ATHENS

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ref: (1) Plato Cratylus 407b  (2) Justin, Apology 64.5. quoted in Robert McQueen Grant, Gods and the One God, vol 1 :155

Additional images and information about the Agora and ancient Athens see: http://www.stoa.org/athens/ and excellent VR images at http://www.agathe.gr/guide/

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