Horse and olive tree: the myth of their creation


Athena and Poseidon
Louvre Museum, Paris (France)

It all began when aZeus, at that time spouse ofMetis, was foretold byGaeaand fromUranus that one day Metis would give birth to two children, the second of which would dethrone him. Zeus, frightened by that prophecy and since Metis was pregnant with their first child, decided not to take any chances and swallowed her.

Athena of Justinian
Roman copy of a Greek statue of Pallas Athena, Vatican Museums (Italy)

Time went by calmly for Zeus who had also forgotten the end he had made his wife do. But one day he began to be attacked by very violent pains in the head. Unable to bear them he askedHephaestusto hit him in the head with his hammer. Hephaestus refused to carry out the order as he did not understand what was happening but given the screams and insistence of Zeus he finally hit him violently in the head. At the very moment when his hammer touched the head of Zeus Olympus trembled, the lightning shattered the sky and from his skull came out a dense cloud in which was a creature, dressed in shining armor, who held on his right a javelin: was born Athena(or Athena), the warrior goddess who would be opposed toArespersonification of brutal and violent warfare.

The mythographers gave a naturalistic conception to his birth and saw in Athena the personification of the lightning that scatters the clouds and brings back the serene (hence his epithet of Glaucopis, that is, with sparkling eyes).

Athena soon manifested her exceptional gifts not only as a warrior but also as a wise and shrewd woman. In fact, she soon became the goddess of reason, the arts, literature, philosophy, commerce and industry. She was the personification of wisdom and wisdom in all known fields of science and also taught women to weave, dye and embroider (in this regard see the Myth of Arachne).

With the passage of time Athena asked her father that a region of the earth be consecrated to her that could honor her. However, for some time alreadyPoseidonhe was waiting for Zeus to assign him a region and it was thus that a violent dispute arose between the two deities for dominion over Attica.

Bronze statue, National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Greece

Zeus, since he did not know what to do, then decided to proclaim one challenge between Poseidon and Athena: who between the two had given the city the most useful gift, would have had the supremacy e Cecrops (1) was placed as arbiter of the dispute.When the challenge began in the presence of all the gods, Poseidon touched the earth with his trident and brought out a new creature that had never before been seen, the horse which from that moment populated all the regions of the earth and became a great help for the life of man.

Athena, for her part, struck the ground with her magical javelin and as a result of this a olive tree.

Cercrope, decided that Athena was the winner and from that day the capital of Attica was called Athens in honor of the goddess. From that moment on, life began to flow smoothly in Attica and Athena taught her people the sciences and the arts.

Dr. Maria Giovanna Davoli

(1) Cecrops was the son of Gaea who arrived in Greece from Egypt, his native land, where he founded the city that would later be called Athens and of which he was king.

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