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Extra resources for Athena (Gods and Heroes of the Ancient World)
It will consider how far back the cult can be traced though a study of the possible Mycenaean veneration of Athena. From this it will look at the eﬀect of the synoecism or uniﬁcation of Attica upon the meaning of the goddess for the Athenians, whereby Athena’s cult became the major cult of the whole state, giving Athena a centrality unique in the Greek world. Evidence for Athena becomes more plentiful in the sixth century, particularly around the time of the Peisistratid tyranny, under which Athena was celebrated as the patron goddess of the newly prosperous city.
THE SUCCESSION MYTH AND THE DEFEAT OF THE MOTHER Athena’s birth is often depicted as something that appears ex nihilo, a phenomenon without apparent precedents. In Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle (1976: 258), for example, it is used in relation to the novel’s heroine, to denote her sudden appearance on the literary THE BIRTH OF ATHENA 29 scene as the author of a critically-acclaimed work of poetry. But it also forms part of, and resolves, the story concerning how Zeus came to power: a story that begins in the earliest days of the cosmos.
But the majority of the sources present Athena’s birth in less frivolous terms, as a story with strong aetiological (‘explanatory’) components. As this chapter will consider, it explained key things about Athena including how she came to be born, what her relationship was to her father, and how she acquired certain of her characteristics and attributes. It also dealt with larger events concerning the development of the Olympian pantheon and Zeus’s emergence as the sovereign power in the universe.