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Athena, one of the most important goddesses in Greek mythology. In Roman mythology she became identified with the goddess Minerva. Also known as Pallas Athena. Athena sprang full-grown and armored from the forehead of the god Zeus and was his favorite child. He entrusted her with his shield, adorned with the hideous head of Medusa the Gorgon, his buckler, and his principal weapon, the thunderbolt. A virgin goddess, she was called Parthenos ("the maiden"). Her major temple, the Parthenon, was in Athens, which, according to legend, became hers as a result of her gift of the olive tree to the Athenian people.

Athena was primarily the goddess of the Greek cities, of industry and the arts, and, in later mythology, of wisdom; she was also goddess of war. Athena was the strongest supporter, among the gods, of the Greek side in the Trojan War. After the fall of Troy, however, the Greeks failed to respect the sanctity of an altar to Athena at which the Trojan prophet Cassandra sought shelter. As punishment, storms sent by the god of the sea, Poseidon, at Athena's request destroyed most of the Greek ships returning from Troy.

Athena was also a patron of the agricultural arts and of the crafts of women, especially spinning and weaving. Among her gifts to man were the inventions of the plow and the flute and the arts of taming animals, building ships, and making shoes. She was often associated with birds, especially the owl....

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