MINERVA—PALLAS ATHENAQues. Who was Minerva?
Ans. She was the goddess of wisdom and of war. She had no mother, but sprang full armed from the head of Jupiter.
Ques. How is Minerva represented?
Ans. As clothed in complete armor. She has a golden helmet on her head, holds a lance in her right hand, and her left rests upon a shield to which is affixed the head of Medusa. The cock and the owl are also represented on the shield.
Ques. Why was Minerva said to have sprung full armed from the head of Jupiter?
Ans. The poets signify by this, that wisdom comes direct from the deity.
Ques. Why is Minerva sometimes crowned with olive?
Ans. Because the olive is the emblem of peace, and war should only be made that a secure peace may follow; also because she bestowed the olive on men.
Ques. On what occasion did Minerva give the olive to men?
Ans. When Cecrops built a new city, Neptune and Minerva contended about its name; and it was resolved that whichever of the two deities should confer the most useful gift on man, might give a name to the city. Neptune struck the ground with his trident, and a horse appeared; but Minerva caused an olive to spring out of the earth. The latter was judged the more useful gift; and Minerva named the city, calling it Athe´na or Athens, after her own name in Greek.
Ques. What was the Palladium?
Ans. When the Trojans were building the temple and castle of Minerva in Troy, a statue of the goddess fell from heaven into the castle, which was still unroofed. The oracle of Apollo declared that Troy would be safe so long as this statue, called Palladium, from Pallas, a name of Minerva, remained within the walls. When the Greeks besieged Troy, they found that all their efforts to take the city were of no avail; they determined, therefore, to steal the Palladium. Ulysses and Diome´des crept into the city through the common sewers, and brought away the image. Troy was soon afterwards taken and destroyed. Minerva was a virgin, and was the patroness of modest and virtuous women.
Ques. Did Minerva excel only in the art of war?
Ans. No; she invented the distaff and spindle, and excelled in every branch of female industry. The fate of Arach´ne shows how much she prized her reputation for skill in embroidery.
Ques. Who was Arach´ne?
Ans. She was a maiden of Lydia, who had the presumption to challenge Minerva to a trial of skill in weaving. The goddess wrought into her work the most beautiful designs, but it would seem that Arach´ne’s performance surpassed hers: for Minerva, seeing it, was fired with envy, and struck the unhappy maiden on the face with her shuttle. Arach´ne could not endure this insult, and hung herself from a beam. Minerva immediately changed her into a spider, and permitted her to live only that she might weave unceasingly.
Ques. Why was the owl chosen as the bird of Minerva?
Ans. Because this bird sees in the dark; and wisdom distinguishes what is hidden from common eyes.
Ques. What is the story of Medu´sa’s head?
Ans. Medusa was one of three sisters, the daughters of Phorcus. These maidens were called Gorgons, and were all immortal, except Medu´sa. The latter was at one period distinguished for her personal beauty, and particularly for her flowing hair; but having offended Minerva, that goddess changed her locks into serpents, and rendered her appearance so frightful that all who beheld her were changed to stone. The hero Perseus undertook an expedition against the Gorgons, and as he saw the whole country around covered with figures of men and animals changed into stone by the sight of the monster, he was obliged to use great precaution to avoid the same misfortune. He looked, therefore, not at Medu´sa, but at her reflection in his polished shield, and when he perceived that she was asleep, Minerva guiding his sword, he struck off her head. Mercury had lent Perseus his wings, and as he flew over the Lybian desert bearing Medu´sa’s head, the blood fell upon the burning sands, and produced the serpents which have ever since infested that region. From the blood of Medu´sa, also, when her head was cut off, sprang the famous winged horse called Peg´asus. This wonderful steed flew to Mount Helicon, the residence of the Muses, where, by striking the earth with his foot, he produced the fountain Hippocre´ne. All who drank of its waters were inspired by the Muses with a poetic spirit. Perseus went through many other adventures in which Medu´sa’s head did him good service, by changing his enemies into stone. He afterwards gave the head to Minerva, who fixed it on her shield.
Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.
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It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915