A t h e n a, P r o
t e c t r e s s o f H e r o e s
Herself a warrior, Athena protects
the brave and valorous.
When Hercules, a victim of Hera's
hostility, undertook his arduous labors Athena stood at his side to help
and comfort him. It was she who gave him the brazen cymbals whose
sound frightened the birds of Lake Stymphalus. It was she who escorted
him when he brought Cerberus from the underworld. Finally it was
she who, after his death, welcomed him on the threshold of Olympus.
And so, when Hercules won the golden apples of the Hesperides. he offered
them in homage to this tutelary Goddess.
In the same way Athena also guided
Perseus on his expedition against the Gorgons. As the hero dared
not look into the terrifying face of the Medusa she guided his arm so that
he could strike the monster. In gratitude Perseus afterwards gave
Athena the Gorgon's head which she placed on her shield. Athena's
part in the adventures of Perseus was so active that certain traditions
say that she herself killed the Medusa by striking her during her sleep.
This theory gave rise to several legends; for instance, that the battle
between Athena and the Gorgon was the result of a beauty contest; and that
the Goddess gathered up the blood of her victim and made a gift of it either
to Asclepius or to Erichthonius - blood which had issued from the left
vein brought death, blood from the right vein restored life.
Athena was also kindly disposed towards
Bellerophon: she appeared to him in a dream and gave him a golden bridle,
thanks to which he was able to tame the horse Pegasus.
Finally she protected Ulysses successfully
against all the perils which assailed him on his return from Troy, and
in the guise of the sage Mentor she guided young Telemachus during his
efforts to find his father again.
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©1998-1999 Roy George