A t h e n a ' s S u
r n a m e s
Like all our other great deities,
Athena had numerous surnames, some of which expressed particular qualities
of the Goddess whilst others summarized whole stories concerning her.
People even began to call her "Pronoia",
"Providence": but this must have happened later than the time at which
the surnames I shall now list were commonly accepted.
Athena's name of Aglaurus indicated
a darker, tragic, Persephone-like aspect of the Goddess. When called Pandrosus,
like that other daughter of Cecrops, she displayed herself under another,
bright aspect, which was associated with the olive. A sacred olive grew
on the Acropolis, in the Temple
Selene, the name of the moon-Goddess,
was never one of Athena's surnames, any more than Metis was. But students
of our ancient times - including, it is said, Aristotle himself - have
stated that disguised beneath the name of Athena was, in fact, the moon.
The Goddess Selene also had a father named Pallas - according, at least,
to one account, which deviates from that given by Hesiod; but Athena differs
from the bright Selene in having various aspects, as sharply contrasted
as full moon and darkness.
She was also Gorgopis, "the Gorgon-faced",
and bore the Gorgon's countenance upon her breast. But she was further
called Hellotis, like Europa, "the broad-faced" - an expression that is
associated with the name Selene.
The poetical epithet for Athena, glaukopis,
was more of a play upon words: it can be translated as "owl-eyed", but
it can also refer to the sea-green or olive-green color of the Goddess's
The surname Tritogeneia did not originally
mean that she came into the world on the banks of any particular river
or lake, but that she was born of the water itself; for the name Triton
seems to be associated with water generally.
Under the surname Aithyia she was
a sea-bird: the grey puffin or shearwater, also known as the sea-crow.
It was told that in this form she took under her wings the serpent-shaped
primordial man Cecrops and carried him from Athens to Megara.
As Hephaestia she was associated with
Hephaestus, and as Areia with the war-God Ares. As Ergane, Goddess of handicrafts,
she came close to the former of these Gods, and as Alalcomene, "the Parrier",
she came close to the latter. Of all the handicrafts she most loved and
protected the art of smiths and metal-founders, likewise the women's crafts-spinning
and weaving and woolwork.
She was also surnamed Hygieia and,
in this quality, accompanied by a son of Apollo, Asclepius.
Of all our Goddesses Athena was eminently
the protecting Goddess of a city, with such surnames as Polias or Poliouchos,
and the protectress of heroes - but not of all heroes: she had her own
especial protégés, such as Perseus, slayer of the Gorgon,
Diomedes and Tydeus, the wild son and still wilder father, and the wise
She also had priestesses bearing names
that might have been used to describe herself: names such a Tritaia, a
shorter form of Tritogeneia; Auge, "the lustrous"; or Aithra, "the bright".
These priestesses bore heroes: Tritaia bore Melanippos, "the black stallion",
to Ares; Auge bore Telephos, "the far-shining", to Hercules; and Aithra
bore Theseus to Poseidon.
All these stories lead over into heroic
saga-like that oft-told story of Perseus, upon whose mother, Danae, Zeus
notoriously descended in the form of a rain of gold. The inhabitants of
the island of Rhodes told that something similar happened at the birth
of Athena: when the Goddess sprang from her father's head, he let fall
a golden rain.
Except from The Gods of the Greeks
by C. Kerenyi
||of the Market-place
||On their market-place the Spartans had a sanctuary of Athena Agoraias (Athena of the Market-place).
||of Aiantis (Ajax)
||On Megara in Attica there was built a temple of Athena Aiantidos (Athena of Ajax), for Ajax who made the statue of Athena.
||of the Diver-bird
||On the coast of the Megarians, in Attica, was the tomb of Pandion, on the rock called the rock of Athena Aithuias (Athena of the Gannet). Epithet of Athena as protecting ships.
||Alea was a city of Arcadia, now belongs to Argolis, with a sanctuary of Athena Aleas (Athena of Alea). Aepytus Aleus built another sanctuary of Athena Aleas in Tegea, Arcadia. This sanctuary had been respected from early days by all the Peloponnesians, and afforded peculiar safety to its suppliants.
||Paus. 8.23.1, Paus. 3.5.6, Paus. 8.4.8
||Not far from Carneus in Laconia there was an altar of Zeus Ambouliou (of Counsel) and of Athena Amboulias (Athena of Counsel).
||of the Winds
||In Mothone, Messenia, was a temple of Athena Anemotidos (Athena of the Winds), with a statue dedicated by Diomede, who gave the goddess her name. Epithet of Athena as she that stills the wind.
||of the Apatouria
||Aethra set up at an island near Corinth a temple of Athena Apatourias. She also established a custom for the Troezenian maidens of dedicating their girdles before wedlock to Athena Apatourias (Athena of the feast Apaturia).
||At Athens there is the Hill of Ares, so named because Ares was the first to be tried here. Afterwards, Orestes was tried for killing his mother, and there was an altar to Athena Areias (Athena of Combat), which he dedicated on being acquitted. The Plataeans also had a sanctuary of Athena surnamed Areias; it was built from the spoils given them by the Athenians as their share from the battle of Marathon.
||Paus. 1.28.5, Paus. 9.4.1
||Among the ruins of Las in Laconia there was a temple of Athena named Asias, made by Polydeuces and Castor on their return home from Colchis; for the Colchians had a shrine of Athena Asias (Athena of Asia).
||of Just Requital
||At Sparta there was a sanctuary of Athena called Axiopoinou (Athena of Just Requital). For when Hercules, in avenging himself on Hippocoon and his sons, had inflicted upon them a just requital for their treatment of his relative, he founded a sanctuary of Athena, and surnamed her Axiopoinou because the ancients used to call vengeance poinai.
||In Corinth, near the theater, there was the temple of Athena Chalinitidos (Athena of Bridling). For Athena was the divinity who gave most help to Bellerophontes, and she delivered to him Pegasus, having herself broken in and bridled him.
||Paus. 2.4.1, 5
||of the Bronze House
||On Sparta was built a sanctuary of Athena, who was called both Poliouchou (Athena of Protecting the City) and Chalkioikou (Athena of the Bronze House). The Lacedaemonians made of bronze both the temple and the image of Athena.
||Paus. 3.17.2, 5, 6, 7, Paus. 4.15.5
||The Athenians were the first to surname Athena Erganes (Athena of Work). At Sparta there was a sanctuary of Athena; her surname was Erganes. At Olympia there was an altar to Athena of Work. At Megapolis there was an image of Athena Ergane (Athena the Worker).
||Paus. 1.24.3, Paus. 3.17.4, Paus. 8.32.4
||The image of Athena present at Tegea was brought from the parish of Manthurenses, and among them it had the surname of Hippia (Horse Goddess). According to their account, when the battle of the gods and giants took place the goddess drove the chariot and horses against Enceladus.
||In Athens there was a place called the Hill of Horses, the first point in Attica that Oedipus reached, and an altar to Poseidon Hippiou (Poseidon of Horses), and to Athena Hippias (Athena of Horses). At Altis there was also an altar to Athena Hippias.
||Paus. 1.30.4, Paus. 5.15.6
||Thyrides in Laconia, a headland of Taenarum, with the ruins of a city Hippola; among them was a sanctuary of Athena Hippolaitidos (Hippolaitis).
||At the very entrance to the Acropolis, in Athens, there was a figure of Athena, surnamed Hugeias (Athena of Health). Also, there was a parish in Attica called Acharnae where there was an altar of Athena Hugeias.
||Paus. 1.23.4, Paus. 1.31.6
||Iton was a town in the south of Phthiotis in Thessaly. Here the goddess had a celebrated sanctuary, and hence is called by the Roman poets incola Itoni. There was also a sanctuary of Athena Itonias (Athena of Iton) between Pherae and Larisa in Thessaly. There was also another sanctuary of Athena Itonias before reaching Coroneia from Alalcomenae in Boeotia. According to Pausanias it was named after Itoniou (Itonius) the son of Amphictyon. In this temple there was bronze images of Athena Itonias and Zeus; the artist was Agoracritus, pupil and loved one of Pheidias.
||Itonia, Paus. 1.13.2, Paus. 9.34.1
||At Sparta there was a sanctuary of Athena. Ulysses is said to have set up the image and to have named it Keleutheias (Athena of Paths), when he had beaten the suitors of Penelope in the foot-race. Of Keleutheias he set up sanctuaries, three in number, at some distance from each other.
||The Athena on the citadel of Epidaurus, a wooden image worth seeing, they surnamed Kissaian (Athena of Cissaea).
||Cleitor on Arcadia had built upon a mountain-top, thirty stades away from the city, a temple of Athena Korias (Athena of Coria) with an image of the goddess.
||On Messenia, Pylos lies on the promontory of Koruphasion (Coryphasium) and contained a sanctuary of Athena with the title Koruphasias (Athena of Coryphasium).
||About twenty stades away from Elateia, the largest city in Phocis, was a sanctuary of Athena surnamed Kranaias (Athena of Cranaea). The road to it slopes upwards, but so gentle is the ascent that it causes no fatigue. At the end of the road is a hill which is neither very large nor very high. On this hill the sanctuary has been built, with porticoes and dwellings through them, where lived those whose duty it was to wait on the god, chief of whom was the priest.
||On Elis, in the district of Pisa is a hill rising to a sharp peak, on which are the ruins of the city of Phrixa, as well as a temple of Athena surnamed Kudonias (Athena of Cydonia, in Crete).
||There was a shrine of Apollo in Kuparissia (Cyparissia) (Starb. 8.4.2), Messenia, and of Athena with the title Kuparissias (Athena of Kuparissia). On the citadel of Asopus, in Laconia, was a sanctuary of Athena, surnamed Kuparissias.
||Paus. 4.36.7, Paus. 3.22.9
||Larissa was a city of Thessaly beside the sea. The boundary between Achaia and Elis is the river Larisus, and by the river was a temple of Athena Larisaias (Athena of Larissa).
||Larissa, Paus. 7.17.5
||At Olympia there was an altar to Athena Leitidi (Athena for Booty).
||Paus. 5.14.5, Il.10.460
||On the Acropolis of Athens there was two offerings, a statue of Pericles, the son of Xanthippus, and the best worth seeing of the works of Pheidias, the statue of Athena called Lemnias (Athena of Lemnos) after those who dedicated it.
||Passing through the gate at Megalopolis and proceeding by the side of the river Helisson towards Maenalus, there was a sanctuary of Athena surnamed Machanitidos (Athena of Contrive), because the goddess is the inventor of plans and devices of all sorts.
||The women of Elis seeing that their land had been deprived of its vigorous manhood, prayed to Athena that they might conceive at their first union with their husbands. Their prayer was answered, and they set up a sanctuary of Athena surnamed Metros (Athena of Mothers).
||Physcoa came from Elis in the Hollow and mated with Dionysus, and bore him a son called Narkaios (Narcaeus). When he grew up he made war against the neighboring folk, and rose to great power, setting up moreover a sanctuary of Athena surnamed Narkaias (Athena of Narkaios).
||Athena was styled Nike as giving victory, and the Nike Apteros or Wingless Victory, to whom the famous temple at Athens was built, was Athena, she being thus distinguished from Nike proper, who was conventionally represented with wings. Also, the Megarians had a sanctuary of Athena Nikes (Athena of Victory).
||Nike, Paus. 1.22.4, Paus. 1.42.4
||Phoenician name of Athena
||At Thebes there was in the open an altar and an image of Athena, said to have been dedicated by Cadmus. Those who think that the Cadmus who came to the Theban land was an Egyptian, and not a Phoenician, have their opinion contradicted by the name of this Athena, because she is called by the Phoenician name of Onga (Athena Onga), and not by the Egyptian name of Sais (Athena Sais).
||Onga, Paus. 9.12.2
||At Sparta, near the Alpium was a temple of Athena Ophthalmitidos (Ophthalmitis). They say that Lycurgus dedicated it when one of his eyes had been struck out by Alcander, because the laws he had made happened not to find favor with Alcander. Having fled to this place he was saved by the Lacedaemonians from losing his remaining eye, and so he made this temple of Athena Ophthalmitidos (Athena of Eyes, or maybe Athena of Eye Troubles).
|The citadel of Larisa, at Argos, had the sanctuaries of Apollo Deiradiotes and Athena Oxuderkous (Athena of Sharp-sightedness), dedicated by Diomedes, because once when he was fighting at Troy the goddess removed the mist from his eyes.
||Near the gate to the Cerameicus, in Athens, there was an image of Athena Paionias (Athena of Medicine)
||of All Achaea
||Patrae was a town of Achaia, and one of the twelve Achaean cities. On the acropolis of Patrae was a sanctuary of Artemis Laphria. Within the precincts of Laphria was a temple of Athena surnamed Panachaidos (Athena of All Achaea). The image was of ivory and gold.
||Capanean, of Kapaneus (Capaneus)
||On Corinth, in the gymnasium of Cylarabes there was an Athena called Pania.
||On the road from Sparta to Arcadia there was in the open an image of Athena surnamed Pareias (Snake Goddess). Pareias was a reddish-brown snake, sacred to Asclepius.
||The new temple built for Athena Parthenos (Athena the Maiden) on the acropolis of Athens became known as the Parthenon, meaning The House of the Maiden, from the Greek word for a maiden, parthenos.
||Paus. 1.24.5, Paus. 5.11.10
||of the City
||Polias, Poliados, Poliatidos, Poliuchus or Poliouchos (Protectress of the City) was a surname of Athena in many Greek cities, but particularly on the Acropolis of Athens.
||Polias, Paus. 1.27.1
||Guardian of the Anchorage
||On a mountain, projecting into the sea from the Peloponnesus, called Buporthmus has been built a sanctuary of Athena, surnamed Promachorma (Athena Guardian of the Anchorage).
||of the Fore-temple
||At Thebes there was a hill sacred to Apollo. First at the entrance was Athena and Hermes, stone figures and named Pronai (of the Fore-temple). The Hermes is said to have been made by Pheidias, the Athena by Scopas. The temple of Apollo was built behind.
||Pronaos, Paus. 9.10.2
||When you enter Delphi you see the temple of Athena Pronoias (Athena of Forethought). Of its two images the one in the fore-temple was larger than the one inside the temple. This name of Athena, which is guaranteed by the context in D., Aristid., Jul., Macr. Il. cc., seems to have been a distortion of the name Pronaia.
||Egyptian name of Athena
||Sais was a city on the Delta of the Nile in Egypt. The intercourse between Sais and Athens especially was promoted by their worshipping the same deity - Neith and Athena - and hence there sprung up the opinion that Cecrops the Saite led a colony to Athens. The Greeks identified Neith with Athena (Athena Sais), probably because of her warlike aspect.
||Sais, Paus. 9.12.2
||Upon the top of the mountain Pontinus, near Lerna in Argolis, was a sanctuary of Athena Saitidos (Athena of Sais). The name was traced by the Greeks to the Egyptians, among whom Athena was said to have been called Sais.
||Saitis, Paus. 2.36.8
||of the War-trumpet
||At Argos, near the market-place, was a sanctuary of Athena Salpingos (Athena of the War-trumpet) founded by Hegeleos. This Hegeleos taught the Dorians how to play the instrument, and for this reason gave Athena the surname Salpingos.
||Skiras was the old name of Salamis. The Athenians had a harbor at Munychia (Phalerum), with a temple of Athena Skirados (Athena of Skiras). Athena had the title of Skirados in Salamis (Hdt. 8.94), in Phalerum (Str. l.c., Paus. 1.1.4, Paus. 1.36.4) and at Skiron (Poll. 9.96).
||Lycurgus talks about «Looking back at the Acropolis in Athens and the temple of Zeus Soteros (Zeus the Savior) and Athena Soteiras (Athena the Savior)». Also, from Asea in Arcadia is an ascent up Mount Boreius, and on the top of the mountain are traces of a sanctuary built in honor of Athena Soteirai (Athena the Savior) and Poseidon by Ulysses after his return from Troy.
||Lycurg.17, Paus. 8.44.4
||On the Greek mainland facing the Cyclades Islands and the Aegean Sea the Sounion promontory stands out from the Attic land. After surrounding the promontory you could see a harbor and a temple to Athena Souniados (Athena of Sounion) on the peak of the promontory.
||On the citadel of Troezen there was a temple of Athena, called Stheniados (Athena of Strength). The wooden image itself of the goddess was made by Callon, of Aegina.
||In Teumessus, Boeotia, there was a sanctuary of Athena Telchinias (Athena of Telchin), which contained no image. As to her surname, we may hazard the conjecture that a division of the Telchinians who once dwelt in Cyprus came to Boeotia and established a sanctuary of Athena Telchinias.
||Telchin, Paus. 1.19.1
||The Attic deme of Phlya had an altar to Athena Tithrones. H. Petersmann makes a sound linguistic argument connecting this adjective with the verb thrôiskô, which means "to jump," but as is well attested, may also have the sense of "to impregnate, to fertilize."
||Tithrone, Paus. 1.31.4
||of the Triton
||On the acropolis of Pheneus in Arcadia was a temple of Athena surnamed Tritonias. Triton was a river at the source of which Athena was said to have been born (Paus. 8.26.6). The brook Triton near Alalcomenae in Boeotia has the best pretensions to that distinction (Triton).
||Triton, Paus. 1.31.4
||The Spartans had a sanctuary of Zeus Xenios (Zeus Hospitable) and Athena Xenia (Athena Hospitable).
||At Thebes there was two stone images of Athena, surnamed Zosterias (Athena of Girder), said to have been dedicated by Amphitryon. Epithet of Athena as girded (prepared) for battle.
James H. Dee, The Epithetic Phrases for the Homeric Gods: A Repertory
of the Descriptive Expressions for the Divinities of the Iliad and the
Odyssey. New York: Garland, 1994. ISBN 0-8153-1727-1.
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©1998-2005 Roy George