Teaching Students About Myths Surrounding Athena: An Educational Exploration of Greek Mythology
Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, strategy, and warfare, has fascinated people for centuries. As educators, it’s our responsibility to not only teach mythology to our students but also to dispel any misconceptions they may have. This article will explore some of the most common myths about Athena and propose ways educators can engage in teaching these myths.
Myth: Athena was always portrayed as a fierce warrior.
Contrary to popular belief, Athena was not always depicted as a belligerent goddess wielding a spear and shield. Rather, she was also the goddess of wisdom and crafts. Educators can present her dual nature by discussing her role as the inventor of many things we use today like the bridle, plow, and even the first ships.
Myth: Athena only helped male heroes.
While Athena is known for sponsoring heroes like Odysseus and Heracles (Hercules), she also assisted several prominent female figures in Greek mythology. For example, Athena turned Arachne into a spider by challenging her in a weaving contest but imparted special skills in doing so. Teachers can discuss her support for women to achieve excellence within their respective fields while addressing gender equality today.
Myth: Athena was born out of Zeus’ skull fully grown and armored.
This incredible birth story is likely the one most associated with Athena; however, it’s essential to note that she had at least three different origin stories within ancient Greek texts. Teachers can examine these various narratives alongside each other over time to highlight how societies shape their beliefs based on their surrounding cultural context.
Myth: Athena favored Prometheus over Zeus’ wishes.
Although it might seem likely given that both were gods of wisdom and insight, this is not true per mythological accounts. Instead, Prometheus sought to trick Zeus, and Athena didn’t support his actions. Educators can encourage students to question assumptions and use the character study of Athena to identify her values, despite having limited knowledge about her.
Myth: Athena and Medusa were eternal enemies.
In this popular myth, Athena turned Medusa into a Gorgon for either being vain or desecrating sacred space. However, this was not always the case in ancient stories. Some depicted the transformation as an act of protection rather than punishment. Teachers can delve further into the symbology and character motivations within these myths to foster critical thinking and analysis.