She’s an armor-clad warrior goddess of Greek myth, and yet her name is nicely feminine.
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Athena as Name of the Day.
Among the pantheon of Greek gods, Athena is one of the most ancient. Legend has it that she’s the daughter of Zeus and Metis, the goddess of knowledge. A prophecy foretold that their offspring would rival Zeus himself. So the king of the gods swallowed his lover whole.
Too bad Metis was already with child.
That’s why Athena sprung, fully formed, from Zeus’ head. Other accounts have another god smashing open Dad’s cranium with an axe.
But instead of her father’s rival, Athena became his favorite – the only other god to wield the thunderbolt. From her earliest days, she was goddess of war. Instead of carnage and bloodshed, Athena was renowned for strategy and cunning. As the rise of Athens and Classical Greece elevated philosophy, Athena evolved, with emphasis placed on her general wisdom, rather than her tactical know-how alone.
Speaking of Athens, she bested Poseidon to become the patron of Athens. She appears in plenty of myths, giving the assist to heroes like Odysseus, Jason, Heracles and Perseus. The goddess had her moments, though – she quarreled with Arachne over her spinning skills and was responsible for Medusa’s snaky hairdo and stony gaze.
While there have been plenty of guesses, the origins of Athena’s name are lost to time. But it would be fair to say that today her name implies wisdom. Like her Roman counterpart, Minerva, she’s popular as a symbol in the military and higher education.
Unlike Minerva, she’s actually in use as a given name in the US today. And she might owe her launch to a quirky movie from 1954.
Athena was a musical, a sort of 1950s Dharma and Greg. Jane Powell played Athena Mulvain, a girl from a wildly unconventional family who falls in love with a buttoned-down lawyer. (Other family members are called Salome, Niobe, Aphrodite, Calliope, Medea and Ceres.)
Up until 1954, Athena had never charted in the US. But she debuted in 1955, and has ranked most years through the present. She’s steadily climbed to #444 in 2007, her highest rank yet.
Parents today probably won’t recall the film, but there are a few other references:
- The Who and David Bowie have both recorded songs by the title;
- Aristotle Onassis’ granddaughter is named Athina;
- Several owls are part of the genus Athene. The owl was a traditional symbol of the goddess;
- Characters in Battlestar Galactica and Stargate SG-1 have worn the name.
Overall, Athena offers a nice compromise. She’s brainy without being a bluestocking; she’s strong but her -a ending keeps her undeniably feminine. And while she’s at her most popular ever, at a mere #444, you still won’t meet many wearing the name.