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Athena (əthēˈnə), or Pallas Athena (pălˈəs), in Greek religion and mythology, one of the most important Olympian deities. According to myth, after Zeus seduced Metis he learned that any son she bore would overthrow him, so he swallowed her alive. Later Hephaestus split Zeus' skull with an ax, and out sprang Athena, fully armed. Athena was a deity of diverse functions and attributes. Her most conspicuous role was perhaps that of a goddess of war, the female counterpart of Ares. However, she was also a goddess of peace, noted for her compassion and generosity. Like Minerva, with whom the Romans identified her, she was a patron of the arts and crafts, especially spinning and weaving. In later times she was important as a goddess of wisdom. Athena was also a guardian of cities, notably Athens, where the Parthenon was erected as her temple. In a contest with Poseidon concerning dominion over Attica, Athena made an olive tree grow on the Acropolis while Poseidon caused a saltwater stream to gush from the Acropolis. The other Olympians, asked to judge the contest, decided in favor of Athena. Her statue, the Palladium, was supposed to protect the city that possessed it. It was said that because she accidentally killed Pallas she set the name Pallas before her own. Although a virgin goddess, she was concerned with fertility, and at Athens and Elis her worship was notably maternal. Athena is represented in art as a stately figure, armored, and wielding the aegis. Her most important festival was the Panathenaea, which was celebrated annually at Athens. It included athletic and musical contests, poetic recitations, and sacrifices. At the end of the festivities a grand procession carried a richly embroidered peplos to the Acropolis as a present to Athena.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ancient Greek festival in honor of the goddess Athena, celebrated annually during the month of Heka-tombaion (late July and early August). It began as a local Athenian festival in prehistoric times but was changed into a festival for all Attica by the legendary king Theseus in approximately the 13th century B.C., according to classical tradition. From the time of Pisistratus (sixth century B.C.), the Pana-thenaea consisted of the main rite, a competition between rhapsodic singers, and musical, gymnastic, and equestrian contests. The main rite comprised a procession to the Acropolis, a sacrifice called a hecatomb, and the clothing of the statue of Athena with a garment called a peplos. Only the Greater Panathenaea, celebrated every four years, included the main rite, however; the rite was not part of the annual Lesser Panathenaea. The winners of the various competitions were awarded garlands of leaves from the sacred olive tree and amphorae with oil.


Deubner, L. Attische Feste. Berlin, 1932.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


July or August
Panathenaea is the most important of the ancient Greek festivals, celebrated in Athens in honor of Athena, the patron goddess of that city. The lesser festival was held every year, and the Great Panathenaea every fourth year much more elaborately. The date was the 28th of the Attic month of Hecatombaeon (July or August).
In the yearly celebrations, there were musical and athletic contests, animal sacrifices, and a procession. The procession of the Great Panathenaea was an especially grand affair and is pictured on a frieze of the Parthenon. The peplus, a garment with an embroidered depiction of the battle of the gods and the giants, was rigged like a sail on a ship with wheels and carried through the city to the Acropolis. The procession included priests leading a train of animals that would be sacrificed, maidens carrying sacrificial implements, warriors, old men with olive branches, and horses. The festival ended with the sacrifice of oxen and a banquet.
ClassDict-1984, p. 440
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 88
NewCentClassHandbk-1962, p. 809
OxClassDict-1970, p. 774
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
This was certainly the purpose of the two great festivals which he founded and developed, the Panathenaea and the Greater or City Dionysia."(17) It was at Dionysia that tragedy was institutionalized and given a basis within the body of Athenian political life.(18) It would be misleading to see the official position of the theatre as a bureaucratic imposition, for it was accepted as a civic duty.
(In Athens "laundress" was an honorific title.) For Athens's annual festival, the Panathenaea, girls from the best families were elected by the assembly to weave a new robe for the goddess Athena and to carry the sacred objects in the long procession from the marketplace to her temple on the Acropolis.
He either instituted or significantly altered the festival called the Greater Panathenaea, at which he introduced contests of bards.