[bust of Athena]

A Hymn to Athena

Apollonius Sophistes

Inspire me, Muse, and fill my mind with song,
So I may praise Athena, worshipped long
Ago, but not forgotten through the years
Of dark denial; the world's two hemispheres
Beseech the Bright-eyed Maid to grant Her grace
And let us gaze again upon the face
That urged the heroes long ago to strive
For noble deeds and glory still alive.

I sing how first Athena came to view,
A wondrous sight for Gods, and mortals too.
The story starts with Metis, Ocean's child
By Tethys, ancient Titans both, and wild
Primordial Gods. Resourceful Metis was
The wisest of the Gods - the Glorious
Producer of the drug that did unloose
From Kronos' cavernous maw Almighty Zeus.
She lay in love with Brontes `neath a bough,
An Ancient One who seeth from His brow,
A Cyclops skilled in Subterranean ways,
Who made for Zeus the lightning bolt ablaze.
A seed was formed that mixed both skill and thought,
And grew inside Her belly round and taut.
With dread heard Zeus of Metis' pregnancy,
Because He feared a grave catastrophe:
His blazing lightning bolt would lose the fight,
Defeated by a greater tool of light.
So Zeus the pregnant Goddess tried to woo,
And strove to plant His seed in Metis too.
She fled from Him by shifting form and shape,
First fish then fowl, and desperate to escape.
But finally Metis, though in form a goose,
Was mounted by a swan - almighty Zeus.
The Thunderer had mixed his seed of Will
With Metis' Council and with Brontes' Skill.
Because He craved Her council as His own,
With wiley words He won Her over; thrown
Inside His Belly, Metis was received
By Zeus, and thus Athena was conceived.
But when approached Athena's birthing time,
Arose She from His hips and climbed His spine,
Her presence filled His head; He roared in pain
As Insight from Athena stretched His brain.
Commanded He to cleave His brow apart
Hephaistos, Master of the Fiery Art.
The Holy Axe the Crippled Craftsman whirled;
A blast enlightened Zeus and shook the world,
While from His head Athena leaped, severe
In blazing bronze and brandishing a spear.
The Gods were routed by Her savage cry,
But then She laughed, a twinkle in Her eye,
And put aside Her helmet, shield and spear,
And so the Gods recovered from Their fear.
Delighted, each admired the full-grown maid;
Her eyes are large and owlish; none evade
The vision of the Maid of Many Plans,
The wisest counsel of th' Olympians.

Hephaistos, Fire's Master, asked a wage
As Zeus's midwife, wanting to assuage
His rage at Aphrodite, and His shame
When Hera dashed Him down and made Him lame.
The Father, hoping to restore His pride,
Agreed the Bright-eyed Maid would be His bride.
Athena, though a friend of men, abhored
The mother's life, and fled the Fire's Lord.
They flew across the ocean, land and air,
Until Hephaistos cornered Her, and there
He thrust His eager sword between Her thighs,
But swift She turned before He claimed His prize.
Although He sprayed His seed, He missed the mark,
And on Her belly fell His vital spark.
Outraged, with wool she wiped, to His chagrin,
The burning sap from off Her silky skin,
and let the kerchief fall on Mother Earth.
The Craftsman's fiery seed descended far
Within the womb of Gaia. Singular
The offspring: cryptic Erichthonius,
A Serpent-Man, in form ambiguous.
Enclosed within his crib the serpent slept,
For there Athena bade that he be kept
Unseen. When nurses looked and died of fright,
Athena raised him to the Heaven's height.
She bared Her breast and nursed the Serpent-Man,
But hid him from the Gods Olympian.
When he was grown She made him Athens' king,
Who makes his way on serpent legs; to bring
The worship of Athena was his test,
The first Panathenaea, his bequest!

And since that time whene'er we want to please
Her heart, we pray to Her in words like these:

"Athena, hear me, Aegis-bearing maid,
Thou daughter of the Mighty Father, aid
In every bold endeavor, standing by,
Companion on whose guidance I rely.
Thou knowest I've forfilled my every vow,
So please, I pray, be friendly to me now,
And hold thy hand above my works and give
Success on this and all the days I live."
So hail to Thee, Athena, Wisdom's child,
The source of thought and action reconciled,
The bright-eyed bringer of abundant wit,
Effective action's first prerequisite.
And hail to all the Goddesses of yore,
To all the ancient Gods that we adore!

Perhaps my song hath pleased thine ears; if so,
Thou might on me thy fruitful gifts bestow.


  1. Apollodorus III.xiv.6;
  2. Hesiod, Theogony 881-900, 924-929t;
  3. Homeric Hymn XXVIII;
  4. Hyginus, Fabulae CLXVI;
  5. Hyginus (attrib.), Poetica Astronomica II.13;
  6. Nonnos, Dionysiaca XIII.171-179.

The preceding is (c) 1993, by Apollonius Sophistes, but may be reproduced for nonprofit purposes, provided this notice is included.
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