Minerva, called by the Greeks Athena, Pallas, or Pallas Athene, in mythology, one of the principal Olympian divinities. She was one of the most ancient religious conceptions of the Greeks. Jupiter, after a victory over the Titans, chose for his first spouse the goddess Metis; but an oracle having declared that the son of Metis would snatch the supremacy away from his father, Jupiter swallowed both Metis and her unborn child. When the time of birth arrived, Jupiter felt a violent pain in his head, and in his agony requested Vulcan to cleave the head open with an axe; whereupon Minerva sprang forth, according to the later accounts, in full armor, and with a mighty war shout. She first took part in the discussions of the gods as an opponent of the savage Mars. She gave counsel to her father against the giants, and herself slew Pallas and Ence-ladus, the latter of whom she buried under Mt. Etna, She was the patron of heroism among men, and aided the Greeks in the Trojan war. As a protectress of the arts of peace, she appears as a maiden, in many respects resembling a princely daughter of the early heroic period. She bears in her hand the spool, the spindle, and the needle, and is said to have invented and excelled in every kind of Avork proper to women.
The agriculturist and the mechanic were also under her care, and the philosopher, the orator, and the poet delighted in her protection. In all these employments she is the symbol of thought, the goddess of wisdom; and as such she was worshipped throughout Greece, and under the name of Minerva she was adopted by the Romans. She was especially the national divinity of the Athenians, having in the reign of Cecrops contended with Neptune for the land, which she planted with the olive. On the Acropolis of Athens stood the magnificent temple of the Parthenon, dedicated to her, and containing her statue by Phidias; and the sacred festival of the Panathemea was celebrated with great splendor in her honor. In the representations of art, as in the events of her life, she remains the goddess of pure reason, raised above every feminine weakness, and disdaining love. The helmet, buckler, lance, and aegis were her attributes; and the olive branch, serpent, and owl were sacred to her. In the ancient traditions she was represented as clothed usually in a sleeveless tunic, over which she threw a cloak, or folding peplus.