Athena was among the most widely worshipped of the ancient Greek deities. Chiefly associated with Athens, she was also venerated throughout the cities and regions of the Greek world where her main role was the guardian of the polis, the principal organisation unit of Greek life. She plays a part in many of the most important myths, including the story of the Olympian succession and the Trojan War. Her role as the patron of heroes, including Herakles, Perseus and Bellerophon, makes her central to numerous hero myths. With her distinctive appearance – armed yet wearing a dress – she remains one of the most intriguing of the gods, who, while the epitome of the strong woman, was the patron of male institutions and friend to patriarchy.
Her connections with political institutions and notable heroes have ensured her continued popularity since antiquity. Myths connected with Athena have provided inspiration for numerous thinkers, artists and poets, notably the intriguing story of her birth out of the father’s head. With her curious gendered identity, she has been variously denounced as a servant of patriarchy and hailed as a symbol of female achievement. Athena explores principal aspects of the goddess as she was worshipped and represented in the ancient Greek world while taking account of the postclassical transformation of her image. It also highlights the impact of academic and ‘popular’ trends upon the understanding of the goddess in order to provide an indispensable account of a major ancient deity.