Posienden vs Athena

Athens, one of the chief city-states of all of ancient Greece, was a city greatly desired by two powerful deities: Athena and Poseidon. The myth that shows how this dispute was settled is depicted in many ways. This story can vary depending on which depiction is being observed. There are slight discrepancies between the Greek version of this myth, the Roman version, and the sculpture shown on the Parthenon in Athens. With close scrutiny of this myth, it is clear that culture, time period, and genre all are reasons for this myths disparity.

This myth starts with a king named Crecrops, who is half man and half snake. He is the king of a flourishing unnamed city state in need of a patron god. He turns to Poseidon and Athena who both want to be the patron deity of this thriving city. Quickly a conflict arises between these two powerful gods. The first discrepancy between the Greek version of this myth (Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3 14. 1) and the Roman version of this myth (Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 70) is that when Athena and Poseidon are about to go to war over this conflict these two myths have a different deity suggesting an alternative course of action.

In the earlier Greek depictions of this myth Athena decides to hold a contest of who can contribute most to King Crecrops and his city-state. After they had given their gifts (an olive tree from Athena and a salt water spring from Poseidon; Poseidon’s spring that he created also serves as an aetion of how a specific river was created near Athens. The river or spring is named Erektheis) the king would decide the victor: the patron deity of his state. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, it is Jove who decides to hold a contest, and the judges of the contest are Olympian gods and goddesses.

One reason for this difference is that the learned Ovid is giving as much respect to Jove as he can. He was being very wary not to disrespect Jove in anyway, for he did not want to end up like Prometheus. “…With his limbs bound upon the hard rocks by galling fetters of bronze, Prometheus fed with his liver an eagle that ever rushed back to its prey. ” (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2. 1245-1247). This is a very common principle that came about more in the Roman era. In earlier Greek times, often times heroes would counteract their positive deeds by having hubris or excessive pride.

The idea of hubris is clearly shown many times in Homer’s Odyssey. A prime example of this is when Odysseus is escaping from the island that Polyphemus is on and he shouts back at him, bragging in a way, and ends up almost getting hit by a boulder thrown by Polyphemus and facing the wrath of Poseidon as his journey continues. On the sculpture on the west pediment of the Parthenon, Jove isn’t depicted at all. Some may say that this is an act of disrespect, but that is simply false. The Parthenon does show Jove in a sculpture of the birth of Athena on the east pediment of the building, which is actually the front of the building.

The fact is that the Parthenon was built to honor Athens’ patron goddess: Athena. The west pediment of the building is an aetion for how Athens got its name: Athena named it after herself after winning the contest. The sculpture, which was created long after this original myth was told, does not show the spring that Poseidon created most likely because sculpting that on the top of the Parthenon would be a very challenging task. Because of this, the sculpture looks more of a battle than a contest.

Another reason why a “battle” theme can be felt through this sculpture is because the Parthenon was built somewhere in between 447 and 438 B. C. E. The Parthenon embodied the triumph of the Greeks, especially the Athenians, over the Persians who had destroyed the acropolis earlier in 480 B. C. E. The time period in which a certain myth is written or a sculpture sculpted in can tell us a great deal about the themes behind each respective work. As written works are passed down through the ages, each time period will interpret the document in a different way, relating to their own lives and culture.

Poseidon takes losing the contest very harshly and acts drastically. In the Greek depiction of the contest between Athena and Poseidon, Poseidon, after coming up short in the competition, floods the Thriasian plain and drowns Attica under his salty sea in a fit of rage. “Athena created the olive tree, and the two divinities disputed, until the gods assigned Attica to Athena. Poseidon, indignant at this, caused the country to be inundated. ” (Herod. viii. 55; Apollod. iii. 14. § 1 ; Paus. i. 24. § 3, &c. ; Hygin. Fab. 164. In a different translation of the story, not only does Poseidon flood Attica, but he also puts a curse on the city so that it will be forever be in a drought after the flood. This, coming from a later Roman text, can be considered an etiology. It is not hard to believe that Attica, during a certain time period, had a drought. They used the aetion of Neptune cursing them for eternal drought to explain why this all was happening. Earlier time periods probably did not have problems with water so the aetion was not needed. They did not need to explain why they had water because it was a natural occurrence.

The genres of these works also have a great influence on how they are perceived. Ovid writes in a completely different genre then earlier writers such as Hesiod. Ovid’s Metamorphoses poke fun at, in a way, of epic poems. There is more of a sense of humor in Ovid’s works then that of Hesiod. The later depictions of this contest between Minerva and Neptune are slightly wittier then their earlier counterparts. Ovid, being the learned poet that he was, was sure to still have the ultimate level of respect for both of these gods; however, his other works such as Pygmalion (Ovid’s Metamorphoses, 10).

Ovid knew when it was acceptable to be witty in his writings, and when the utmost respect was required. Popular genre often shows the general moral of a group at a certain time. The sculpture of Minerva and Neptune seemingly showing battle ready gods was not a mistake. Greece and Athens especially, was celebrating an enormous victory over Persia. The Parthenon was built to honor Athena who contributed a great deal too Athenian triumphs. This sculpture could have been portrayed in a million different ways based on the sculptors’ mood, which was popular genre at that time.

Over changes in culture, time, and genre different aspects of different myths are subject to change. However, just because many myths vary does not mean that these myths have nothing in common. In fact, many different myths, Roman and Greek, have the same underling principles: principles that are sometimes over looked. It is obvious that Roman and Greek myths both honor gods and they both have the same aspects about the underworld, but what often times goes unrealized is that each myth regarding a particular god or goddess is connected.

As shown in the myth previously discussed, Athena and Poseidon were not playing for the same team so to speak. The tension between them is present in other works; however, it may sometimes be overlooked. One example of this tension is shown in Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, who is a Greek hero from the Trojan War, is a very cunning warrior much like Athena. She favors him and tries to help him in any way she can. Poseidon, on the other hand, despises Odysseus for blinding Polyphemus, and does all in his power to hinder Odysseus in his journey home. The journey back to his home town Ithaca takes Odysseus ten years.

After battling with monsters like Scylla and Charybdis, Odysseus finally returns home to find his kingdom in ruin. Athena is there to provide advice and assist him in the establishment of order back in his home town. Each myth is different in its own way and has something to contribute. Everything about a myth from its genre to the time it was written conveys differences about the culture of the people who created it. The disparities in Ovid’s description of the contest between Minerva and Neptune and the accounts from Apollodorus, Bibliotheca show a great difference in culture, time periods, and genre.

The sculpture on the Parthenon again communicates something different all together. With close scrutiny of the different aspects of a myth, it is unbelievable what can be discovered. There are unknown aetions waiting to be uncovered. Undiscovered connections between ancient heroes and gods ready to be made known. It is essential to dive into these myths and discover everything they have to tell us. Bibliography Frazer, J. G.. “NOTES ON BOOK 3 OF THE LIBRARY OF APOLLODORUS. ” http://www. theoi. com. Theoi E-Texts Library Copyright © 2000 – 2011, Aaron Atsma. Web. 17 Oct 2012. lt;http://www. theoi. com/Text/Ap3d. html;. Morford, Mark P. O. , Robert J. Lenardon, and Micheal Sham. Classical Mythology. Ninth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press Inc. , 2011. 177-180. Print. Anonymous, . “ATHENA MYTHS 1 . ” http://www. theoi. com. Theoi Project Copyright © 2000 – 2011, Aaron J. Atsma, New Zealand. Web. 17 Oct 2012. ;http://www. theoi. com/Olympios/AthenaMyths. html Anonymous, . “Mythagora Home Page. ” www. Mythagora. com. Copyright 2012- All rights reserved. Web. 17 Oct 2012. ;http://www. mythagora. com/bios/prometheus. html;.

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