The Myth of How Athens got its Name

 

Athena and Poseidon in porcelin

An ancient marble sculpture depicting the divine Family Feud between the goddess of Wisdom and War, Athena, and her cocky uncle who was all wet, Poseidon. Note the olive tree in the background.

 

Long long ago, before there was Wi-Fi or ice cubes, a great city existed in a faraway land of make believe finances called Greece. Very unlike today, this metropolis of old thrived and prospered as more and more people left their countryside farms and tiny fishing villages to reside within its borders.

The only problem was the city was without a name.

Foreseeing the headaches that would inevitably occur without a reference name for any/all modes of public transportation and moped routes both to and from the citadel, the King of the Gods, Zeus decided to hold a competition.  The contest would be held between two divinities the ruler of Mt. Olympus was well familiar with, namely the King’s oceanic dwelling sibling, the Lord of the Seven Seas, Poseidon, and the  offspring who gave the Ruler of the Gods a royal headache on account of her springing forth from that very same area when she was born, his daughter the goddess of wisdom, Athena.

Both immortals were next in the deified deli line as far as having patronage over a mortal city, town, or barely used Olympic stadium.  Zeus summoned his daughter and brother to the highest peak that the city with no name was perched upon, announcing that a competition of the most divine kind had officially begun.  The ruler of Mt. Olympus then stated that the deity who presented the most impressive gift to the city would be its patron by virtue of the citadel bearing the godly winner’s name forever and henceforth onward, for all eternity.

Forgoing all godly protocol, Poseidon chuckled smugly and went first without even asking to do so. Using both hands, the Lord of the Seven Seas proceeded to lift his three pronged spear high over his head. In a grandiose display of godly garishness, Poseidon stared directly ahead and began to loudly groan as if he were the Titan Atlas bearing the weight of the world upon his shoulders.  The brother of Zeus then cast his weapon directly into the earth while wailing aloud in an exaggerated state of physical exertion, akin to a human sumo wrestler intensely concentrating with every fiber of his being.

As the sea god’s trident struck the earth, vast torrents of gushing water instantaneously sprang forth and flooded forward, sculpting itself around the city’s entire perimeter. When the tempest finally settled, an new vista could be seen as a result of the landscape being transformed by Poseidon’s mighty hand. The deafening din of the chaotic deluge now bore the shape and sound of lapping sea waves as they surrounded the city. For in every direction from the hill on which the gods stood, a vast bay could now be seen which connected the outermost edge of the citadel’s foothills to the waters of the open ocean and beyond.

It was now the Goddess of Wisdom’s turn.

Athena bowed her head and with closed eyes uttered a prayer of thanks to the gods for the opportunity to compete for such a momentous honor. She then inhaled deeply while  quietly dropping to her knees as the goddess began to dig at the ground’s soil with her bare hands. Athena moved with unceremonious efficiency, cupping and sculpting the arid earth with her fingers all the while chanting prayers of blessing and prosperous thanksgiving. Not too long after kneeling, Zeus’s daughter then once again rose to her feet. As she moved aside from the mound of dirt, the goddess lovingly pointed downwards to reveal

…a lopsided bush.

The homely plant’s leaves were spear-like spikes with numerous blossoms of small fruit growing over its entirety. Even more curiously, the seeds housed within each of the fruit blossoms were nearly as large as each of the plant’s fruits, themselves.

Athena’s gift to the yet-to-be-named city was the olive tree.

After many moments of thoughtful evaluation, Zeus awarded the citadel’s patronage to his daughter and henceforth the capital of Greece and its neighboring islands would forever be known as the city of Athens. Despite Poseidon’s bravado display of moving the very earth itself and bestowing the city its bay that eventually would evolve into Athens’ ports of commerce, the strange-looking little plant far outshone the Lord of the Seven Sea’s gift, since the olive tree would serve to feed, illuminate, and provide shade to the residents of the city named after the wise goddess who now proudly called themselves Athenians.

…And were greatly relieved they wouldn’t herein be known as the residents of Poseidon City or Poseidontown or Poseidonville etc.

Olive Tree

*Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc.  is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.

Brad Kronen’s guide on Astrology and Relationships “Love in the Stars” for purchase on amazon.com

 

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