Attic. Athens. c. 454-404 BC
Attic. Athens. c. 454-404 BC
AR Tetradrachm, 17.18g (22mm, 10h). Head of Athena right, wearing earring, necklace, and crested Attic helmet decorated with three olive leaves over visor and a spiral palmette on the bowl / Owl standing right, head facing; olive sprig and berry in upper left field, AΘE to right; all within incuse square.
References: Kroll 8; SNG Copenhagen 31; Dewing 1591-8
Grade: Some minor bumps but perfectly centered with a full crest and nice high relief. aEF (gk1261)
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Athena was one of the twelve great Olympians, daughter of Zeus, born directly from his forehead. Homeric Hymn twenty-eight describes her and her birth:
“Of Pallas Athena, glorious goddess, first I sing, the steely-eyed, resourceful one with implacable heart, the reverend virgin, city-savior, doughty one, Trirogeneia, to whom Zeus himself gave birth out of his august head, in battle armor of shining gold: all the immortals watched in awe, as before Zeus the goat-rider she sprang quickly down from his immortal head with a brandish of her sharp javelin. A fearsome tremor went through great Olympus from the power of the steely-eyed one, the earth resounded terribly about, and the sea heaved in a confusion of swirly waves. But suddenly the main was held in check, and Hyperion’s splendid son [Helios, the sun] halted his swift-footed steeds for a long time, until the maiden, Pallas Athena, took off the godlike armor from her immortal shoulders, and wise Zeus rejoiced.”[West, Martin L., trans. Homeric Hymns; Homeric Apocrypha; Lives of Homer. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).]
As can be inferred from the passage above, Athena was patron deity of both wisdom and war to the ancient Greeks. She was a virgin, but unlike Artemis did not shun the company of men, but enjoyed masculine deeds and, according to mythological and literary tradition, she often accompanied men on the battlefield. Indeed, in art and literature alike, Athena, or Minerva as she was known to the Romans, is depicted clad in armor, fully cap-à-pie, typically carrying a great spear and round shield painted with the gorgon’s head, and an owl, the Greek symbol of wisdom, is often seated upon her shoulder.
Athena also played a significant part in the heroic struggles of many Greek mythological characters. She came to the aid of Perseus, Heracles, Diomedes, Bellerophon, Jason, and Odysseus. Moreover, of the Twelve Olympians, she was the most active supporter of the Greeks at Troy.
It should further be noted that both Athena and the god Ares were gods of war to the Greeks; Of the pair, however, the Greeks favored the former, preferring the martial intelligence and strategy of Athena to the wanton bloodlust and fury of Ares. The opposite is true of the Romans, for whom Mars, the Roman Ares, was worshiped second only to Jupiter, or Zeus, himself.