It is widely known that Athens was, and still is, one of the most powerful and glorious towns in Greece. It has been inhabited for over 7000 years! In ancient Greece, Athens was one of the largest city-states that competed for power against Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes.
Athens got its name from the Greek goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom and courage. Athena became the city’s patron after a contest with the god of water, Posideon. This dispute started when the Olympians saw the city of Cercropia, ruled by Cercrops. They thought the land was beautiful and they wanted it for themselves. They wanted to name the land after them, so they chose the two biggest rivals, Athena and Poseidon, to compete for its name. For the contest, Zeus, the king of the gods, decided that they would each give the city a gift and the king would decide who it would be named after.
On the day of the contest, Cercrops and the people of Cercropia walked up the highest hill to observe the gods giving their gifts to the city. Poseidon was the first god to give his gift. He struck the hill with his trident and created a spring of water that ran down the hill. He proclaimed that if they chose him as their patron, the city would never suffer from a drought again. The citizens were very happy about this but were surprised when they tried the water and tasted salty! They thought this was disgraceful. Athena was next to present her gift. She planted a seed that grew into an olive tree. The citizens loved this gift as it would provide them with olives, oil, and wood. They thereby proclaimed Athena their patron. The myth still has meaning, as the city of Athens still suffers from the occasional drought and must be supplied with water from Yikki Lake, their neighbouring city Thebes, Mornos river and Fokida, and Marathon Lake.
This is how the goddess Athena became the namesake of Athens. The citizens (Athenians) built various temples to honour her. When and money was invented, they inscribed her and her sacred bird, the owl, on both sides of their coins.
Written by Asha McDonald