The name giving of Athens

It is well-known that Athens was the most powerful and glorious town of ancient Greece. Its residents managed to develop a wonderful civilization that is admired till today. It is also known that the city got its name from Athena, the goddess of wisdom and courage. But how did Athens got its name? Here is a charming little story about the origin of the city's name.

Discover the myth of name giving of Athens

The dispute of the gods

Cecrops, a strange creature, half-man half-snake, was the founder of a city which would develop to be very beautiful. Cecrops had named his city after him, Cecropia. However, the gods of Olympus saw this lovely piece of land and wanted to name it after them and become its patron. The most persistent rivals were Poseidon, the sea god, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom.  To solve their dispute, Zeus decided that each of them would make a gift to the city and king Cecrops would decide which gift was the best and therefore which god would be the patron of the city.

The two gifts

One sunny day, Cecrops and the residents of the city went up to a high hill to watch the gods giving their gifts. Poseidon was the first to present his gift. He struck a rock with his trident and caused a spring of water to gush forth from the ground. This signified that he was assuring the citizens with water and therefore they wouldn’t face any time of drought. However, the people were not exactly enchanted with his gift because the water from the spring tasted salty, just like the waters of the sea over which Poseidon ruled. Next there was the turn of goddess Athena. She planted a seed in the ground, which grew up to become a lovely olive tree. The citizens liked this gift better because it would give them food, oil and firewood. With one voice they loudly acclaimed Athena as their benefactress.

Athena, the patroness of the city

This is how the goddess Athena got the everlasting honor of naming the city after her. Indeed, the residents of Athens built numerous glorious temples dedicated to her, organized festivals to honour their patroness and, when money was invented, they depicted goddess Athens and her sacred bird, the owl, symbol of wisdom, on both sides of their coins. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that this myth has a point of reality: many olive trees are found till today in the suburbs of Athens, but the city indeed faces problems of drought, especially in summer, and needs to get supplied with water from Yliki lake, close to modern Thebes, Mornos river in Fokida and Marathon Lake.

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