As one of the most powerful cities of Ancient Greece, Athens has many fascinating myths and stories.
Athens, the glorious city of Classical Greece was named after the Goddess Athena. But what is the myth behind this name givng?
Located in the center of Greece , the Attica peninsula is a historical region that encompasses the city of Athens, the capital of Greece. Athens with a history of more than 5.000 years is considered as the historical capital of Europe, where ancient and modern, nature and civilization, tradition and trends mingle together creating a magical and seductive atmosphere ! During the 5th century B.C. , often described as the golden age of Pericles, the emblematic city of Athens reached its peak and became host to a spiritual, scientific and artistic bloom unique in world history. It was then, when in Athens, the beloved city of goddess Athena, democracy, theatre, philosophy and architecture knew an epic prosperity.
And that is the legendary myth of how Athens took it’s name, as described by Herodotus.
Once upon a time in ancient Greece,
there was a king called Cecrops, a strange creature, half-man half-snake, 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. But there were two gods of Olympus that came into conflict the most over the patronage of the city that was later called Athens. It was Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Athena the goddess of wisdom.
Zeus, being the father of the gods, decided that each of them should offer a gift to the city and Cecrops would decide which gift was the best for the people of his city.
So the two gods went to Attica and found Kekropas on the citadel overseeing the construction of the new city.
Poseidon approached the king and asked him to offer him the city and for his sake, to name it Poseidonia. “If you do that, your city will become ruler of the seas and never again will you experience drought” he told him and slammed the trident on the rock.
At the place where it hit, a spring was created and salty water sprang up, just like the waters of the sea over which Poseidon ruled. Another myth says that a beautiful horse came out of the sea, the first time they ever saw one on earth.
Athena, on the other hand, offered the olive tree, a symbol of prosperity and peace. The Athenians, led by King Cecrops , decided to take Athena‘s gift securing food, oil and firewood, thus making her the patron goddess. Since then and up to these days, the olive tree is the favourite tree of the Greeks, and it was a wreath (Kotinos in Greek) made from olive leaves that was used to crown champions at the ancient Olympic games.
The leaves used for these wreaths were taken from a sacred olive tree near the temple of Zeus at Olympia. The myth says that Poseidon, angry enough, cursed the city and since then Athens suffers from droughts.
It comes as no surprise then, to learn, that this glorious tree played a part in the naming of one of the oldest cities in the world, continuously inhabited for at least 5000 years, the most powerful city of ancient Greece, Athens.