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Athena
03.27.2015 199503532062

"She caught up a powerful spear, edged with sharp bronze, heavy, huge, thick, wherewith she beats down the battalions of fighting men, against whom she of the mighty father is angered." - The Odyssey


Yo so I’m at Emerald City Comic-Con in Seattle, WA, USA, Earth-616 all weekend, where I’ll be stone-cold kicking it in Booth W-12 with BADASS book illustrators Matt Haley and Brian Snoddy, a flask of straight-up lighter-fluid-infused Soviet-era vodka, and  a fat stack of free pre-release copies of my new book about Vikings to hand out to all the boys and girls and other humans who shall remain gender-indeterminate because they’re rocking bulky costumes that involve rubberized lycra and elaborate full-face helmets forged from some combination of plastic, steel, and miscellaneous spray-painted household objects.  Typically I like to kick these weekends off in two ways – first, by taking a leak at a urinal next to a guy dressed as Chewbacca; and second, by writing about badass fictional heroes whose stories are so over-the-top hardcore that entire mythological tomes, rad graphic novels, and ancient creepy toga-wearing goat-sacrificing cults have to be crafted over the course of generations to fully contain all of their ass-obliterating murder-glory.  So here’s the tale of the mightiest heroine from the glory days of Ancient Greece and the Patron Deity of All Things Badass – the Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, art, literature, honor, reason, “intelligent activity”, philosophy, heroic combat, and military tactics, and a constantly-armored warrior babe who brought glory to those who supported her, mercilessly crushed anyone who dared to slight her, and is always depicted in full damn battle armor surrounded by cool shit like owls and snakes and weaponry.

Athena was so awesome that back in the days before Comic-Cons the Ancient Romans held a five-day festival in the month of March to honor her and thank her for helping them conquer the entire known world and stomp on the throats of every civilization in the Western World.  And the Ancient Romans were fucking badasses, so you know that’s some good shit.  Also, to further tie all this together with a pretty little blood-stained ribbon, it’s also Women’s History Month, and March 25 is actually National Medal of Honor Day in the United States.  Have you ever taken a really close look at the U.S. Army Medal of Honor?  Guess who’s helmet-clad face is stamped on it in gold-plated bronze:

 



Yup, Grey-Eyed Athena.  The Navy version of the USA’s top award for bravery in combat shows Pallas Athena using a fistful of arrows to open a heroic can of godly ass whupping on the Goddess Discord, who is shown cowering in fear at the impending rain of blows that are about to bludgeon her fucking senseless.  This literally kicks ass.  The Air Force Medal of Honor uses the Statue of Liberty’s face, but I guess that’s the Air Force for you.

Anyway, here’s the origin story for the Goddess Athena.  One day Zeus, the king of the Greek Gods, was sitting around on Mount Olympus thinking about badass awesome shit and suddenly he started getting this righteous migraine headache.  Since they were all out of Tylenol, Zeus’s bro Hephaestus tried to help Zeus out by hitting him in the head with an axe, and as soon as he made contact BANG fucking Athena EXPLODED OUT OF ZEUS’S HEAD IN FULL FUCKING ARMOR.  Now, Zeus is a pretty epic chick-humper who could get women pregnant from golden showers, so it’s not like he needed help having kids all over the place, but Athena was too good for that shit – she much preferred to just show up to the party in her wargear so that zero seconds of her lifespan were wasted not completely beating the snot out of all who dared oppose her.  

 

 

As a goddess of war, Athena is pretty much universally shown in the full military regalia of a Spartan-style hoplite.  She was the only god who had permission to use Zeus’s weaponry – including his Thunderbolt – and in art she looks awesome decked out in chest armor, the cool helmet with the Mohawk hair on it, and typically carrying a spear and a badass magical shield called the Aegis that has Medusa’s fucking head bolted on to it.  She’s ferocious in battle, never backs down from an enemy, and never shows fear, but she also is honorable as hell and only participates in just, honest wars to defend her people from harm.  She’s basically the Jedi Knight Light Side version of Ares, the Greek God of War who is way more about blind fury and rage and feel the hate flow through you blood lust in combat.  Instead of blindly rolling around in the blood of her slain enemies, Athena is all about military tactics, out-thinking your enemy, and winning the war with your mind before you’ve even drawn your weapon.  So it’s no surprise she wrecks Ares’ shit on the battlefield when the two gods choose opposite teams during the Trojan War. 

Pretty much immediately after basically parachuting onto the scene like an Army Ranger skydiving into Normandy, Athena plunged head-long into the sort of epic earth-destroying war you really only get in ancient mythology.  During the War against the Giants, Athena single-handedly took out the Giant named Pallas, flayed his skin from his body with a hunting knife, and turned it either into a suit of leather armor or a cloak (sources vary), wearing it around so much that nowadays Pallas is just another nickname for Athena.  After that, during the war with the Titans, Athena helped her dad to sword-to-face with a horrific assortment of Godzilla-sized monsters intent on destroying the universe.  When the leader of the Titans, the towering behemoth Typhus, showed up on the scene, everyone took one look at this giant fire-breathing monster with multiple gross animal heads, arms, and wings and lost their shit.  Of all the gods and heroes, only Athena and Zeus were brave enough to face the creature.  Naturally, they beat it’s ass, threw Typhus into Hell with the rest of his buddies, and then forced the titan Atlus to spend all of eternity holding the sky up on his shoulders as punishment for being a fucking asshole and almost killing everyone on the planet.

 

 

As a goddess of purity, Athena was a virgin deity who never once humped a dude.  This is one of those weird classical double standards where it’s totally cool high five town for an action hero dude to bang twenty seven chicks at the same time, but if it’s a girl at the center of that kind of action suddenly they’re charging your credit card ten bucks a month and your IT guy has to set up a meeting with you to discuss your internet usage at work.  The closest she got was this one time when the blacksmith god Vulcan got a little handsy with her so she beat his ass, which made him jizz all over the place because he was a weird freak like that.  Anyway, the jizz turned into a human child when it hit the ground, so Athena adopted it as his son and he became the First King of Athens, and this is an actual story that you can read in Ancient Greek mythology.

Further down her asskicking resume, Athena is also a badass knitter and the goddess of crafts, arts, sewing and other DIY-type Pinterest stuff.  And she took this shit REALLY seriously.  Like, one time there was this annoying twat named Arachne who was going around being all like “I should be the goddess of weaving shit because I’m awesome at this, check out my fuckin’ Etsy store sales numbers,” and pissing everyone off with her bullshit mortal hubris.  Athena appeared to Arachne as an old woman and was like, “hey, uh, I heard Athena was the goddess of sewing,” and when Arachne was like “fuck that,” the old woman threw off her robes and was all like SIKE BITCH I’M ATHENA NOW ITS TIME FOR A STITCH OFF.  Arachne still wasn’t impressed enough however, and while Athena started weaving a badass tapestry of the Acropolis, Arachne started working on a bullshit troll tapestry that depicted the gods crying and cowering like a bunch of assholes.  And, sure, while you gotta admire the balls on Arachne, Athena was like FUCK OFF SKANK and turned Arachne into the world’s first spider, cursing her and all her spider baby descendants to spend their entire lives constantly weaving only to have annoyed husbands smash their work with a broom and then squish them.  And yeah, that’s why we to this day refer to spiders as Arachnids.

 

 

Hey, here’s a little quiz for you – what does Amazonian girl power ultimate modern independent female superhero Wonder Woman have in common with the grim family-murdering ultra-bloody babe-humper Kratos from God of War?  ATHENA.  And, as badass as Athena is herself, this is what truly sets her apart from the other badass figures of world mythology – she is the patron god of every single great hero in Ancient Greek and Roman mythology.  She guided the blade of Diomedes in the Trojan War, contributed to the invincibility of Achilles, and guided Odysseus during his long horrible journey home.  She gave Jason and the Argonauts the tools they needed to find the Golden Fleece, led Kratos on his quest to kill Ares, and woke Theseus after he’d killed the Minotaur so that the hero could escape before King Minos captured him.  She gave Hercules guidance on his Twelve Labors, then knocked the most powerful demi-god in Greek myth stone-cold unconscious by chucking a rock at his head to stop him from murdering his own dad during one of Herc’s insane little blood-rage murder sprees.  She helped Perseus defeat the Medusa and save his girl, sent Dante to heaven in the Inferno, and gave you the quest in Kid Icarus for the NES.  One time she gave a chick a magic flute that was so rad she beat the Music God Apollo in a Charlie Daniels Devil Went Down to Georgia music duel.   She even occasionally helps out the Avengers, for crying out loud, and I think one time in the 80s she beat Thor in a fistfight. 

Basically, any time things look really damn bad, your girlfriend is in the hands of a horrible monster, your family is held hostage by an evil king, and your only chance of salvation lies in being able to single-handedly kill a dragon made out of lava, and you’re just sitting there staring at the ground hopelessly thinking to himself what the fuck do I do now, Athena is the goddess that materializes out of nowhere with a lava-dragon-slaying hand grenade, a winged horse, and a motherfucking ham sandwich and tells you to get your shit together, suck it up, and be a goddamn hero.  This goddess is legit, folks. 

 

 

In addition to being awesome and supporting awesome in all of its forms, Athena is also vengeful as hell and holds a fucking grudge with the best grudge-holders that Eastern Europe has to offer.  Like, for instance here’s the initiation process for Priestesses of Athena in the city of Troy.  At the end of the Trojan War one of the Ajaxes burned down the city’s temple to Athena, which obviously pissed her off.  She allowed the troops to get home OK (after splintering a few of their ships with a hurricane of course), then struck down the city with a fucking death plague, telling the hapless residents that the only way they’d escape with their pathetic miserable lives was if they agreed to send two virgin maidens as tribute to the City of Troy every year for the next thousand years.  So every year, the Lokians would draw lots, and two girls would have their heads shaved, be stripped down to their nightgowns, and then be forced to walk from Lokis to Troy, where the Trojan city guard would immediately kill them on sight for being Lokians.  Those girls smart enough to avoid being insta-killed and sneak their way into the city alive were immediately grabbed by Priestesses of Athena, who took them to the temple to be trained in the priestesshood.  Because if you weren’t clever, resourceful, or badass enough to escape your impending certain death and do something to help yourself, Athena didn’t fucking have time for you.

And while we’re on the subject of holding grudges, Athena actually fought in the Trojan War on the side of the Greeks simply because one time Prince Paris of Troy said that Aphrodite – the goddess of sex and love – was hotter than Athena. 

 

 

Athena is the namesake for the Greek city of Athens, a city-state that was the most powerful political and military entity in the world for decades.  Here’s the story on that.  One day there was some town and the people were like, hey, let’s name it after the most badass god.  So Poseidon and Athena were like, yeah, it’s probably one of us, so let’s have a showdown to prove it.  Poseidon made the people a lake, but because he’s the sea god it was a salt lake so they couldn’t drink from it, which was totally lame.  So Athena was like, fuck if you guys are into food check this shit out, BANG OLIVE TREE BITCHHHHHHHH and made a humongous olive tree explode up out of the ground in the middle of town and people freaked out because olives are fucking awesome, then they spent the rest of the year drinking martinis and eating newly-improved baked potatoes, pizzas, and I guess house salads or something.  The town was called Athens, and the ruling elite there, owing in no small part to their dedication to the goddess of wisdom, reason, philosophy, and intelligence, set up their city-state to become the first democratic societies in world history.

Yeah, that’s right, Athena is the PATRON GODDESS OF DEMOCRACY.  AND JUSTICE.  AND ASS KICKINGS.

After that she dropped a huge rock in the middle of town and that became the basis for the Parthenon, which is pretty much the single most recognizable landmark in the history of Ancient Greece.  The people were so pumped they put a big ass fucking statue of Athena right in the dead center, but unfortunately it’s not there any more so if you wanna see what it looked like you have to go to Nashville, Tennessee

 


Even though it doesn’t sound like it,
Mycenae and Thebes were also named after Athena

 

Even though Athena was the goddess of intelligence and astronomy, she still got criminally fucking hosed by scientists when it came to naming awesome celestial bodies after her.  I mean, this is the goddess that invented shipbuilding, horse-taming, irrigation, the plow, the chariot, the flute and the trumpet and all she gets is the third-biggest asteroid in the solar system named after her.  Pallas-2, a 338-mile-long chunk of rock in the asteroid belt just beyond Mars, is basically all that bears her name out there.

With the way this badass goddess could hold a grudge, I can only assume what it’s going to be like when Pallas-2 crashes head-on into Earth and knocks our planet off its axis.

 

 

Links:

http://www.mythweb.com/gods/athena.html

http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Athena.html

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40681/Athena

http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/p/Athena.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena

 



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