Athena was born fully grown from the head of her father Zeus, armed and clothed in battle dress and wielding a shield and spear. Such was her bizarre beginning. As Athena Promachos, she was a warrior and defender of the city of Athens, to which she was patron deity. She was known to the Romans as Minerva.

Athena epitomised wisdom, skill, civilisation, justice and handicrafts. Attributes associated with her included the owl, which was a symbol of wisdom, and the olive tree, her gift to humanity. She was patron of heroes and proved resourceful in supporting the endeavors of Perseus, Odysseus, Heracles and others.

Athena was widely worshipped in the ancient world as a virgin-goddess and was particularly important to the Athenians. In the fifth century BCE, the citizens of Athens built the impressive Parthenon as her temple, in which her cult statue resided. This colossal statue, holding a statue of Nike, was known as the Athena Parthenos (the maiden/virgin). Outside the temple was another statue of Athena as Promachos. These inspired many copies and versions in antiquity and influenced representations of other warrior females.

The significance of Athena as goddess of civilised values, the arts, learning and wisdom continues and she inspires art, poetry and architecture today, long after the decline of her religious importance.