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Tales beyond belief

Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and science. She was also the Roman goddess of war and arts, such as spinning, weaving and music. She is depicted in art in a standing attitude, completely armed, with a composed but smiling countenance, bearing a golden breast-plate, a spear in her right hand, and the Aegis, a shield in her left, having on it the head of Medusa, entwined with snakes. The Greek counterpart of this ancient Roman deity was Athena.

Minerva in Roman Mythology
Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and science, featured in many stories, myths and legends in Roman Mythology. Her birth was very mysterious as she is supposed to have sprung, fully grown and completely armed, from the head of Jupiter. This goddess was in the unique position of having a father but no mother. As one of the goddesses of war she was often represented in Roman art with various weapons. She was credited with inventing the chariot, plow, bridle, rake, ox yoke and the flute. The weapons reflected her strategic approach and her preparation for war and were symbols of victory. Her symbol of the olive tree relates to the gift she offered to Cecrops, the first king of Athens during her contest with Neptune.

Facts about Minerva
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Minerva:

  • Role & Function: The function of Minerva is described as being the goddess of wisdom, science, war and arts, such as spinning, weaving and music.

  • Status: Major Goddess and one of the 'Dei Consentes', the Council of Gods.

  • Symbols: The owl, the snake and the olive tree

  • Alternative names: Mentor. The name 'Mentor' was assumed by Minerva to act as a guide for Telemachus,

  • Greek Counterpart: The Greek name for this goddess was Athena or Pallas Athena

  • Name of Father: Jupiter

  • Name of Mother: None

  • Names of Children: Unmarried, no children

Facts about Minerva in Roman Mythology and History
Discover interesting information and facts about Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and science.

  • She was the daughter of Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods

  • Although Jupiter alone was most commonly named as her parent however alternative myths give Jupiter and Metis as her father and mother

  • She was a warlike goddess, and had a controlled strategic approach that brought her success in conflicts.

  • She was a member of the Capitoline Triad which consisted of three major gods - Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. The most important temples in Rome were dedicated to the triad of gods and situated on the Capitoline Hill.

  • Her festival was called Quinquatria. It was celebrated on March 19 through to March 23. On the first day of her festival no blood was shed, but that on the last four days there were contests of gladiators.

  • Her symbol of the owl is closely associated with wisdom and victory

  • The snake or serpent is often depicted at the feet of the goddess as a symbol of the creative power of wisdom

  • The god of war, Mars, assisted the armies of Troy in the Trojan war against the Greeks, but was wounded in an encounter with the hero Diomedes and the goddess Minerva

  • She used wisdom and cunning to help her in her battles and was more successful than Mars, the god of War.

  • Vulcan fell in love with her but she rejected him with the utmost contempt because of his ugly appearance.

  • She gave the hero Perseus a mirror-like shield to help in his quests. Perseus went on to slay the terrifying gorgon and gave the head of Medusa to the goddess.

  • As Minerva Medica, she was the goddess of medicine and doctors.

  • She is represented holding the Aegis, a shield in her left hand having on it the head of Medusa, entwined with snakes. The aegis was made for her by Vulcan.

Minerva (Greek Counterpart was Athena)
The Romans habitually assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Greeks and other nations. When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC many of the Greek gods and goddesses were adopted by the Romans.  The Romans simply changed the Greek gods names to Latin equivalents. The Greek counterpart of Minerva was Athena. The Roman religion significantly differed from the Greeks in that it was officially endorsed by the state and exerted influence over the government of Rome. Politicians took the offices of influential priests, called pontiffs, to gain control of the popular worship, Roman gods and goddesses like Minerva were worshipped at every public event, including the gladiatorial games, where blood sacrifices were made to the gods. In ancient Rome, the pantheon of 12 major gods, including Minerva, were called the 'Dei Consentes' meaning the Council of Gods.

Gods and Deities
Roman Gods and Goddesses

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