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Page last updated on: March 8th, 2021

Athena, Arachne and the Weaving Contest

Minerva and Arachne-painting by René-Antoine HouasseIn the little town of Ledia, in Northern Greece, there once lived a beautiful maid named Arachne. Arachne was famous in the town because she was a very skilful weaver and spinner, and every day many maidens and nymphs came by to watch her weave.

However, Arachne was a very vain girl and could not stop bragging about her talent. She claimed that she had learned the skill all on her own and that there was no one else in the world who could weave as finely as she could... she even felt that she could go up against Athena, the goddess of skill, and win her handily.

When Athena heard these words, she was disappointed and decided to disguise herself as an old lady and appear before Arachne.

"My dear," she said to Arachne, "I am old and have much experience of life, so let me give you some advice: Never mess with a goddess! No mortal can take on Athena. Take back your words and politely ask for forgiveness..."

Arachne became angry and threw the thread at the old woman, saying to her: "I don't need your advice, I know best what to do myself! If Athena really dares, then let her come here and fight me!"

At that moment, the old woman transformed into the radiant goddess Athena. At the sight of her, everyone in the room knelt in awe - not so Arachne, who couldn't wait to compete against her.

Soon the competition began and both contestants put up a good fight. Athena weaved the Parthenon and her competition with the god Poseidon. Arachne, on the other hand, made fun of the gods by weaving scenes of gods full of weaknesses and fears.

Arachne's work seemed technically perfect, but it was not beautiful because it showed disrespect for the gods. When Athena saw this, she became very offended and said to Arachne:
"You may be foolish and stubborn, but you seem to love your work. So go on now and spin forever!"

Immediately Athena sprinkled her with the juice of magical herbs and Arachne's body transformed into a small and ugly animal now known as a spider.

Since then, the spider has been cursed to be trapped in its own web, constantly and endlessly weaving... but ultimately to have all of its creations destroyed by humans!


This story proves that the Greek gods and goddesses were subject to human emotions.





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