In Ancient Roman religion, Minerva was known as the goddess of wisdom. She was also the deity of arts, poetry, medicine, and commerce as well.
Her temple on the Aventine in Rome was primarily the meeting point for numerous craftsmen who included dramatic actors and poets.
In many ways identical to the Greek goddess Athena, Minerva had numerous temples in Rome wherein she was the patron of the Quinquatrus festival.
Other than that, Minerva was also recognized as a member of the Capitoline triad along with her father Jupiter and her step-mother Juno.
It was believed that Minerva was immaculately conceived from the head of Jupiter after the latter suffered from a terrible headache.
After every means failed to cure Jupiter, Vulcan who was known as the smith of Gods ripped open the skull of Jupiter and Minerva came out and was armed with weapons.
Among the popular stories about Minerva was told the by Roman poet Ovid. According to Ovid, Minerva once challenged a Lydian girl named Arachne to a weaving contest after the latter bragged that her weaving skills were as good as the Roman goddess.
Both Minerva and Arachne created exquisite tapestries but the former declared herself as a winner. Subsequently, Minerva turned Arachne into a spider and the story ended with a cautionary note about daring to challenge gods.
Facts about Minerva
- Just like any gods, Minerva also had many titles because of her many roles. She was known as the Minerva Medica or the patron of doctors, Minerva Castitis or the patron of olive trees, Minerva Luscinia or the nightingale, and Minerva Armipotens or the patron of strategy.
- The Capitol Hill in the United States was derived from the Capitoline Hill of Ancient Rome. The Capitoline Hill housed the temple of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.
- The Quinquatrus festival was held from March 19 to 23. The festival is primarily dedicated to Minerva and her step-brother Mars who is the God of War.
- The Quinquatrus festival often showcased gladiatorial battles and performances from speakers and poets as well as fortune-telling activities.
- Some versions of the story say that Minerva was born after her father Jupiter swallowed her mother, Metis. Jupiter swallowed a pregnant Metis after a prophecy revealed that Minerva would take his position one day.
- Roman poet Ovid regarded Minerva as the goddess of a thousand works since she was in charge of so many things.
- Minerva and Greek goddess Athena have similar personalities, qualities, and appearances. Similar to Minerva, Athena is also credited for olive trees.
- Minerva was worshipped across Italy but most especially on the Capitoline Hill, which is one of the seven sacred Hills of Ancient Rome.
- How did Minerva earn the distinction of Minerva Luscinia?
Minerva was named as the Minerva Luscinia after it was believed that she invented the flute.
- Why did Minerva create the olive tree?
In other stories, Ancient Romans believed that Minerva created the olive tree after the Gods had a contest on who could create the most useful item for humans. It was believed that Minerva was named as the winner of the competition after olive oils became an important commodity in the world most especially in the Mediterranean cultures.
- How did the Romans describe Minerva?
Often times, Minerva is portrayed by the Romans as someone wearing a helmet and an ancient Greek garment known as the chiton. It is, however, important to note that there are a plethora of statues that display her holding a spear and a shield to depict her interest in war. Legend has it that Minerva was a sympathetic winner in war as she often offered olive branches to the armies she beat.
- What did the owl symbolize on the statue of Minerva?
At present, there are numerous sculptures and monuments of Minerva. Normally, her statue is equipped with an owl which symbolizes watchfulness and wisdom.