The Wisdom of Athena

The ancient Greeks were perceptive students of human nature. Often, their myths encoded great insights, but required deep thinking, reflection, and contemplation in order to grasp.

One of the most popular goddesses was Athena. Athena sprang from the head of Zeus, fully formed and dressed for war.

Athena, it turns out, embodied the wisdom of Zeus: his foresight. And she was known for this.

But what modern readers often miss is that Athena was also a goddess of war.

Typically, we think of Ares as the Greek god of warfare–and he was. But his domain as a god was more like the savage, instinctual, brutal lust for aggression and violence.

Athena wasn’t like that. Athena went to war reluctantly, handing her weapons back to her father Zeus when she was done.

The great power of Athena was that she was a strategist. She applied her wisdom to war, not to destroy, but to win, achieve the goal, and to get on with her business. When the Athenians went to war, they would pray to Athena. Their generals, known as the “strategoi,” would attempt to embody her wisdom in strategy, rather than the war-like violence of Ares.

In goal setting, especially when it comes to big, long term goals, we can channel the archetype of Athena; we can take the time regularly to contemplate the best course of action, strategize our steps, and then, once we have a plan in place (always open to amendments), to ferociously execute our stretegy.

When the Greeks sang hymns to Athena, they called her “Brilliantly inventive, and relentless of heart.”

We need to learn how to embody that, making a way where none seems possible using creativity and insight, all while striving with the end goal in mind.

As Robert Greene councils in The 33 Laws of War, be like Athena in your campaigns, not like Ares.

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