Greek goddess of wisdom and tutelary goddess of Athens. Also a goddess of war, peace and agriculture. In contrast to some of the other Greek gods, many of whom were famed for their rash and often ignoble acts, Athena was noted for her self-control and for many instances in which she aided human beings in their endeavours. Also, in contrast to the reckless passions of the other gods, Athena remained a virgin throughout her life, forming no romantic attachments. According to Hesiod, Athena sprang fully armed from the head of Zeus, who had swallowed her mother Metis (wisdom). In Pindar's version, it was Hephaistos who struck Zeus in the head with an axe to relieve the god's headache, wherupon Athena emerged. It was Hephaistos who later attempted to rape Athena, but she evaded him and his semen fell to the ground, giving birth to the serpent Erichthonius. Much of Athena's reputation as a war goddess is based on Homer's Iliad, where she took an active part in the fighting on the side of Greeks against the Trojans. In battle, she bore the aegis, the goat-skin shield upon which the head of Medusa was mounted. She generally proved more successful in battle than her brother Ares, the Greek war god who sided with the Trojans. Athena won the allegiance of Athens in a contest with Poseidon to determine who could bestow the greater gift upon humanity. Poseidon gave either the horse or a spring of water. Athena gave the olive, and won the contest, in consequence of which she gave her name to the city. The Acropolis, upon which the Parthenon was constructed in her honour, was said to be her dwelling place. Athens also honoured her in the Panathenaia festival, in which she seems to have figured as a vegetation goddess. She was referred to as Pallas Athene in her capacity as a protective goddess. Her icon, the palladium, was believed to protect the city from harm. In addition to the olive, Athena's gifts to humanity included the plough, the loom, and the flute. Among the many heroes to whom she gave assistance were Odysseus on his long voyage home from Troy, Perseus in killing the Medusa, Epeius in the construction of the wooden horse, and Herakles in his many labours. Her epithets included Parthenos (virgin), Promachos (protectress), Glaukopis (owl-eyed), Ergane (worker or craftsman) and Mechanitis (one who undertakes things). She was also known as Athena Polias in her capacity as goddess of the people or polity of Athens. The owl was the symbol both of Athena and Athens. She was also associated with the snake, and their is some speculation that she originated as a snake goddess, perhaps in Crete. Athena's worship was widespread, despite her close association with Athens.
Of course this was just my impression of Leela. To understand what really inspired the UESC Marathon's Leela you have to go the source - Greg Kirkpatrick.
The following is an extract from an unfinished interview with Greg Kirkpatrick (GK) the main author of the Marathon story.
HS: Could you tell us how the names for Leela and Tycho came about?
GK: Leela - I'm a big Dr. Who fan, and Leela is one of the best Dr. Who sidekicks. She embodies much of what I pictured Leela embodying. Tycho is named after Tycho Brahe. I am a bit of an amateur star gazer, so he seemed like a pretty good choice. I also love the sound of 'Tycho'.
HS: So Leela is a Dr. Who reference? It might interest you to know that a number of people have a suggested this to the Story page. As a Dr. Who fan myself I remember Leela quite well. She played the part of a primitive tribes woman who ran around in a loin cloth. Wouldn't hesitate to pull her knife and drop the bad guys. Not my image of the Marathon's Leela at all. Leela strikes me more as a mother figure. One who is virtuous, self-controlled and wise. What qualities do you feel were shared by the Dr Who's Leela and the Marathon's Leela?
GK: Some of the characteristics are the same: determination, loyalty, and strength. Perhaps the savagery doesn't fit so well, but the other sides of her personality do. Besides, Leela (Dr Who) always took things at face value. Leela in Marathon is always being deeked out by Durandal, and blindly believing whatever he says.
Last updated July 7, 1997