The ancient Greeks traditionally believed in a strong association between the land and the divine. Indeed, cities in Greece often feature a patron deity. These patrons could range from a legendary local hero to an Olympian god or goddess. Sometimes, there were even myths that explained how a specific divinity came to be connected with an area. One such example is the tale of the contest for the city of Athens. Since I find this to be a fascinating story, I am sharing it with you today.
According to the legend, both Athena and Poseidon wanted Athens as the site of their primary sanctuary. In order to settle the duel in his favor, Poseidon created a spring from which salt water flowed. Athena responded to Poseidon’s challenge by conjuring up an olive tree on the Athenian Acropolis. It was this second divine gift that was judged by the people as more useful (and indeed, Greeks both ancient and modern are credited with the cultivation of some of the best olives in the world). This contest was immortalized on that magnificent Athenian monument, the Parthenon, a temple that was dedicated to the goddess Athena. The myth appeared on one of the pediments of the temple, while the birth of the goddess was depicted on the other.