Zeus swallowed Metis to prevent the prophecy of her future son overthrowing him from being fulfilled, but she was already pregnant, and later her daughter Athena sprang from Zeus' head. What happened to Metis herself when this happened?

  • Many sources state different things. But it is generally believed that she is still within Zeus' head, helping him make wise decisions. Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 18:42

3 Answers 3


There are two possibilities here:

Either, Metis was killed when Zeus swallowed her:

It may seem odd for Metis to have been pregnant with Athena but, never mentioned as her mother. This is because the classic Greeks believed that children were generated solely from the fathers sperm. The women was thought to be nothing more than a vessel for the fetus to grow in. Since Metis was killed well before Athena's birth her role doesn't count.[1]

However, other myths state that she continues to live inside Zeus and that she is the source of Zeus' wisdom. Since she was the goddess of wisdom, prudence and deep thought:

It is said that she is the source for Zeus wisdom and that she still advises Zeus from his belly.[2]

I believe the second is more believable because Zeus is himself titled Mêtieta, "the wise counsellor," in the Homeric poems and the Wikipedia article for Metis also states that (while she was inside Zeus):

She began making a helmet and robe for her fetal daughter. The hammering as she made the helmet caused Zeus great pain.[3]

Which would mean that Metis was not killed and was living inside Zeus.

  • So no sources indicate she may have escaped? Commented May 7, 2015 at 2:07
  • @Mr.Bultitude None that I know of.
    – logic
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 12:12
  • @Mr. Bulltide The second option is the way you should look at it, as Zeus subsuming Metis and thus gaining that attribute for himself. (i.e. it's a metaphor, and Metis' name means wisdom.) Her attribute also went into their offspring, Athena.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 20:51
  • In Greek mythology deities can't die. Metis continued living inside Zeus just as Zeus' siblings lived inside Kronos until Zeus freed them.
    – Digio
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 19:25

I know she escaped. There is a Greek tablet (the tablet was marble, and it's in a museum in Crete) that says when she hammered her essence into Athena's things, she hammered the last bit into a rock. When Athena went to earth, she shattered the stone. Metis bursted from it as an owl.

  • I would love to find the source of it. This is at least fascinating.
    – George Eco
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 9:44

Athena becomes goddess of Wisdom, Skill and Craft.

  • The myth is about the transformation of the titanic aspect of the former generation into the present incarnation under the new Olympian order

Logic's answer is solid, but arises out of the patriarchal viewpoint. A part of Metis might stay in Zeus and give him wisdom—Odin literally drinks Kvasir's blood to gain his power.

But in a deeper sense, Metis becomes Athena, who now operates within the structure of civilization.

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