Why is Athena often referred to as Pallas when it comes to her warrior side? In one myth, it is said that Pallas was her father and another that Pallas was a friend she sparred with and accidentally killed her.


1 Answer 1


There is no clear explanation on this and opinions seem to vary, some of which are the following:

  • The name comes from a Giant called Πάλλαντας (Pallantas), whom Athena killed during the Titanomachy.

  • Athena got that name because she was born out of Zeus' head by throbbing her spear.

  • The name is attributed to a friend of Athena, whom she killed accidentally, so she was named after her, in terms of recognition and so that she could be remembered.

Kontos Aleksandros, a linguist and sociologist, believes the following interpretation to be the most precise:

The main significance of the verb Πάλλω is to shake a lottery, until the ejection of the results, which would be the people to take place as judges in the supreme court of Ancient Greece. Since it was feared that there would be a fraud in who would get selected, the people is charge of the draw would throb the lottery, until the names of the judges came out, due to that movement of the lottery jar.

Οι προσωνυμίες της Αθηνάς

The primary importance therefore of Pallas is the motion that someone does in a legatee to achieve the draw. And Pallas means the custodian of the draw, the custodian of the Republic. And Pallas Athena was primarily the protector of democratic Athens.

Οι προσωνυμίες της Αθηνάς

Apollodorus informs us about Pallas, Athena's friend:

They say that when Athena was born she was brought up by Triton, who had a daughter Pallas; and that both girls practised the arts of war, but that once on a time they fell out; and when Pallas was about to strike a blow, Zeus in fear interposed the aegis, and Pallas, being startled, looked up, and so fell wounded by Athena. And being exceedingly grieved for her, Athena made a wooden image in her likeness, and wrapped the aegis, which she had feared, about the breast of it, and set it up beside Zeus and honored it.

Apollodorus 3.12.3

More than one interpretations might be true in their own aspect. In the aspect of mythology, Apollodorus' version is correct. But in the aspect of reality (why the people who worshipped Athena named her Pallas and why the had to find a myth that gave her that name), Kontos Aleksandros' analysis might be true as well.

  • That's strange. I've only heard of the third version, about accidentally killing a friend. But if any of the other version are true, then who would the Palladium statue depict?
    – b_jonas
    May 5, 2015 at 18:43
  • I've edited my answer in order to address your comment. More than one interpretations might be true, at least that's what I have in mind. May 5, 2015 at 18:55

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