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Myths and Legends: Arachne

By Jernice Kelley
Web Content Contributor

The stories of Greek myths and legends have been told countless times. However, it has always been the same old tales about Poseidon, Zeus, and Medusa. I found one myth that focuses on a young human weaver, Arachne.

Arachne was a young shepherd’s daughter who was very skilled at weaving tapestries. She often bragged about her skill, which angered Athena, who appeared and challenged Arachne. In the myth, Arachne did not see her gift as one from the gods, but rather one that was of her own doing.

As Arachne accepted Athena’s challenge, the two began weaving intricate tapestries. Athena wove scenes that showed the immense power and glory of the gods. In Athena’s tapestry, it showed how mortal life pales in comparison to that of the gods. However, Arachne portrayed scenes in which the gods abused humans and their power.

Arachne showed the gods in an unfavorable light and it was undeniable that her skills far surpassed Athena’s. Athena was infuriated by Arachne’s depiction, and as a consequence, she transformed her into the first spider. Arachne was condemned to weave for eternity.

Arachne’s tale has three different versions. In a darker version, Arachne is overcome with shame and takes her own life. However, Athena wished to teach Arachne to be more humble and respect the gods. Athena brought her back to life and turned her into a spider, to let her weave all the time.

This myth is told as a cautionary tale warning mortals not to place themselves on an equal level with the gods. It also touches on the attitude of being grateful. What I found interesting in this tale is that Athena models the very thing Arachne weaves. She demonstrates her abuse of power.

Athena’s behavior is not surprising, as she is known for being quite vicious towards rivals. Arachne displayed reckless arrogance, but Athena’s fury is unwarranted. I find it interesting that Athena declares that Arachne’s gift is from the gods, yet Athena’s weaving paled in comparison beside Arachne’s.

No matter how the story turned out, I did enjoy this myth. The idea that spiders are descendants of Arachne, as she and her children are bound to spin webs for eternity, is fascinating.

If you enjoy Greek mythology or mythology of any kind, be sure to check out Myths and Legends Explained on YouTube!

Feature Image by Jernice Kelley

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