Is the goddess Minerva the same as Athena?
But the goddess Minerva was not exactly like Athena, just as Jupiter was not exactly like Zeus.
Was Minerva an Italian goddess?
Minerva’s name comes from an older Etruscan goddess, and that comes from an even older Italian goddess Meneswā. Meneswa was a moon goddess. Her name means “the measurer”. So she probably had something to do with measuring out your fate – how long you would live. Because she spun out and cut the thread of your fate, she was naturally also the goddess of spinning and weaving.
The Roman goddess Minerva
Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva
The Romans often thought of Minerva as part of a group of three gods, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. They seem to have gotten this idea from the Etruscans. Many Etruscan and Roman temples were dedicated to all three of these gods together.
So what about Minerva’s connection to Athena then?
People in Italy had already been worshipping Minerva for a long time before they met anyone from Greece. But when the Etruscans and Romans did hear about the Greek goddess Athena, they thought she sounded like their goddess Minerva. They were both goddesses of war, and wisdom, so they seemed to go well together.
The Roman poet Ovid and Minerva
In the Roman Empire, many people in the Roman Empire thought of Minerva and Athena as the same goddess. The Roman poet Ovid, for example, retold the Greek story – if it even is a Greek story – of Athena and Arachne’s weaving contest, but he used Minerva in place of Athena.
When did people stop worshipping Minerva?
People kept right on worshipping Minerva all through the Roman Empire. But when most people converted to Christianity in the 300s and 400s AD, they started to think of the older gods as demons. So they didn’t worship Minerva any more then.