Minerva in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
one of the great Roman divinities, whose name seems to be of
the same root as mens, whence monere and promneercare (Fest.
p. 205, ed. Müller. She is accordingly the thinking,
calculating, and inventive power personified. Varro (ap.
Aug. de Civ. Dei, 7.28) therefore considered her as the
impersonation of all ideas, or as the plan of the universe,
while Jupiter, according to him, is the creator, and Juno
the representative of matter. Minerva was the third in the
number of the Capitoline divinities, and sometimes is said
to have wielded the thunderbolts of Jupiter, her father.
Tarquin, the son of Demaratus, was believed to have united
the three divinities in one common temple, and hence, when
repasts were prepared for the gods, these three always went
together (August. de Civ. Dei, 4.10; V. Max. 2.1.2). As
Minerva was a virgin divinity, and her father the supreme
god, the Romans easily identified her with the Greek Athena.
and accordingly all the attributes of Athena were gradually
transferred to the Roman Minerva. But we shall here confine
ourselves to those which were peculiar to the Roman goddess,
as far as they can be ascertained.
As she was a maiden goddess her sacrifices consisted of
calves which had not borne the yoke or felt the sting
(Fulgentius, p. 561, ed. Merc.; Arnob. 4.16, 7.22). She is
said to have invented numbers, and it is added that the law
respecting the driving in of the annual nail was for this
reason attached to the temple of Minerva (Liv. 7.3) ; but it
is generally well attested that she was worshipped as the
patroness of all the arts and trades, for at her festival
she was particularly invoked by all those who desired to
distinguish themselves in any art or craft, such as
painting, poetry, the art of teaching, medicine, dyeing,
spinning, weaving, and the like. (Ov. Fast. 3.809, &c.;
August. l.c. 7.16.)
This character of the goddess may be perceived also from the
proverbs "to do a thing pingui Minerva," i. e. to do a thing
in an awkward or clumsy manner; and sus Minervam, of a
stupid person who presumed to set right an intelligent one.
Minerva, however, was the patroness, not only of females, on
whom she conferred skill in sewing, spinning, weaving, &c.,
but she also guided men in the dangers of war, where victory
is gained by cunning, prudence, courage, and perseverance.
Hence she was represented with a helmet, shield, and a coat
of mail; and the booty made in war was frequently dedicated
to her. (Liv. 45.33; Verg. A. 2.615.) Minerva was further
believed to be the inventor of musical instruments,
especially wind instruments, the use of which was very
important in religious worship, and which were accordingly
subjected to a sort of purification every year on the last
day of the festival of Minerva. This festival lasted five
days, from the 19th to the 23d of March, and was called
Quinquatrus, because it began on the fifth day after the
ides of the month. (Fest. pp. 149, 257, ed. Miller; Varro,
De L. L. 6.14; Ov. Fast. 3.849.) This number of days does
not seem to have been accidental. for Servius (ad Virg.
Georg. 1.277) informs us that the number 5 was sacred to
Minerva. (See Dict. of Ant. s. v. Quinquatrus.) The most
ancient temple of Minerva at Rome was probably that on the
Capitol; another existed on the Aventine (P. Vict. Rey. Urb.
viii.; Ov. Fast. 6.728); and she had a chapel at the foot of
the Caelian hill, where she bore the surname of Capta. (Ov.
Fast. 3.337.) She also had the surname of Nautia, which was
believed to have originated in the following manner.
Diomedes had carried the Palladium from Troy; and as he
found that it availed him nothing in his misfortunes, and as
the oracle commanded him to restore it to the Trojans, he
wanted to deliver it up to Aeneas on his wanderings through
Calabria. When he came to the Trojans, he found Aeneas
engaged in offering up a sacrifice, and Nautes received the
Palladium instead of Aeneas. The goddess (Minerva) bestowed
many favours upon him, instructed him in various arts, and
chose him for her servant. The family of the Nautii
afterwards retained the exclusive knowledge of the manner in
which Minerva Nautia was to be worshipped. Her mysterious
image was preserved in the most secret part of the temple of
Vesta, and regarded as one of the safeguards of the state.
(Dionys. A. R. 1.69; Verg. A. 5.704; Serv. ad Aen. 2.166,
3.407; Lucan. 1.598; comp. Hartung, Die Relig. der Römer,
vol. ii. p. 78, &c.) - A Dictionary of Greek and Roman
biography and mythology, William Smith, Ed.