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|Goddess of wisdom, arts, crafts, medicine, commerce, defense and magic|
|Member of the Capitoline Triad|
Mosaic of the Minerva of Peace
|Animals||Owl of Minerva|
|Practices and beliefs|
Minerva (Etruscan: Menrva) was the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. She was born from the godhead of Jupiter with weapons. From the 2nd century BC onwards, the Romans equated her with the Greek goddess Athena. She was the virgin goddess of music, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, and magic. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl usually named as the "owl of Minerva", which symbolizes that she is connected to wisdom.
Stemming from an Italic moon goddess *Meneswā ('She who measures'), the Etruscans adopted the inherited Old Latin name, *Menerwā, thereby calling her Menrva. It is assumed that her Roman name, Minerva, is based on this Etruscan mythology, Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools and commerce. She was the Etruscan counterpart to Greek Athena. Like Athena, Minerva was born from the head of her father, Jupiter (Greek Zeus).
By a process of folk etymology, the Romans could have linked her foreign name to the root men- in Latin words such as mens meaning "mind", perhaps because one of her aspects as goddess pertained to the intellectual. The word mens is built from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- 'mind' (linked with memory as in Greek Mnemosyne/μνημοσύνη and mnestis/μνῆστις: memory, remembrance, recollection, manush in Sanskrit meaning mind).
Worship in Rome
As Minerva Medica, she was the goddess of medicine and doctors. As Minerva Achaea, she was worshipped at Luceria in Apulia where votive gifts and arms said to be those of Diomedes were preserved in her temple.
In Fasti III, Ovid called her the "goddess of a thousand works". Minerva was worshiped throughout Italy, and when she eventually became equated with the Greek goddess Athena, she also became a goddess of war, although in Rome her warlike nature was less emphasized. Her worship was also taken out to the empire — in Britain, for example, she was conflated with the local wisdom goddess Sulis.
The Romans celebrated her festival from March 19 to March 23 during the day which is called, in the neuter plural, Quinquatria, the fifth after the Ides of March, the nineteenth, an artisans' holiday . A lesser version, the Minusculae Quinquatria, was held on the Ides of June, June 13, by the flute-players, who were particularly useful to religion. In 207 BC, a guild of poets and actors was formed to meet and make votive offerings at the temple of Minerva on the Aventine Hill. Among others, its members included Livius Andronicus. The Aventine sanctuary of Minerva continued to be an important center of the arts for much of the middle Roman Republic.
Minerva was worshipped on the Capitoline Hill as one of the Capitoline Triad along with Jupiter and Juno, at the Temple of Minerva Medica, and at the "Delubrum Minervae" a temple founded around 50 BC by Pompey on the site now occupied by the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva facing the present-day Piazza della Minerva.
Universities and educational establishments
As patron goddess of wisdom, Minerva frequently features in statuary, as an image on seals, and in other forms, at educational establishments.
Societies and governmental use
- The Seal of California depicts the Goddess Minerva having sprung full grown from the brain of Jupiter. This was interpreted as analogous to the political birth of the State of California without having gone through the probation period of being a Territory.
- In the early 20th century, Manuel José Estrada Cabrera, President of Guatemala, tried to promote a "Worship of Minerva" in his country; this left little legacy other than a few interesting Hellenic style "Temples" in parks around Guatemala.
- According to John Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy (1798), the third degree of the Bavarian Illuminati was called Minerval or Brother of Minerva, in honour of the goddess of learning. Later, this title was adopted for the first initiation of Aleister Crowley's OTO rituals.
- Minerva is displayed on the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government.
- Minerva is featured in the logo of the Max Planck Society.
- Minerva is displayed on the cap badge of the Artists Rifles Territorial SAS Regiment of the British Army.
- Kingston Upon Hulls oldest Masonic Lodge is named The Minerva Lodge.
- Minerva is the patron goddess of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
- Minerva is featured on the Union College seal. The college motto is "We all become brothers under the laws of Minerva."
Public monuments, places and modern culture
- A small Roman shrine to Minerva (the only one still in situ in the UK) stands in Handbridge, Chester. It sits in a public park, overlooking the River Dee.
- The Minerva Roundabout in Guadalajara, Mexico, located at the crossing of the López Mateos, Vallarta, López Cotilla, Agustín Yáñez and Golfo de Cortez avenues, features the goddess standing on a pedestal, surrounded by a large fountain, with an inscription which says "Justice, wisdom and strength guard this loyal city".
- A bronze statue of Minerva lies in monument square Portland, Maine. "Our Lady of Victories Monument" dedicated 1891, Richard Morris Hunt and Franklin Simmons.
- A sculpture of Minerva by Andy Scott, known as the Briggate Minerva, stands outside Trinity Leeds shopping centre.
- Minerva is displayed as a statue in Pavia, Italy, near the train station, and is considered as an important landmark in the city.
- Minerva is the name of a supercomputer at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
References and sources
- Encarta World English Dictionary 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation.
- Larousse Desk Reference Encyclopedia, The Book People, Haydock, 1995, p. 215.
- Candau, Francisco J. Cevallos (1994). Coded Encounters: Writing, Gender, and Ethnicity in Colonial Latin America. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 215. ISBN 0-87023-886-8.
- Philosophy of Right (1820), "Preface"
- Aristotle Mirab. Narrat. 117
- Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Achaea (2)". In Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology 1. Boston. p. 8.
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Minerva.|
- Origins of English History see Chapter Ten.
- Romans in Britain - Roman religion and beliefs see The Roman gods.
- Old Norse Myths, Literature and Society
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. See page 1090