Athena is the Goddess of War and Wisdom, patron of the Sciences and the Arts and protector of Greek cities such as Athens, from which she is likely to have taken her name. Pallas-Athena (or Minerva, as her Roman counterpart is known) had an unusual birth, springing forth from her father Zeus’ (the King of the Gods) forehead fully grown and armed.

Upon Thornhill’s Painted Ceiling, she stands alongside her half-brother Hercules, dispelling the Vices (corrupt and immoral influences) from the Heavens and the reach of the Royal couple, William and Mary. Through close association the owl perched on top of her helmet has become a symbol of Wisdom, whilst her shield (or Aegis) bears the head of the snake-haired Gorgon Medusa, whom she assisted the hero Perseus in dispatching.