The Ancient Greeks believed that, somehow, all the produce that was so important to them came from their gods, who preserved the fecundity and fertility of the land. In that difficult task, the gods, donors of all material and cultural goods, were assisted by mythical heroes and demigods, such as Hercules, Prometheus and Theseus.
One very well-known myth surrounds the naming of the city of Athens, and involves a competition between the goddess Athena and the god Poseidon. The two adversaries, Athena and Poseidon, stood on the rock of Acropolis and the other ten Olympian gods came to judge their dispute. Cecrops, the King of the city at the time, was also present as a witness.
Poseidon stood first in the middle of the holy rock and struck the ground with his trident. A fountain of salty water rose and created a pond, named the Erechtheion Sea.
It was then the turn of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, to present her gift. After calling for Cecrops to stand as a witness, she struck the earth with her spear and an ancient olive tree, full of fruit, sprouted from the rock. That tree survived for many years. When Athena presented her gift, Zeus announced the end of the competition and asked the other Olympian gods to decide who should be the patron of the city. The gods turned to Cecrops for his view and opinion. Cecrops stood on the rock and gazed around him, but everywhere he looked, he only saw salty water – all the seas that surround Greece. The olive tree and its fruit that Athena had offered was a promise of great happiness and glory for the city. Cecrops found Athena’s gift more useful and so Athena became the patron goddess and protector of Athens.