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There was once a woman called Arachne

24 Apr 2022 | Greek

The Roman author Ovid, in his masterpiece “Metamorphoses”, wrote that there was once a woman called Arachne, daughter of Idmon, a dyer who could create an incredible rich purple unlike any other in the region of Lydia, modern Turkey.


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Together they came up with the most wonderful tapestries the world has ever seen. Her technique was so impressive and inspiring that even the nymphs would travel to watch her. She mastered the art of weaving in such a way that no one could weave like her.

Everything was impressive even her body language while working, everything in the same involving rhythm. Impressed, the nymphs speculated that her skills had been given by Athena, the goddess of war and arts & crafts.

Arachne, feeling her talent diminished by the comment, denied. She pledged that only her hard work was responsible for such perfection. Unfortunately, Athena heard her statement and got extremely offended – which is never a good sign.

Athena never retreat, so does Arachne

The goddess decided to give a chance to the weaver to redeem herself descending to Earth in the form of an old lady and tell Arachne that she should pay homage to the gods for her incredible gift. Again, Arachne refused and said:

Get you gone! Advise your goddess to come here herself, and not avoid the contest!

Athena then revealed herself. Everyone fell to their knees, but the defiant Arachne. Without exchanging any words, they started to weave.

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In her piece, Athena chose to glorify the gods, but Arachne chose a very different path. She showed all the tricks the gods used to lure humans and other divine entities, and also depicted the terror the gods would cast over the human kind.

Even thou her work was remarkable, Athena was furious and shredded the tapestry. Arachne clearly had crossed the line and seeing her beautiful job in pieces was too much for the young woman. 

That was too much to handle

Arachne killed herself, hanging by the treads of her victorious tapestry, but moments before her last breath, Athena intervened. Furious but impressed by her skills, the goddess sprinkled herbs of Hecate on the girl.

Moments after, she began a terrible transformation. Her hair fell off, two more pairs of legs emerged from her body and she shrank. That’s how Arachne became the first spider, doomed to spend her entire life weaving and hanging by a cord just as her final moments as a human.

We understand that Arachne’s story is a tale about arrogance and tells us the dangers of being too greedy and to be careful when defying those who possess more power than us. It is believed that Ovid himself was in such a position when he offended the emperor Augustus. His punishment was to be exiled to the colonies far on the Black Sea.


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