Character Profile in Asexuality: Athena

When people think of asexual characters in literature, they don’t often think of Greek mythological figures.  Asexuality has a false perception as a modern affectation.  Why not examine the pantheon of Greek literature under the lens of asexual literary theory?  Certainly, there are numerous instances of homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered characters that exists in ancient literature.  The problem with analyzing any Greek legend in search of asexual characters, beyond the obvious reasons discussed in previous posts, is that legends are not the property of one individual.  They are stories passed from generation to generation with a great deal of variety, even among the same stories.  So when placing a Greek tale under the microscope, it is important to examine the various tellings of the tale.

While Athena is never explicitly stated to be asexual, she does exhibit several characteristics that might indicate her lack of sexual and romantic interest.  Her creation myth is of interest.  While there is one version of her creation that states she was conceived via sex by Zeus and Metis, there are also versions where she is born of the logos of Zeus.  When Zeus first thought to make the world a better place, Athena was the first thing to come to mind.  Rather than coming into being like most Greek characters through sex, Athena’s very creation baulks in the face of hetero-normative sexual identity.  But it doesn’t end there.

Athena is well know as a virgin.  In fact, she is perhaps most known as a virgin.  The Pantheon, a tremendous temple built in her honor, is derived from the concept of her virginity.  Traditionally, this is attributed to the patriarchal culture at the time.  But is it not possible that it is also, at least in part, an expression of asexuality in a time when asexuality was not understood?  I’m looking forward to reading further into this and perhaps uncovering some unique scholarship in the process.

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