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Story summary: Arachne

The goddess Athene, inventor of the art of weaving, hears rumours of a Lydian woman, Arachne, boasting that she is so skilled at the loom that her talent compares to that of the immortals. Angered by Arachne’s arrogance, Athene visits her in the guise of an old woman. When she suggests to Arachne that she should acknowledge her skill is a gift from the gods, Arachne is scornful, claiming her skill has been earned by endeavour rather than bestowed as a gift. In fury the goddess reveals herself and challenges the mortal to a contest. Mortal and immortal weave tapestries, submitting them to the judgement of Persephone. Athene’s work is faultless and beautiful but Arachne’s tapestry exquisitely displays all human emotion, and Arachne is declared the winner. In fury Athene turns on Arachne and condemns her and her descendants to be spiders, forever weaving.

Key themes

  • Nature and nurture
  • The nature of the gods
  • Jealousy and pride

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