Science of the Ancient Goddesses and Women Heroes

The most important of all the goddesses of antiquity was Isis, the Mother Goddess of the early Egyptians. Women retained a prominent place in Egyptian civilisation longer than in neighbouring Neolithic societies and Isis was often represented as promoting equality for all people. Perhaps this was why Isis cults were particularly attractive to women, commoners and slaves. These cults flourished in Rome and throughout the Mediterranean well into the Christian era.

The attributes of Isis and the rituals associated with her worship were typical of goddesses world-wide. Isis gave the indigenous people of the Nile their laws, religion, writing and medicine (as did Ishtar for the Assyrians); she invented the embalming process and the science of alchemy; most importantly, she taught the Egyptians agricultur patroness of navigation and commerce nerhans because she patroness of navigation and commerce, perhaps because she was credited with inventing the sailing boat. As her cult spread, she became identified with innumerable other Mediterranean goddesses.


while lacking the supreme power of Isis, Pallas Athena, the patroness of Athens (Roman Minerva) was another all-purpose goddess, and one of the most important Greek deities. She symbolised wisdom (her symbol was the owl) and purity, and like Isis, AthenaMinerva was credited with many of the major advances made by women during the long millennia of prehistory. As the goddess of agriculture she invented the plough and bridle, and taught the Greeks to yoke oxen and tame horses. She created the olive tree and first pressed olive oil. She also presided over crafts, and thus invented the cart, iron weapons and armour (as goddess of war, she symbolised Strategy). She invented numbers and made the first flute, although she never learned to play it.


Women were usually credited with the invention of spinning and weaving. Isis, Athena and Minerva all taught their peoples to spin and weave linen. The Egyptian Neith, like Athena, ruled over the unlikely combination of war and the domestic sciences, including weaving. But Pliny's Natural History credited a mortal woman, Pamphile of Cea in Greece, with first picking cotton and learning to comb it, spin it into thread on a distaff and weave it into cloth.'* The Story is also told of Arachne of Colophon, an Asian peasant woman who discovered the uses of woven cloth and invented nets for catching fish or birds. But she was a foolhardy woman who boasted that she was a better weaver than Minerva. The goddess, hearing of this conceit, challenged her to a weaving contest. Some say that Arachne lost to Minerva, others that the two were judged to be equal. Either way Minerva was furious. In a rage she slit Arachne's net and beat her with a shuttle. Then, overcome with shame, Arachne hanged herself and Minerva turned her into a spider so that she could continue to weave. (Whether Minerva acted out of anger or remorse presumably depends on how one feels about spiders.)


That women were acquainted with mathematical principles is illustrated by the story of Dido (whose name means heroic). When her brother, King Pygmalion of the Phoenician centre of Tyre, to seize her husband's money. While sailing away, she pretended to throw the money overboard, thus successfully sidetracking her pursuers. Eventually she landed on the coast of North Africa where she founded the great city of Carthage. A clever businesswoman, she offered to buy the land for her city from the natives, and to pay a Specified price for as much land as could be enclosed by a bull's hide. She then proceeded to solve the mathematical problem of enclosing a maximum area within a fixed perimeter. She cut the hide into very thin strips and tied them end to end, enclosing a semi-circle bounded on one side by the sea. She had solved a problem whose mathematical proof was finally achieved in the nineteenth century.


Some examples of science in ancient goddesses and female heroes.

Folksonomies: science feminism ancient folklore

/art and entertainment/theatre (0.428081)
/art and entertainment/books and literature/mythology (0.417592)
/society/unrest and war (0.413489)

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Isis:Person (0.866648 (positive:0.221562)), Minerva:Person (0.576267 (negative:-0.572838)), Arachne:Person (0.529639 (negative:-0.564809)), Pallas Athena:Person (0.427174 (positive:0.473883)), Roman Minerva:Facility (0.349664 (neutral:0.000000)), Greece:Country (0.324362 (negative:-0.336072)), Rome:City (0.272540 (positive:0.409106)), Mediterranean:Region (0.266782 (positive:0.409106)), Carthage:City (0.256331 (neutral:0.000000)), Athens:City (0.248444 (neutral:0.000000)), AthenaMinerva:Company (0.247379 (neutral:0.000000)), North Africa:Country (0.240412 (neutral:0.000000)), King Pygmalion:Person (0.237749 (neutral:0.000000)), Phoenician centre of Tyre:Facility (0.235952 (neutral:0.000000))

Athena (0.968759): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Goddess (0.753784): dbpedia | freebase
Olive (0.481631): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Isis (0.454219): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Nut (0.331861): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Mathematics (0.320713): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Greek mythology (0.292467): dbpedia | freebase
Mother goddess (0.290733): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Hypatia's Heritage (Beacon Paperback, 720)
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Alic , Margaret (1986-11-15), Hypatia's Heritage (Beacon Paperback, 720), Beacon Press, Retrieved on 2011-04-12
Folksonomies: history science feminism science history