The Tennessee Titans are a great football team, but their biggest threat isn't the other teams in the NFL. They should worry most about an awesome lady who lives not far from their downtown stadium on the Cumberland River. Athena, the goddess of wisdom in Greek mythology, is now a Nashville resident and lives in an exact replica of the ancient Parthenon, which stands atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
She's the reason the football team changed its name to Titans from Oilers in 1999, two years after relocating here from Houston. But, it was also Athena and her father Zeus, the mightiest of the Greek gods, who defeated the old-order gods known as Titans and confined them forever to the lowest level of the underworld.
Athena immigrated to America apparently because the accommodations are better. The Parthenon that stands in Nashville, close to Vanderbilt University is fully intact - even though it is made of concrete. The original is made of hand-carved marble.
Since the 1950s, Nashville has been called Music City, because many of the biggest names in country/pop music live here, write here and record their music here. And it's the home of the Grand Ole Opry.
But in the 1800s, Nashville was called the "Athens of the West." That's when the U.S. extended only as far west as the Mississippi River. Later, Nashville became the "Athens of the South."
It got that title because the sophisticated, cultured city of Nashville was home to several institutions of higher learning, such as Vanderbilt University and Fisk University, which often taught in Greek and Latin.
So, when Nashville chose to host a world's fair in 1897 to mark its 100th birthday, the local leaders decided to build on the Athens theme. Nearly a dozen replicas of famous old-world structures, such as Egypt's pyramids and the Eiffel Tower, were built at their world's fair site.
Most were built to survive for a year or so, but the full-scale Parthenon was such an impressive building that the locals kept it standing for 25 years after the fair closed.
The world's fair site became Centennial Park, the most attractive park in Nashville today. But over the years the Parthenon started showing its age. The original in Greece is more than 2,400 years old and was built over 10 years. It also took 10 years to rebuild the crumbling Nashville version, which is made of reinforced concrete and stone. It reopened in 1931.
But Athena wasn't living there then. She didn't move in until May, 1990, after Nashville artist Alan LeQuire spent eight years crafting a full-scale replica of the Athena statue in Greece. She stands an impressive 18 metres tall and weighs 12 tons. In her right hand she holds a statue of Nike, which is more than two metres tall.
The whole story of the original Parthenon and the efforts in Greece to restore it to its original splendour is told in the Nashville Parthenon. Apparently, there were elaborate carvings of the reigning gods at the time gracing the arches above the east and west entrances to the original. They are reproduced in plaster and identified in the Nashville version.
Here you'll learn that Athena competed with her uncle Poseidon to create a beautiful city in Greece and be its principal patron. To impress the locals Poseidon struck a rock with his staff and water flowed out - but it was salt water, for he was the god of the seas.
Athena struck a rock with her staff and out popped an olive tree which was much more useful to the Greeks as it created food and firewood and shelter, so they chose Athena as their protector and named their community Athens in her honour.
Pat Brennan is a Guelph, Ontario-based freelance writer.
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