The Price of a Weaver's Pride
If Greek tales are true, the mother of spiders was Arachne,
a Lydian maid so sure-handed and deft that no craftswoman could
match her in spinning or in weaving. But Arachne was arrogant. Not
even the gods could emulate her skill, she said - not even Athena,
protector of all spinners and weavers.
It was true that Athena was patroness of
these arts of peace,
but she was also the goddess of war, and she lost no time in answering
Arachne. She challenged the maiden to a contest of skill.
In her offering for the contest, Arachne
to arrogance. She wove a scene that showed an awful creature
- part man and part bull - pursuing a mortal woman. This, she said,
represented the loves of the gods. Athena wove a scene of a mortal
man strapped into a harness that supported wings made of feathers;
the man had clearly flown too near the sun, for the feathers were already
aflame. This, she said, was an image of human arrogance.
Then the goddess destroyed the mortal
woman's work and,
with a sharp command, the woman herself. At Athena's words,
Arachne shrank and blackened, and eight wispy legs sprouted from
her body. She spent the remainder of her brief life - as her decendants
always would - spinning thread from her own belly and shuttling
back and forth across its sticky strands to weave herself a web.