There is a rather interesting line in Aeschylus’ Eumenides concerning Athena –
” I alone of the Gods know the keys to the house where His Thunderbolt is sealed.”
This is Athena speaking to the Erinyes – the Furies – and stating quite directly that She and She Alone is in possession to ‘the keys’ to the store of Zeus’ unstoppable thunder-weapon. Which is, we may say, the Greek equivalent to what we know in Vedic terms to be the Vajra – but also in a more broad-spanning Indo-European typology, the “World-Spear” wielded by the Sky Father.
I read this, and my mind immediately went to the Vedic comparatives. In RV VIII 100, for instance, we have Vak Saraswati acting to provide Indra with the Vajra. It is sealed away in Her Realm, The Waters, and is only able to be ‘unlocked’ for His Use via the proper Rites and offering to Her. See my earlier work ‘Foe-Slayer Claims Our Eulogy – Understanding RigVeda VIII 100: Indra, Vak’ for more upon that.
There is also a bit of a pattern to this – as we also have attestation for Saraswati (this time working in concert with the Asvins) producing another Vajra for Indra’s use in slaying Namuki. Again, this special weapon is produced following Indra’s agreement to provide Saraswati Vak and the Ashwins with sacrificial portion.
The symbolic sense being communicated here is, of course , that it is through Piety and Prayer – the proper rites – that such mystical weaponry is to be made available to the proper Devotee , or even Deity .
And in the case of Athena possessing the only keys – or, I should say, the only knowledge which forms the keys – to the location of Zeus’ Thunderbolt’s storing … it may, perhaps, be the same concept being dimly recalled by the Ancient Greeks.
Certainly, as I have repeatedly demonstrated (for example in ‘Hail Hydra-Slayer: On The Mythic Combat Of Herakles And Athena – Indra And Vak Saraswati, Against The Demon-Dragon Of The Water’), there is a strong correspondence between Athena and Vak Saraswati.
And certainly, the correspondence between the Thunderbolt of Zeus is an almost self-apparent one. Although I should qualify that somewhat.
First by noting that the Vajra is not only wielded by Indra – but also by Rudra [c.f RV 2 33.3], amidst occasional other Deities.
Second, by observing that, in the manner of Zeus’ Thunderbolt, the Vajra is not necessarily (just) a ‘per-cussive’ ‘striking’ weapon such as a mace or hammer or club – but rather can manifest also as a thrown projectile weapon. In the case of Zeus, akin to a javelin, perhaps. And in the case of the Shaivite representations of this – even a not-necessarily-thrown long-spear/staff style of panoply.
And Third, that this particular point of evident linkage should not be read as establishing a ‘correct’ parallel of Zeus with Indra, as some are wont to do. Zeus Pater is Dyaus Pitar – the Indo-European Sky Father, also known as Rudra.
However, the Greeks, due to a phenomenon we have often taken to terming “Mess-O-Potamia” (wherein cultural influence from the Ancient Near East altered how the Greeks thought about their own mythology in practice), wound up ‘syncretizing’ elements and features of the Indo-European Striker/Thunderer deific with their most prominent Sky Father figure.
The ‘proper’ Striker/Thunderer figure in Greek mythology is , of course , Herakles (although there is plausibly rather more than one – Perseus being another potential example). A figure also ‘armed’ by Athena afore His mythic combat against the Demon-Dragon-Of-The-Water known as the Hydra, in a manner closely comparable to the assistance rendered by Vak Saraswati to Indra afore the latter’s combat against Vritra.
But even leaving that aside, the theme of the Warrior-Wisdom-Word Goddess assisting and empowering the Sky Father is also prevalent. We can see it in the relationship between Vak Devi and Rudra as extolled in the famed DeviSukta of the RigVeda [RV X 125] and at myriad other points within the Hindu canon. It is She Who allows the Weapon of Rudra to function – to “strike and slay the hater of devotion”.
And we may also fairly consider, in light of Athena’s statement per Aeschylus that it is the “Knowledge” which unlocks this storehouse for the Thunder-Weapon – the role of Athena in imparting the requisite elements of ‘mind’ to Her Chosen Champions, the role of Vak Devi in making the male She Chooses or Loves (contingent upon how you interpret ‘Kama’ in the relevant verse) a Rsi and Brahmin (and it should be noted the ability of the seriously sagacious Brahmin as ‘Combat Theologian’ to similarly ‘unlock’ the awesome destructive power inherent in a certain mantra, to empower the ‘warhead’ of Brahmastra-class weaponry), or the implication in the Ynglinga Saga that it was Freyja Who taught Odin various of His spoken/sung ‘magical’ powers utilized upon the field of war. [see ‘Furor Teutonicus And Furor Poeticus – The Furious Goddess-Given Power Of Both Barbarian And Brahmin Alike’ for further details].
So therefore, whether we are presuming that Aeschylus’ presentation of Athena as having the Knowledge-Key which can unlock the Thunderbolt of Zeus , to be recollecting that which is found in the Vedic conceptry for the Assistance of the Striker/Thunderer or to the Sky Father – we can reasonably infer that he is recalling an ancient and archaic Indo-European theological belief in this regard.
Now this is intriguing – because Aeschylus is occasionally spoken of as a bit of an ‘innovator’ when it comes to the depictions of certain aspects of Greek mythology in his plays.
Something I have held in a bit of skepticism in the past – instead believing that he is simply the earliest written record of various things that has come down to us, yet which often turn out to have far more archaic Indo-European underpinnings. Examples of this can be seen in my quoting of his ‘Prometheus Bound’ in my work on the Gryphon – and as we shall see in a forthcoming piece, his description of those same Erinyes as having strongly comparative conceptual syllabry with elements from the Vedic sphere.
As applies Athena of the Unyielding Adamantine Aegis , therefore , it would appear that the Power of the Invincible Thunderbolt was (also) Hers.
This is certainly the sense one gets when reading Quintus Smyrnaeus’ ‘Fall of Troy’, wherein he states:
“She donned the stormy Aigis flashing far, adamantine, massy, a marvel to the Gods, whereon was wrought Medusa’s ghastly head, fearful: strong serpents breathing forth the blast of ravening fire were on the face thereof. Crashed on the Queen’s breast all the Aigis-links, as after lightning crashes the firmament. Then grasped She Her father’s weapons, which no God save Zeus can lift, and wide Olympos shook. Then swept She clouds and mist together on high; night over earth was poured, haze o’er the sea. Zeus watched, and was right glad as broad heaven’s floor rocked ‘neath the Goddess’s feet, and crashed the sky, as though invincible Zeus rushed forth to war.”
This brings together in a single passage, excellently and eloquently expressed, something that I have previously detailed in certain other of my works. Namely, that when we are looking at Athena – what we are in fact seeing is a Goddess possessed of many of the same features as the Indo-European Sky Father.
Thus do we find Athena hailed by Hesiod as both “the maiden bright-eyed Tritogeneia, equal to Her Father in strength and in wise understanding”, but also She Who “excelled in strength all the deathless ones who dwell in Olympus.”
Hail to Athena – She Who Stands At The Heart Of The Storm , And Imbues The Storm’s Fury !