"Perseus Armed by Mercury and Minerva" (detail) by Bordone (c.1550)
Minerva is the Goddess of skillfulness and
industriousness, or, to put it another way, Minerva is the divine spirit
(numen) of skilled action and skilled thought. Caesar describes Minerva as she
who “bestows the principles of arts and crafts”, and so she is the patron
Goddess of any profession associated with skilled workmanship, thus carpenters,
painters, sculptors, teachers, health care workers, shoemakers, anyone
associated with the textile industry, indeed any artisan. Propertius describes
Minerva as the Goddess of the chaste arts, and Cicero, Tibullus and Horace all
refer to her as a chaste, or maiden, Goddess. Horace calls her “industrious”.
She also has another significant aspect, a martial one. Ovid tells us that “fierce
wars are waged by Minerva’s hands”, and calls her the “armed Goddess” who likes “unsheathed swords”. Thus in
iconography she is typically identifiable by her helmet. Though Mars is the God
of war, he is more commonly associated with the bloody violence of war, whereas
Minerva is associated with military strategy (skilled thought leading to
skilled action), without which no war can be won.