Owls in the Greek Mythology

Owls in the Greek Mythology. A Lecture for Librarians

The mythology of the owl is dated far back beyond time we can date and has been passed on to generation after generation. The owl never appears in a good light in Greek mythology. It is associated with dark, dank places and is representative of death. In art, the owl is often shown as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge, but in mythology, it is shown as a creature of the night that should be feared.

One of the most famous pieces of ancient Greek art is the silver tetradrachm coin from the island of Aegina that was minted around 500 BC. On one side of this coin is an owl, and on the other side is a sea turtle. This coin is significant because it was one of the first instances where the owl was used as a symbol of Athens. The island of Aegina was a rival of Athens, so by putting an owl on their coin, they were indicating that they were smarter than Athens.

The style of this coin was imitated by many other cities, and owls began appearing on all sorts of coins and sculptures. In fact, there are more than 200 known examples of owls appearing on ancient Greek coins. The use of owls as a symbol for Athens became so popular that when Athens started minting its own coins in 5th century BC, they put an owl on them as well.

The most famous instance of an owl in Greek mythology is the story of Athena and Arachne. Arachne was a mortal woman who was incredibly skilled at weaving. She became so arrogant that she boasted she could weave better than Athena herself. Athena took offense to this and challenged Arachne to a weaving contest.

Arachne’s tapestry was so beautiful and lifelike that Athena was shocked. In anger, she destroyed the tapestry and turned Arachne into a spider who would forever have to weave her web. From then on, Athena was often shown with an owl by her side to represent her wisdom and prudence.

Owls were also closely associated with Hades, the god of the underworld. It was said that when someone died, their soul would be lead to the underworld by an owl. This might be because owls are nocturnal creatures that are only active at night, just like Hades himself.

Another story about Hades and owls can be found in the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus was a musician who fell in love with Eurydice, a nymph. They got married and were very happy until Eurydice was bitten by a snake and died. Orpheus went to Hades and begged him to let Eurydice go back to the world of the living.

Hades agreed but said that Orpheus could only lead her out if he walked ahead of her and didn’t look back until they were both back in the world of the living. Unfortunately, Orpheus couldn’t resist looking back to make sure Eurydice was still there, and she vanished into thin air. As he turned around, all he saw was an owl flying away.

This story highlights how fickle fate can be; even Orpheus couldn’t escape death despite his incredibly skill. It also shows how owls can be a representation of death and the underworld.

In conclusion, owls have a long and rich history in Greek mythology. They are often associated with wisdom, knowledge, and death. The next time you see an owl, think about all the stories and myths that surround this fascinating creature.


Owls play a variety of roles in Greek mythology, appearing as both helpful and harmful beings. In some stories, they are seen as wise and benevolent creatures that help humans in need, while in others they are depicted as malicious beings that bring misfortune to those who cross their path.

Owls are often represented as wise and mysterious creatures in Greek art and literature. They are often associated with the goddess Athena, who is often depicted with an owl by her side. The owl also symbolizes knowledge and wisdom in Greek culture.

The owl is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge in Greek culture. It is also associated with the goddess Athena, who is often depicted with an owl by her side.