Women and the Sea logo
Introduction
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Myths and Mermaids
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Life in Port
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Going to Sea
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Lighthouse Keepers
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Changing Roles for Women
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Women in the Military
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Women in Wartime Production
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Early Yachting and Racing
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Women and the Sea in the 20th Century
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Timeline
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Resources
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In This Chapter

The Myth

Mermaids
Female Figureheads
Why is a Ship
called "She"?

Myths & Mermaids

The Myth

Roman Goddess Minerva
Steering post head from the vessel Minerva
The Mariners' Museum



Many ancient cultures attest to the fact that feminine imagery has always been closely associated with the sea. The mythology of the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans is full of tales of female gods or mortals helping—or hindering—humans in their struggle with the sea.

Armed goddesses were popular subjects for figureheads on warships of the late eighteenth century. The Greek goddess Pallas Athena (known to the Romans as Minerva) represented wisdom, fertility, useful arts, and prudent warfare. In both incarnations, the goddess wore armor, held a golden staff, and carried a goatskin shield with an image of Medusa. The Roman goddess Britannia, namesake of Great Britain, was another incarnation of this protective deity.

Telemachos went aboard the ship, but Athene went first and took her place in the stern of the ship, and close beside her Telemachos took his place. —From The Odyssey of Homer, rendered into English prose by S. H. Butcher and Andrew Lang, 1930



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