Once upon a time, Arachne, a Lydian maiden, daughter of the humble dyer Idmon of Colophon, had no claim to fame, except her skill of spinning the soft wool. So skilled was she that people wondered, how much Minerva had instructed her. But the proud Arachne, being displeased to share her fame, denied Minerva’s skill and even challenged Minerva to a contest. Disguised as an old woman, Minerva came to Arachne, advising not to deny Minerva’s art and pray for forgiveness. Arachne replied that instead of her, the old woman should advise Minerva, and tell the goddess not to avoid the contest. Instantly, Minerva revealed herself and without delay, the contest began.
Minerva, wove the Athenian Hill of Mars; twelve Gods surrounding Jupiter; Neptune gifting the horse, and herself gifting the olive branch to man. At the four corners were woven scenes of contest involving Rhodope and Haemus, Juno and the Pygmy, Juno and Antigone, and the weeping Cinyras. The work was adorned with borders, showing different designs of her devoted olive tree.
Arachne, wove the stories of Europa, Asteria, Leda; Jove along with Antiope, Alcmena, Danae, Mnemosyne, and Proserpina; Neptune as a bull, Enipeus, ram, horse, bird, and dolphin; Apollo as a rustic, having hawk-wings, tawny skin of lion, and deluding Isse; Bacchus deluding Erigone; Saturn as a steed; and adorned the borders with interlacing flowers and ivy leaves.
Minerva failed to find a single flaw in Arachne’s work, and became envious. But even envy is unable to criticize perfect art, and hence, Minerva became enraged. Minerva ripped Arachne’s work, and struck Arachne with her boxwood shuttle. The insulting denial of justice, depressed Arachne, who tied a cord around her neck and hung herself. Minerva took pity and saved Arachne from death. She transformed Arachne into a spider, who forever weaved a web, but with her fate dangling on a fine cord.
Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani