A young woman named Arachne became known throughout Greece for her skillful weaving and embroidering of cloth.
As she sat at her loom, she bragged that she had taught herself and owed her talent to no one, not even Athena, goddess of spinners and embroiderers.
Suddenly, an old woman appeared at the door and urged Arachne to be more modest.
Arrogantly, Arachne stated that she would challenge Athena herself. At these words, the old woman transformed into the goddess Athena.
She sat down at a loom and the contest began.
Both Arachne and Athena worked in a blur of motion, their hands stitching exquisite cloth. Athena’s cloth showed scenes of mortals punished for their lack of respect.
In response, Arachne created frank and embarrassing portrayals of the gods, especially Zeus’s numerous love affairs.
As Arachne and Athena neared completion, Athena looked at the young girl’s work. It appeared as beautiful and perfect as her own.
Enraged, Athena ripped the cloth from Arachne’s loom and beat her on the head with her spinning spool. Distressed and disgraced by this treatment, Arachne hanged herself.
Athena felt pity for the proud mortal and sprinkled drops of magic water onto her body, transforming her into a spider that would weave and spin forever.
Arachnid, the scientific name of the spider family, comes from the Greek Arachne, which means spider.