Callimachus’s Hymn to Athena
It is not for me—gods forbid it—to see Pallas bathe, this day of her ceremonial bath, but I can praise you, her attendants, without the sight: I hear the horses you tend snort holy fire as they slow to a trot, then stop before her shrine and whinny as the goddess ties them up, gently, herself. She cares about them. Even on the night she returned, her normally shining arms all crust and sludge and blood from hacking apart the malignant giants, she stopped at the verge of her property to scrub the horses’ necks, transferring the clean, cold spray, with the sea-god’s explicit permission, from his ocean, to clear the sweat and foam from their ragged mouths.
Now she’s coming back to our city. Don’t bother to bring rose water, saffron, or verbena (I hear the rush of her wheels on their way). She won’t need a mirror. She knows how fair she appears. Even when she took part in that fancy-dress fiasco, the judgment on Ida, she did not bring reflective bronze or glass. When she last went distance running, competing beside those Spartan twins we now regard as stars, you polished her skin with olive leaves and oil from the tree that she gave her own city, and she blushed. Male champions like Castor—like Heracles, even— wear olive oil too. So bring her olive oil again, and her aureate comb, so she can comb out her own hair.
Athena! Your girls, your favorite pupils, are waiting, the studious granddaughters of your half brother Apollo. One of them brought you Diomedes’s shield, as custom and the priest Eumedes taught, Eumedes who, when he learned that the men