In Greek and Roman mythology, Arachne was a woman who challenged the goddess of wisdom and crafts, Athena.
She was a very good weaver and was able to weave beautiful pictures into the cloth. People would travel far and wide to see Arachne’s work.
Arachne became too proud of her work and began to suffer from what the Greek’s called hubris. This is commonly know as being arrogant or believing that you are better than others.
Arachne began to tell people that she was a better weaver than Athena – who is known for her spinning and weaving skills.
Athena was offending by these claims from Arachne and so challenged her to a weaving content. The goddess presented herself as an old lady and warned Arachne:
You can never compare to any of the gods. Plead for forgiveness and Athena might spare your soul.
Arachne replied with typical hubris:
Ha, I only speak the truth and if Athena thinks otherwise then let her come down and challenge me herself.
Athena removed her disguise and the two of them wove from early in the morning until it was too dark to see – both in the same room. When they were finished weaving, they compared what they had done.
The cloth woven by Athena shows the gods and goddesses sitting together on Mount Olympus. They were doing good deeds for other.
Arachne, on the other hand, had woven a picture of the gods and goddesses getting drunk, and the many ways they had abused mortals – particularly Zeus and his tricking and seducing of many women.
Arachne’s weaving was far better than Athena’s, and this made the goddess even more angry. She ripped Arachne’s work into shreds.
Then she sprinkled Arachne with poison from the goddess Hecate. Arachne’s hair fell out, her arms and longs grew long and skinny, her nose and ears shrank and she slowly turned into a little spider.
This was a lesson to show how goddesses would punish humans for wanting to be their equal. No matter how skilled the mortals were, they could never be a match for the gods.
People need to remain humble and avoid their hubris.