Southwark Crown Court, English Grounds, London
Perhaps Minerva shouldn’t have been bothered by such things. She was a Roman goddess, after all. But when a mere mortal called Arachne boasted of being the best weaver ever, Minerva was annoyed. Because Minerva was the best weaver ever – of all time, for all eternity, in perpetuity. And she always had been. So piqued was Minerva by young Arachne’s boasts, she challenged the mortal to a weaving contest. Both Minerva and Arachne had to produce a tapestry. The tapestry deemed to be the most beautiful by Jupiter, King of the Gods, would win…and whoever lost had to promise never to touch a spindle or loom again. Arachne agreed. They sat down at their looms and began to work. Sometime later, they finished and the two tapestries were placed before Zeus. It’s fair to say the outcome was pretty predictable. Zeus decided Minerva had weaved the most beautiful tapestry. The goddess had won. Arachne was no match for the Minerva after all, and she accepted defeat. But Arachne despaired for the loss of her craft. She’d been weaving since she was a child, and couldn’t live without it. Minerva was compassionate and wise. She said that as Arachne had promised never to go near a loom again if she lost the challenge, she’d have to stand by that promise. But there was something she could do to help. Minerva could turn Arachne into a spider. This she did. Now, Arachne could spin and weave as much as she wanted without ever having to go near a loom again. For Arachne (from whose name we get all sorts of spider-related words) it was a lesson learned the hard way – never consider yourself the equal of the gods. But for Minerva, it was an exercise in common sense and judiciousness. Which is perhaps why she was the Roman goddess of wisdom, and why this statue by Alan Collins stands today outside Southwark Crown Court in London today.