In Greek mythology, Arachne was a peasant girl who became an expert spinner and weaver of cloth. No human could spin or weave as well as Arachne or produce finer cloth. She became famous throughout Greece.

Arachne grew arrogant about her skill, boasting that she was better than Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who invented spinning and weaving. At first, Athena laughed off Arachne's claims. Then many people began to believe them and to stay away from Athena's temples and from festivals held in her honor. Athena decided she had to teach the boastful girl a lesson.

Disguised as an old woman, the goddess came to earth and challenged Arachne to a weaving contest. The cloth that Athena wove showed the power of the gods and the fate of humans who dared to challenge them. Arachne's tapestry contained scenes of the foolish romantic misadventures of the gods. Arachne's work was the equal of Athena's, and the goddess was impressed by its quality. However, Arachne could not resist boasting that her weaving surpassed that of Athena.

At that moment, the goddess revealed her true identity. She tore apart Arachne's weaving and beat her with the shuttle from her weaving loom. In despair, Arachne took a rope and hanged herself. Out of pity, Athena changed the rope into a web and turned Arachne into a spider, an animal known for its spinning and weaving skills. Today the class of animals to which spiders belong is called Arachnida, after the girl who could weave so well.

See also Athena ; Greek Mythology .

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