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Patron of the Internet?

Posted by Erik on December 29, 2009

I have long honored Hermes as my professional (IT) patron, and more generally as the patron of the Internet; some of His most common associations, as patron of commerce and of communication (and of thieves, let’s face it :) make this new one fairly obvious. However, I have recently had cause to rethink this a bit; not to minimize His importance, but to consider Another Who may have just claim to share these honors – Athena.

I recently read James Essinger’s 2004 book,  Jacquard’s Web, which details how and to what degree Charles Babbage was inspired by and indebted to the automatic weaving loom, as perfected by Joseph-Marie Jacquard, in the design of his Analytic Engine (the ancestor of the modern computer in all its glory) – as it turns out, the debt is significant to the point of being essential. It is quite possible that without Babbage’s interest in the Jacquard loom, computers might not exist in the form that we know them today; it was from Jacquard that Babbage got the idea to use punched cards to automate the computing process that was done manually in his first creation, the famous Difference Engine (which was in effect just a calculator).

Given this relationship, I have become convinced that Athena is due honor as another patron of computing in general and of the Net in particular, and I hereby so honor Her. It also occurs to me to wonder whether, in the indirect manner of oracles throughout history and around the world, the terminology of Web and Net that has come to be synonymous with computing is entirely coincidental?

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5 Responses to “Patron of the Internet?”

  1. R.D. Hammond said

    Let’s not forget, Athena losing her temper (and regretting it later) led to the creation of spiders. World Wide Web? Coincidence, hmmmmmmmmm? ;)

    I generally see Athena as overlooking all realms requiring wisdom, and she does favor the clever, so I’m inclined to think she had a hand in things as well. (Of course, ask me about anything, and I’ll try to link it to Athena. I’m admittedly biased.) At any rate, she’s the one I routinely wing prayers at when things are going horribly wrong an hour after the project was supposed to be due.

    Here’s something else: I’ve always considered Hephaestus to be the patron deity of coders, actually. Programming done well is a form of engineering, and the highest quality software comes from (virtual) forges, not from codeslinging.

  2. executivepagan said

    spiders
    That had occurred to me as well…

    Hephaestus
    Interesting! I’m not a programmer so that hadn’t occurred to me, but I can definitely see where it would work.

  3. R.D. Hammond said

    Yeah. I’m kind of a programming snob, so I tend to mark out differences between “developing” and “software engineering.”

    IMHO, once the blueprints (or UML diagrams) come out, Hephaestus is officially on the clock :)

  4. Webmonarch said

    Another way to think of Her is as Goddess of technology (metis + tools = tech). In Neal Stephenson’s _Cryptonomicon_, just this argument is advanced:

    http://markpasc.org/blog/gems/athena.html

    Thank you for the lucid insight and the strong voice.

  5. executivepagan said

    Thanks for the comment and the link! I don’t entirely agree with Stephenson’s assessment of Ares – as is true of all the Gods, He is much more complex than just “the God of War”. However, I do think part of what he says is pretty much on target – His interest seems to be more tactically-oriented, whereas I think of Athena as the ultimate strategist.

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