|Seal from 1894 diploma featuring Minerva|
Minerva was a Roman goddess whose origin is believed to be Etruscan, her Etruscan antecedent being known as Menrva. Menrva was the third part of the Etruscan holy triad composed of Tinia and Uni, which is later reflected in the Roman Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. By the time Minerva was worshipped along with Jupiter and Juno in temples known as Capitolia, Minerva was visually indistinguishable from the Greek goddess Athena. People of the classical world had no problem borrowing gods from other cultures!
|Bronze votive figurine of Minerva, she originally held a spear in her right hand and shield in her left. (Image from Dictionary of Roman Religion, Lesley Adkins & Roy Adkins, 1996)|
If all these aspects seem disjointed (Latin poet Ovid calls her the "goddess of a thousand things"), it helps to keep in mind that she is most renowned for her wisdom and mental prowess. Was it most likely this aspect that McIver had in mind when he chose her as our representative goddess? Perhaps so, but he may have also read and heeded the words of Ovid's Fasti, "Una dies media est, et fiunt sacra Minervae...quod est illa nata Minerva die...Pallada nunc pueri teneraeque orate puellae, qui bene placarit Pallada, doctus erit" or "After an interval of one day, rites are performed in honor of Minerva...because that is her birthday...Make your prayers to Pallas* (Minerva) boys and gentle girls, those who honor her well, will be learned!" (Fasti 3.809-816) A very appropriate verse for a teacher's school!
|Official University seal adopted in 1963|
As the University has grown, it is interesting to see how many of her other aspects have been fulfilled with the mission of the University. From teacher education and home economics, to the inclusion of arts, music, and even nursing degrees being offered, Minerva has proven a very wise choice for The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
(*Pallas is another name for Athena/Minerva-)