|“||You have no idea how much hatred boils beneath us. The spiteful thoughts of so many monsters trying to reach the Athena Parthenos and destroy it. My webbing is the only thing holding the room together, girl! One false step, and you’ll fall all the way to Tartarus—and believe me, unlike the Doors of Death, this would be a one-way trip, a very hard fall! I will not have you dying before you tell me your plan for my artwork.||”|
Arachne (came to mean "spider" in Greek) was once a mortal weaver of unparalleled skill who became arrogant, challenging the goddess Athena to a contest to see who was truly the best weaver. Though there were different variations of the story of the contest, there was one similarity shared by all: Athena ended up transforming Arachne into the first spider and made her immortal, becoming the mother of all spiders.
In the times of Ancient Greece, Arachne lived in a kingdom called Lydia (now called Turkey in the modern era) and was the daughter of lower-class wool-dyers. Her father Idmon was a son of Asteria, the Titaness of falling stars.
Though her parents died when she was young and left her with neither family, nor friends, nor fortune, Arachne still became the most famous girl in the kingdom because of her weaving skills. She could weave exquisitely with effortless ease and had a particular proficiency in making tapestries, which could only be afforded by the wealthiest personages in those times. Soon, even the nymphs left their woods and their streams to join the common folk in admiring her weaving.
Rivalry with Athena
However, all the praise Arachne received went to her head and she eventually became extremely arrogant and conceited, claiming that she owed no thanks to Athena (the very goddess who had invented weaving) for her talent and that the goddess could actually learn from her if she were to engage in a weaving contest with her. Though she was offended after hearing this, Athena still decided to give Arachne a chance to prove her worth. Assuming the form of a feeble old woman, she joined the crowd that admired Arachne's weaving and acknowledged to herself that the girl was indeed talented. Athena then warned Arachne not to offend the gods and to humble herself and ask for forgiveness for dishonoring them in her arrogance. Arachne scoffed at her and persisted that she owed Athena no thanks and that she actually wished for a weaving contest between her and the goddess so she could prove her skill to others and the gods.
Provoked to the breaking point, Athena dropped her disguise and the contest began. Athena's tapestry depicted the gods in all their glory, wise mortals honoring the gods in the appropriate manner, and - possibly as an indirect warning to Arachne - infamous mortals who had dared to compare themselves to the gods being punished with either transmutation or death. On the other hand, Arachne's tapestry featured all the wrong and foolish things that the gods had done, such as Zeus kidnapping the Princess Europa in the form of a bull, Poseidon as a stallion pursuing Demeter as a white mare, and so on. When the tapestries were completed, the crowd was absolutely silent as both were incredible: Athena's was majestic, breathtaking, and radiated the power of the Olympian gods, while Arachne's was "the most scathing critique of the gods ever created", but still exquisite.
Athena was forced to admit that the contest was a tie, for Arachne's craftsmanship was genuinely flawless, but she was still enraged by how the girl had disrespected the gods through her tapestry. Taking the shuttle out of her loom, she started to beat Arachne mercilessly. In turn, the crowd, started to laugh and mock at Arachne's humiliation in the hands of the goddess. When Athena's anger subsided and she saw the crowd scorning Arachne, she turned her wrath upon them instead, but the damage was still done - Arachne knew that she would never be able to take pleasure in weaving (her only joy in life) ever again, and the townspeople she had tried so hard to please had turned against her as well. Consumed by shame, hatred, and self-pity, Arachne made a rope and tried to hang herself.
Transformation into the first spider
Arachne's act of suicide caused Athena to take pity on her, and so the Goddess transformed her into a spider, allowing her and her descendants to weave forever. However, from that very moment on, spiders shared a mutual hatred with Athena, and they also despised humans as Arachne was never able to forget her shame and anger at being ridiculed.
In the Series
Some time after the Romans brought the Athena Parthenos back to Rome, they brought it to an underground shrine. Arachne eventually made her lair here and wrapped the statue in her spider silk in order to contain and hide its magical properties and lure children of Athena to their death.
For centuries, children of Athena would venture to this place using the Mark of Athena to "avenge their mother", but all were killed by Arachne's traps or the followers of Arachne or Mithras. The twin Giants Otis and Ephialtes would also help Arachne, collecting trophies from those they killed.
While Arachne was never seen, it was implied several times that children of Athena have a fear of Arachne's children, the spiders (known as arachnophobia). Annabeth Chase was so scared of spiders that she even has problems with anything that looked like them or even the word spider. When Ares sent Percy Jackson, Annabeth, and Grover Underwood to Waterland, they were attacked by tiny mechanical spiders that were made by Hephaestus. Later, when Annabeth was hypnotized by a SimCity-type game in Lotus Hotel and Casino, Percy triggered her out of the hypnosis by mentioning the word "spider".
Arachne appeared as the final obstacle in Annabeth's way as she followed the Mark of Athena to the Athena Parthenos. She is seen or mentioned in several of Percy and Annabeth's dreams. The statue was kept in Arachne's chamber, which was covered with spiderwebs and Arachne's own woven tapestries. Arachne is seen to be in collaboration with Ephialtes and Otis, who seemed to fear her despite being immortal Giants born to oppose gods.
When Annabeth arrived in Arachne's chamber, the spider woman initially planned on killing her to gain the satisfaction of killing one of Athena's children. Arachne told Annabeth that she was a far better weaver than Athena and showed Annabeth her tapestries which were so good that even Annabeth was shocked. Heavily injured, Annabeth knew that she cannot defeat Arachne in combat so she used Arachne's Fatal Flaw, hubris, against her. Arachne was lured into the idea that Annabeth, as chief architect and designer of Olympus, could arrange for her work to be displayed on Mount Olympus, even in the Hall of the Gods itself so that she could display her skill and humiliate Athena. Annabeth claims that she is no longer her mother's side since her mother's Roman form practically disowned her and that she too thought Arachne's tapestries were better. Temptingly accepting the offer, Arachne agreed. However, Annabeth added that Arachne will have to prove herself with a weaving challenge and tricked her into weaving monster-sized Chinese Handcuffs, thereby known as Chinese spider cuffs. Claiming she spotted a flaw inside, Annabeth lured Arachne into entering the Chinese spider cuffs, whereupon Arachne is trapped. Afterward, she is tricked into admitting that she'd have killed Annabeth anyway even if she had helped her.
However, after Annabeth taunted Arachne with the knowledge that the Athena Parthenos will be restored to Mount Olympus and that Arachne has inadvertently helped Athena, Arachne becomes outraged and threatened Annabeth, starting to bring down the entire chamber and opening a pit directly to Tartarus, saying that if she were to die, Annabeth would go with her. Though Arachne fell down into the eternal darkness first, she managed to ensnare Annabeth and drag her along to the edge of the pit. When the Argo II arrived to assist Annabeth in retrieving the statue, Percy grabbed hold of Annabeth, but knew their friends will never be able to save them because of the pit's strong pull, and he himself cannot sever Arachne's silk, which is still bound around Annabeth's ankle. Percy tells Nico di Angelo to come and meet them at the Doors of Death. Letting go of the ledge, he and Annabeth fell with Arachne into Tartarus.
As Annabeth and Percy fell into Tartarus, Annabeth wondered in disbelief if Arachne has reached Tartarus or was even still alive. Shortly after the two arrive in the worst part of the Underworld, Annabeth saw an Italian Fiat which she saw fall into Tartarus after the Argo II destroyed the ceiling of Arachne's lair, which had been scratched and partially destroyed by Arachne. Annabeth reacts angrily to Arachne's survival and suspects that she had fled to heal her wounds.
A short time later, Arachne attempted to ambush and kill Annabeth as she and Percy drank from the River Phlegethon to heal their wounds. Since Annabeth was turned away from her and facing Percy, Annabeth only realized Arachne's presence when Percy zoned in on a shape hurtling towards her. Annabeth turned to see Arachne jumping at her, but is paralyzed by Arachne's sickly sweet scent and was unable to react. Luckily, Percy reacted quick enough to slice Arachne in two with Riptide and kill her. Neither Percy or Annabeth had any idea how long Arachne would stay dead and they didn't have intentions of finding out, so they quickly began moving to find the Doors of Death.
- Control over Spiders: Arachne can ask swarms of spiders to help her on tasks. They would do it out of love for their mother, even if they don't want to.
- Webbing: Arachne's spider silk is soft and flexible, yet hard as steel. It is capable of holding her lair together above a hard fall to Tartarus even withstanding the pull of the pit. Her spider silk can hide Athena Parthenos godly magic properties showing its power. However, some structures required web produced for years.
- Weaving: Arachne's skill rivals with the goddess Athena, the inventor of the skill. Her eight legs move with hypnotic speed, slowly twisting or undoing silk strands in complex ways. Arachne's tapestries truly were more beautiful than nature, being vivid and lifelike. According to Annabeth Chase, Arachne's tapestries were the most beautiful she'd ever seen.
- She can memorize things quickly, having "an artist' eye for detail."
- Paralyzing Breath: Arachne possesses a sickly sweet scent, which can potentially stop her targets, paralyzing them. According to Annabeth, her stink smells like an entire bakery full of pastries left to go bad for a month.
- Teeth (possibly): Arachne possess needle-like teeth, which possibly could sink into her target's neck.
- Poisonous Bite (possibly): An ability speculated by Annabeth.
- According to Arachne, Arachne can see the most talented child of Athena in her dreams. This is why one of her tapestries depicted Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase's first underwater kiss as if she'd been there watching them.
- Arachne's voice is like an angry buzz in multiple tones, female but not human.
- She and Annabeth share the same fatal flaw, hubris. It is also very likely that many other children of Athena share this trait as well, which is ironic as Arachne shares the same flaw as the children of her worst enemy.
- In mythology, Arachne became the Goddess of Challenge, Spiders, and Weaving.