In Greco-Roman mythology, Arachne/əˈrækniː/ was a great mortal weaver who boasted that her skill was greater than that of Athena, goddess of wisdom, weaving, and strategy. Arachne refused to acknowledge that her knowledge came, in part at least, from the goddess. Offended by Arachne's arrogance, Athena set a contest between the two weavers. Athena presented herself as an old lady one day and approached the boasting girl. "You can never compare to any of the gods. Plead for forgiveness and Athena might spare your soul" Athena warned the girl. "Ha, I only speak the truth and if Athena thinks otherwise then let her come down and challenge me herself." Arachne boasted on. "Very well then" Athena took off her disguise and appeared in her beautiful, shimmering godly self clad in her sparking white chitin. Without another word the goddess and mortal stepped forward to a loom each and started working. It was soon obvious that they were both very skilled with a loom, but everyone can tell Athena was better and much swifter. Athena's weaving showed four separate contests between mortals and the gods where the gods punished mortals for setting themselves as equals of the gods. Arachne's weaving depicted ways that the gods had misled and abused mortals. Particularly Zeus' tricking and rape of many women. When they are both finished, Athena sees that Arachne, insulted the gods and is so angry that she rips Arachne's work into shreds. Arachne can't take it and hangs herself. Athena feels merciful and bids her life and as she leaves and sprinkles her with Hecate's potion, turning her into a spider and cursing her and all her descendents to weave for all time.
The metamorphosis of Arachne in Ovid's telling furnished material for an episode in Edmund Spenser's mock-heroic Muiopotmos, 257-352. Spenser's adaptation, which "rereads an Ovidian story in terms of the Elizabethan world" is designed to provide a rationale for the hatred of Arachne's descendent Aragnoll for the butterfly-hero Clarion.
The Spinners, or, The Fable of Arachne (1644–48) by Velázquez
The tale of Arachne inspired one of Velázquez' most factual paintings: Las Hilanderas ("The Spinners, or The fable of Arachne", in the Prado), in which the painter represents the two important moments of the myth. In the front, the contest of Arachne and the goddess (the young and the old weaver), in the back,an Abduction of Europa that is a copy of Titian's version (or maybe of Rubens' copy of Titian). In front of it appears Minerva in the moment she is punishing Arachne. It transforms the myth into a reflection about creation and imitation, god and man, master and pupil (and therefore about the nature of art).
It has also been suggested that Jeremias Gotthelf’s nineteenth century novella, The Black Spider, was heavily influenced by the Arachne story from Ovid's Metamorphoses. In the novella, a woman is turned into a venomous spider having reneged on a deal with the devil.
Gustave Doré's rendition of Arachne is one of the many recurring images used by the rock band, The Mars Volta. It has been used in the cover of their Live EP, as a backdrop for their live shows, and a favorite accessory for guitarist and composer Omar Rodríguez-López in the form of a belt buckle.
In the modern classic fantasy The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, a plain brown spider is bewitched into believing that she is Arachne until the witch who enchanted her is killed.
Many fantasy-themed video games, such as Castlevania and Devil Summoner, features Arachne along with other mythological creatures as either common enemies or as mighty "boss" monsters.
In Class of the Titans, Arachne was changed into a giant spider and makes a deal with Cronus to become human again. Cronus does not hold up the end of his bargain though and betrays her after getting her to trap the heroes for him. After being berated by Atlanta, Athena turns Arachne back into a human, and she is allowed to live at the Olympus High School, weaving for the gods.
Arachne is the name used by the second Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter, currently the new Madame Web) to distinguish herself from Jessica Drew, the original Spider-Woman.
Arukenimon's name is a romanization of her name in the Japanese version of Digimon Adventure 02, Arachnemon. Fittingly, she is a spider-like Digimon.
Arachne Gorgon is a powerful witch and one of the main antagonists of Soul Eater. She was responsible for crafting the first demon weapons, an act that Death fiercely opposed, forcing her to bide her time and remain in hiding for 800 years. She returns to lead the risen Arachnaphobia, her personal army against Death.
Arachne is the nom de plume for Sarah Hayes, one the UK Guardian Cryptic Crossword setters.
In the 13th episode from season 6 of Supernatural, "Unforgiven," the monster of the week is an Arachne, depicted as a humanoid monster with spider-like attributes and abilities, including the ability to weave strong webs and a poisonous bite that can turn other humans into Arachnes. They can only be killed by decapitation.
Arachne is featured as a playable Greek god in the video game SMITE.
Arachne is also mentioned in the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series. All of Athena's children, including Annabeth Chase, are arachnophobic because of Arachne's dispute with Athena. Arachne appears towards the end of The Mark of Athena as a large spider while still maintaining human features. She is defeated by Annabeth because of her pride and eventually they are both sent falling into Tartarus, where Percy Jackson kills Arachne.
Arakune in the game series Blazblue is a reference to this story.
An unnamed prototype doll for the Monster High series simply called "Daughter of Arachne" was featured at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con alongside one of the Headless Headmistress and Scarah Screams, the daughter of the Banshee,to be the subjects of a poll to see which doll would be officially released at Comic-Con 2012. Scarah Screams ultimately won the poll. The Daughter of Arachne doll has red curly hair, coal black skin, eight arms, and two extra sets of eyebrows.
^Written c. 1590 and published in Complaints, 1591. Spenser's allusion to Arachne in The Faerie Queene, ii, xii.77, is also noted in Reed Smith, "The Metamorphoses in Muiopotmos" Modern Language Notes28.3 (March 1913), pp. 82-85.
^Robert A. Brinkley, "Spenser's Muiopotmos and the Politics of Metamorphosis" ELH48.4 (Winter 1981, pp. 668-676) p 670. Brinkley makes a case for Spenser's episode as political allegory of Elizabeth's court.
^David Gallagher, "The Transmission of Ovid’s Arachne Metamorphosis in Jeremias Gotthelf’s Die Schwarze Spinne", Neophilologus (2008) 92: 699-711