Minerva was an ancient Italian goddess of handicrafts and patroness of guilds; her warlike associations go back to the powerful Etruscan goddess Menrva. She became identified with the Greek goddess Athena and is thus frequently portrayed with the attributes of that goddess—an owl, helmet, shield, spear, and aegis, a cloak that is wreathed in snakes and contains the head of the Gorgon Medusa. Minerva was one of the trio of Capitoline deities in Rome; along with Juno, she shared the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill above the Forum. One of the most sacred objects in Rome was the Palladium, a wooden statue of Athena supposedly brought from Troy; it was kept in the innermost part of the Temple of Vesta, where only the chief vestal was allowed to enter.

This Roman bronze statuette shows Minerva holding an owl; she is wearing a helmet and an aegis with a benign-looking Medusa head. Roman art tended to portray Minerva as less fierce and warlike than the Greek representations of Athena.