Arachne was the daughter of Idmon, who in some accounts was an aristocrat, in others a dyer. They lived in the ancient Greek city of Colophon in Lydia (part of modern Turkey). The region was famous for its textiles, and Arachne grew up to be a superb weaver of tapestries. She resented any suggestions that she owed her talents to Athena, the goddess of weavers.

Arachne's arrogance so displeased Athena that the goddess disguised herself as an old woman and warned the girl to recognize Athena's superiority. Arachne refused to do so, however, and told the...