Athena was the wife of King Triton, and the mother of Ariel, Andrina, Arista, Aquata, Adella, Alana, and Attina. She was the Queen of Atlantica, and beloved by her family and subjects. She was noted for her singing talent and her love of music. She and Triton had been friends since their childhood. Unfortunately, she passed away as a result of a run-in with a big pirate ship when Ariel was very young, fueling Triton's hatred of humans and music as a result. A statue of her dancing with him is present in his courtyard, where he cried over her death every day.
Athena is shown to be a stunningly beautiful and attractive mermaid with long, red hair tied in a partial ponytail, green eyes, and an aqua green tail. She wears a purple seashell bra and several gold accessories: a five-pointed crown resembling a sea star (like Triton’s but smaller), pearl-shaped earrings, and a necklace with a light purple seashell.
Out of all seven daughters, Ariel is the one who looks the most like their mother. This is most obvious in the original release of The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, at least 20 years following the first film's events, when Ariel has matured and become a mother herself. It is possible that the animators of Athena based her appearance on the mature version of Ariel.
Athena appears at the very beginning of the film. She and Triton are shown to be very much in love. They are shown to share a special song (known as "Endless Sky"). They share the song with their daughters and use it as a lullaby. One day, they are relaxing in a cove with the princesses and some other merpeople. They are celebrating their anniversary, and so Triton gives Athena a special music box that plays their song. However, pirates soon approach the cove and attack the merpeople. Most of the mermaids and mermen escape safely. Triton carries Ariel, Arista, Aquata, and Adella to safety while Andrina and Alana dive into the water to swim to safety, but Attina, the oldest princess, gets her tail stuck between two rocks. Athena is able to free her in time, but she is crushed to death by the ship while trying to save the music box, and the ship sinks after hitting the rocks, due to the pirates had apparently lost control of their ship and unable to stop it from crushing Athena and running aground, breaking the keel and sinking it.
Athena's death leaves Triton completely devastated and tearful. As a result, he tosses the music box in the ocean, bans music from the kingdom, forbids contact with the land above, and raises his daughters very strictly. However, Ariel and her sisters inherited their mother's love and talent for music. Later on, Ariel references her at several points. When she learns of the Catfish Club, she sings a song remembering her mother and her love for music. Later, when confronting Triton over his ban of music, she points out that her mother wouldn't have wanted music to be banned from the kingdom.
It has been reported that Queen Athena will be in the remake of The Little Mermaid where her relationship with Ariel will be further explored. 
Although she doesn't actually appear in the novel written by Serena Valentino, Athena is mentioned a few times. It is revealed that Ursula is her husband's sister, and Athena was the only person in the kingdom that treated her with kindness and respect. She goes far as to argue with Triton about his harsh treatment towards Ursula. After her death, however, there was no stopping Triton from banishing Ursula to the Unprotected Waters.
- In the European and Sacramento productions of the musical based on the first movie, Ariel and King Triton learn during the last confrontation that Ursula killed Ariel's mother.
- In the TV series episode "Beached", Triton references her, revealing that he had made a promise to her to raise the girls properly.
- In Once Upon a Time, she was indirectly mentioned as King Poseidon's unnamed deceased wife and Ursula's mother. In this version, she had also a beautiful singing voice, inherited by her daughter and died under the tragic circumstance, killed by a pirate.
- Her death may have contributed to Triton's prejudice against humans.
- Although Athena is mentioned quite a few times prior to the release of The Little Mermaid III, this is the first time she is actually seen.
- Athena bears a shocking resemblance to Ariel. They both have a similar hair color and an acclaimed singing voice. However, their similarities are even more noticeable in The Little Mermaid II, where Ariel has grown to look almost identical to her.
- Athena and Ariel's likeness could have partially contributed to the reason Triton is so protective of the latter.
- Athena's eldest daughter's name, Attina, is a variant of her own, which explains why they sound so similar and it could mean that she was named after her.
- Athena is the name of the Greek Goddess of wisdom, warfare, and battle strategy.
- Peter David attempted to write Athena's story comic book titled Portrait of Life. Here, named Atlanta, she befriended a human artist named Duncan and posed for paintings. Triton allowed this, thinking that humans weren't so bad. However Kole, a rival artist, jealous of Duncan's success and talent, tries to kill him by letting loose an avalanche, but Atlanta, while pushing him out of the way, got crushed by the rocks herself. Enraged, Triton confronts Kole, terrifying him and falls off the cliff. Turning his anger to Duncan and ready to destroy him, the voice of Atlanta appears in the clouds asking Triton to spare him. Leaving with the unfinished painting of Duncan's, he returns to the sea to mourn. The story went unproduced and rejected as a result of its dark tone.
- In the bonus features of the movie, Attina states that her mother was the oldest of several siblings.
- In Greek mythology, Athena is the daughter of Zeus and Metis (the latter was stuck inside Zeus' head), and Triton is the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, and Zeus and Poseidon are brothers.
- Her being unrelated to the Greek goddess of the same name is also supported by Graeco-Roman Mythology, where she and Triton were not married.
- Attina, Alana, Adella, Aquata, Arista, Andrina and Ariel were 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5, respectively, when Athena died.
- Athena will be in the remake of The Little Mermaid. This will make her the first character from a Disney DTV sequel to appear in a live-action remake of the original film of the franchise from which she originated.
- The pirates driving the ship possibly drowned at sea.