The Greek goddess of knowledge and art was known as Minerva, while the equivalent deity among the Romans was called Athena. In the Greek city of Athens, the temple built to pay tribute to this goddess was called Athenaeus.
From this origin, the concept of athenaeum began to be used to name the groups dedicated to research and artistic or scientific dissemination, and the establishment in which people dedicated to these tasks met.
An athenaeum is currently an entity that groups together individuals interested in some branch of culture or knowledge. These entities may, over time, seek greater formality and constitute themselves as clubs, civil associations, etc.
For example: “Tomorrow there will be a talk on the history of Egypt at the Ateneo de San Juan”, “For three months I have been learning cryptography at the athenaeum”, “My grandfather, recently arrived from Spain, met with his compatriots in a Athenaeum to discuss politics ”.
The rise of the athenaeums as cultural centers took place in the 19th century. In countries like Spain, the upper classes formed their athenaeums with the intention of maintaining the status quo, while the lower classes developed athenaeums with other ideological orientations in order to promote the revolution.
The athenaeums, in general, are directed by their own members through assemblies. In some cases, there are teams of directors who are elected by the rest of the members and who are in charge of deciding the measures to be taken.
Finally, we can mention that El Ateneo Grand Splendid, popularly known as El Ateneo, is a famous bookstore in the city of Buenos Aires that is located in the building that belonged to an old theater.