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A Mentor, not a Friend; Athena's role in The Odyssey

"And Athena handed down her pacts of peace/ between both sides for all the years to come- the daughter of Zeus whose shield is storm and thunder, / yes, but the goddess still kept Mentor's Build and voice"(24. 559-602). Mentoring, as we know today is based on the actions and behavior of the goddess Athena towards Odysseus while disguised as his great friend the Mentor. She serves as his advisor, guide, and provides him with emotional support throughout Homers epic poem, The Odyssey. Athena holds a lot of power among the gods; and she is able to get her way in most situations by using her power from her father, Zeus, to her fullest advantage. In the beginning of Book One, Athena mentions Odysseus to her father and how her heart breaks just thinking of this crafty man and the horrible tragedies he has endured on his way home from war. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, serves as more than just a loyal companion to Odysseus but rather a Mentor, and a shield, protecting him from harmful and risky situations, enabling him to make clever decisions, when he is not in the mindset to do so himself. The actions of Athena send Odysseus on a journey of self discovery. Athena vows to get Odysseus home safely, to inspire his son Telemechus, giving him courage to gather fellow Achaeans, and assists with plotting schemes of revenge against the mob of suitors taking over Ithaca. Odysseus, being the clever, crafty, and intelligent man he is, needs a woman to stand by his side every step of the way. Someone who will be there to help him, rather then appear physically attractive to him and act as a distraction. Athena serves as the perfect match for him under these circumstances: she is known for her wisdom, she can compete with Odysseus when it comes to craftiness, she doesn’t involve herself in sexual relationships with mortal men, and she is willing to risk anything to help him and his family in hopes of reuniting them all one day.

Athena makes it clear right from the beginning of the poem that Odysseus is her favorite man among the Achaeans. Odysseus's actions mirror those of the gods so Zeus, ruler of all, recognizes him as " Great Odysseus who excels all men in wisdom, excels in offerings too he gives the immortal gods who rule in the vaulting skies..."(1.78-80). Since Zeus approves of Odysseus and finds him worthy to receive help from an immortal goddess he gives Athena his approval and blessings to help him. From the onset of his adventures home from the Trojan War Athena helps and protects Odysseus. After talking with Zeus she sweeps down from Mt. Olympus to assess the situation in Ithaca where she finds, " Swaggering Suitors" (1.24), amusing themselves and vying for the attention of his wife Penelope. Athena senses trouble as soon as she reaches the gates of Odysseus's kingdom and from there on she makes it her personal goal and obligation to get Odysseus home safely, and reunite him with his family. Since the actions of Odysseus resemble those of the Gods on Mt. Olympus, Athena feels as if she is helping on of her own. Athena treats Odysseus like a man of dignity and shows him a great amount of loyalty and respect, making her goals of helping him known right from the beginning of the poem.

Seeing as Odysseus is Athena's favorite man among the Achaeans, and how he mirrors Athena's personality but in the form of a mortal, it is no surprise that she chooses to side with him, protect him, and plot schemes against those risking his kingdom, family and marriage. When Odysseus first reaches the long forgotten land of Ithaca, he awakes and does not recognize where he is due to the fact that, " Pallas Athena, Zeus's daughter, / showered mist all over, so under cover/ she might change his appearance head to foot"(13.214-216). Athena uses her gifts of wisdom and craftiness to help Odysseus in these situations. By disguising his image until the suitors "Pay the price for...
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