How does Athena help Telemachus prepare for Nestor?

1 Answer | Add Yours

sfwriter's profile pic

sfwriter | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Athena has always been a partisan of the Greeks in the Trojan War (described mostly in the Iliad), and especially Odysseus.  Therefore she is interested in Odysseus' son Telemachus, and she does everything she can to help the young man find his father.  Athena, the patron goddess of, among other things, wisdom, is thought to be partial to Odysseus because of his wiliness and craftiness.  Also, Odysseus, though mortal, was thought to be a hero particularly beloved of the gods.  All this filters down to his son Telemachus, who was certainly in dire straits and in need of the help of a powerful goddess.

Athena was also the goddess of civilized things like handicrafts (such as weaving, which figures so prominently in regard to Telemachus' mother, Penelope).  In a way, Athena can be regarded as a force for home, towns, government, and civilization in general, whereas Odysseus' major godly foe, Poseidon the god of the sea, can be seen as a force of elemental chaos, or perhaps of male wanderlust.  While Poseidon works hard to keep Odysseus away from home, Athena is focused on preserving Odysseus' home (and family, such as Telemachus in this instance) and bringing him back to it.  To put a psychological spin on thing, these gods could be seen to represent the two warring natures within each man; the force which desires home, hearth, and family, and the other wilder side which represents wandering, violence, and freedom.  Athena, who is significantly female, and was one of the greatest of all the gods revered in Odysseus' part of Greece (Athens is named for her) definitely represents the civilized side of life which, after the long Trojan War, Odysseus is longing to return to.

Athena (also spelled Athene) makes Telemachus brave and confident to go to Pylos, though the people and the suitors are against him.

As he thus prayed, Athena came close up to him in the likeness and with the voice of Mentor. “Telemachus,” said she, “if you are made of the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward henceforward, for Odysseus never broke his word nor left his work half done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be fruitless, but unless you have the blood of Odysseus and of Penelope in your veins I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom as good men as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better; still, as you are not going to be either fool or coward henceforward, and are not entirely without some share of your father's wise discernment, I look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you never make common cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they have neither sense nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to the doom that will shortly fall on one and all of them, so that they shall perish on the same day. As for your voyage, it shall not be long delayed; your father was such an old friend of mine that I will find you a ship, and will come with you myself. (Odyssey Book II)

Athena, disguised as Mentor, obtains the ship and crew for Telemachus, gives him confidence and the glamor of beauty and strength, throws the suitors into slumber so that Telemachus can escape, and accompanies him on his voyage.  Direct divine help, indeed, and much needed by the young Telemachus.

We’ve answered 318,989 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question