In The Odyssey by Homer, what is Athena's role?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Athena, the goddess of wisdom, plays a critical role in helping Odysseus reach home. She intervenes with Zeus while Poseidon is away to convince Zeus that it's time to let Odysseus reach home after many years of traveling following the Trojan War. Poseidon had held Odysseus captive on Calypso's island because Odysseus wounded his son, the Cyclops. In addition, Athena inspires Telemachus at the beginning of the epic to go in search of news about his father, and she gives him confidence that he is like his father.

Athena's role is also to use disguise. When she helps Telemachus, she is disguised as Mentes, an old friend of Odysseus's. She also takes on this disguise when she watches Odysseus and Telemachus slay the suitors at the end of the epic. She can also help disguise or dress others. For example, when Odysseus is visiting the Phaeacians, from whom he needs help, she makes him seem more powerful. When he returns home to Ithaca, she first disguises him as a beggar so that the suitors do not yet realize he is home. Athena is the master of disguise and uses it to help Odysseus and Telemachus. 

sarahc418 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Athena's role in the epic The Odyssey is to be Odysseus's guide. She could be so closely connected to him because of his status as a hero in the Trojan War or because he is known for his cleverness and as the "great tactician." Connected by their intellect, Athena is the goddess of wisdom. 

Throughout the novel, Athena kickstarts Telemachus to leave his palace in Ithaca to go searching for Odysseus. Athena makes a deal with Zeus to help Odysseus get off Circe's island and get home safely. 

Athena acts much differently than the other gods and goddesses in the epic. She has close interactions with the characters pretending to be other people. She pretends to be Mentes, Odysseus's mentor, in order to gain Telemachus's trust before sending him away from the palace to look for Odysseus.

Without Athena's guidance and help, Odysseus would not have made it home. 

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