What are the functions of the gods in The Odyssey?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The gods play different roles in the Odyssey, but they generally are portrayed as meddling and often petty. Ultimately, though the gods are active in the story, one of the most important themes of the Odyssey is human agency. Odysseus is hardly a puppet of the gods. That said, the gods do influence the course of events in the story at several key points. To briefly summarize the major divine interventions, Poseidon maroons Odysseus on the island with Calypso in punishment for blinding Polyphemus, his son. After Zeus orders Calypso to release Odysseus, Poseidon wrecks his raft with a fierce storm. Zeus also destroys Odysseus's ship with a thunderbolt after his men slaughter cattle belonging to the sun god. Athena consistently intervenes with Zeus on Odysseus's behalf, and she helps Odysseus and Telemachus devise a plan for destroying Penelope's suitors.


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