What is the importance of Athena in Homer's Odyssey?

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In Greek mythology, the goddess Athena was Zeus' daughter, and played a major role in Homer's epic story The Odyssey.  As the protector of the hero, Odysseus' son, Telemachus, she helps steer the young man through his journey in search of his father, while also advising and advocating on Odysseus' behalf with her father, Zeus, while Poseidon, god of the oceans and seas, plots Odysseus' demise.

Athena appears throughout The Odyssey in her role as guardian of Telemachus, accepting from her a spear:

"And when they were within the imposing height house, he bore the spear and set it against a tall pillar in a polished spear-rack, where were set many spears besides, even those of Odysseus of the constant heart."

Athena's importance in Telemachus' journey cannot be overstated.  Anytime he encountered seemingly insurmountable obstacles, she would provide the assistance necessary for his escape.  As Poseidon stirred up the waters, Athena helped Telemachus and his crew prevail:

"And bright-eyed Athena sent them a favorable wind, blowing strongly through the sky, that, speeding swiftly, the ship might accomplish her way over the salt water of the sea."

Similarly, as Odysseus continues his long journey home, a journey in which encounters no shortage of dangers, Athena comes to his aid in the face of Poseidon's efforts at facilitating the mortals' doom:

"But Athena, daughter of Zeus, took other counsel.  She stayed the paths of the other winds, and bade them all cease and be lulled to rest; but she roused the swift North Wind, and broke the waves before him, to the end that Zeus-born Odysseus might come among the Phaeacians, lovers of the oar, escaping from death and the fates."

Athena is Odysseus', and Telemachus', champion among the pantheon of the gods.  Her status as daughter of Zeus ensured her survival, but her enemies on Mt. Olympus made it very difficult.  In the end, she prevails, which is to say, Odysseus prevails and returns home safely to Penelope and Telemachus.

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