Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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During The Odyssey, what specifically does Athena do to help Telemachus in book 2?

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When Telemachus wakes up at the beginning of the book, "marvelous was the grace Athena cast about him," and people cannot take their eyes off of him as he walks toward them. She makes Telemachus appear in more princely and impressive than he already was, and he benefits from this treatment by seeming to be more authoritative and powerful.  

Later, Telemachus goes to the shore, and he prays to Athena and expresses his upset that the Achaeans do not follow her commands. She then comes to him in the shape of Mentor, and she promises that, if he is like his brave father, the voyage to find his father will "not be vain and fruitless." On the other hand, if he is not his mother's and father's son in terms of his character and courage, then she has little hope of his voyage succeeding. She tells Telemachus to pay no mind to the suitors, as they are all in for it ultimately anyway (and she predicts the manner in which they will die). She promises to provide Telemachus with a ship, the best she can find, and she (in Mentor's form) will be his comrade.  

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In Book II, Athena first makes Telemachus appear powerful. She "lavished a marvelous splendor on the prince" (line 12; Fagels translation) as he addresses the assembly of Achaeans and then the suitors. Afterward, Telemachus prays to Pallas Athena, who appears in the guise of Mentor to urge him to go to sea to find his father. She says, "Telemachus,/you'll lack neither courage nor sense from this day on" (lines 302-303). Filling him with encouragement, she tells him that his journey will be successful and that he does not have to fear defeat or shipwreck. She also assures him the suitors' schemes will not be successful. Instead, she tells him that they face "death and black doom" (line 315). She tells him to go home and pack his rations while she rounds up a crew for him. Disguised as Telemachus, Athena gathers up crewmen for Telemachus's journey. She hauls the ship to the harbor and puts courage in the heart of each crew member. Finally, she goes to find Telemachus and urges him to get started on his journey while she "showered sweet oblivion over the suitors" (line 436). The suitors are too oblivious to notice that Telemachus is embarking on his trip. As Telemachus heads on his journey, she sends a strong wind to power his boat on its way.

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In book 2, Athena helps Telemachus in several ways. First, when Telemachus addresses the people, he approaches them as a young prince with all of the immaturity and inexperience he has. However, Athena graces him with power to control his speech and impress the people.

Although the people are impressed, some dissenters make this difficult. Later in the book, she helps again by appearing as a local advisor, Mentor. Telemachus listens to Mentor (who is really Athena) and grows excited to complete a journey or search in the effort to find Odysseus.

A little later, she disguises herself as Telemachus and prepares the entire ship for the journey.

Therefore, Athena motivates, encourages, and serves Telemachus making his quest possible. Each of her three acts contributed to his ability to take the trip, but he has no idea that she did them. Oh, she also went along disguised as Mentor... that makes a total of four actions to help him.

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