Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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In Book 2 of The Odyssey, how does Athena assist Telemachus at the Assembly?

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After Athena convinced Zeus to help Odysseus, she visited Odysseus’ home to encourage Telemachus to face the suitors and improve his image among the people.  She asked Telemachus to convene a meeting with the Achaeans and state his plight and the trouble caused by the suitors. She also asked him to visit Nestor of Pylos and Menelaus to inquire about his father’s whereabouts. The answers he would obtain from his voyage would help him make an informed decision regarding the situation back home.

During the assembly, Athena made Telemachus appear divine in front of those who had gathered. His appearance helped him earn some level of respect from the older audience. Telemachus spoke against the suitors, but they stood their ground, insisting that Penelope should choose a new husband from among them.

Athena endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marveled at him as he went by, and when he took his place in his father's seat even the oldest councilors made way for him.

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Basically, Athena made him bigger, stronger, almost god-like in appearance. She is really only mentioned briefly in the beginning of Book 2.  As Telemachus enters the assembly ground

"Athena lavished on him a sunlit grace that held the eye of the multitude.  Old men made way for him as he took his father's chair."

With both his magical appearance and his gifted speech (which he inherited from his father), Telemachus is able to impress the men of Ithaca. and hold their attention until Antinoos speaks up and challenges him. 

The importance of Athena helping Telemachus relates to her feelings towards Odysseus.  Athena holds Odysseus close to her heart (for a goddess).  She is the goddess of war and wisdom, and Odysseus is a true warrior and a wise one at that.  He personifies what she stands for, and it is said that she loves him because of this bond.  She does what she can by altering Telemachus' appearance and helping him to travel for news of his father.

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