Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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Who does Athena disguise herself as when visiting Telemachus in The Odyssey?

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Athena visited Telemachus disguised as Mentes, son of Anchialus, and the leader of the Taphians. She claimed that she was on a voyage to Temesa for purposes of trade. She further informed Telemachus that Anchialus and Odysseus, Telemachus’s father, were old friends.

And Athena answered, “I will tell you truly and particularly all about it. I am Mentes, son of Anchialus, and I am King of the Taphians. I have come here with my ship and crew, on a voyage to men of a foreign tongue being bound for Temesa with a cargo of iron, and I shall bring back copper.

She visited Telemachus when his family was going through much trouble because of the disappearance of Odysseus. Suitors had congregated at their home hoping to wed Penelope, Telemachus’s mother. Penelope held off their advances, but this became costly for the family. They had to endlessly host the suitors who were plundering Odysseus's property.

Athena had appealed to Zeus to help in the delivery of Odysseus back to his people and stop the ongoing pillage in his house. She then approached Telemachus with a plan aimed at dealing with the menace caused by the suitors. She asked Telemachus to board a ship with 20 men and visit his father’s friends, Nestor and Menelaus, so he could obtain information about his father.

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Athena appears first as Mentes, an old family friend. But after she gets Telemachus to tell her about the situation in Odysseus's house, and she exhorts Telemachus to confront the suitors, she appears as Mentor to accompany him to Pylos. While she is still on Ithaca, she disguises herself as Telemachus himself, in order to recruit a crew. Can you keep track of all the identities she assumes?

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In Book One, Athena disguises herself as the trusted family friend Mentes. She hopes that as Mentes, she can convince Telemachus to hold an assembly and rebuke his mother's suitors. She also wants to convince Telemachus to commission a boat and crew to search Hellas for his father Odysseus or news of his fate.

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