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The Character of Athena in Homer's Odyssey

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Character of Athena in Homer's Odyssey

 

      Imagine living in another world and time, one where you were not

only a god but could also take the form of any object or person that you chose.

 Athena, the daughter of Zeus, has this ability.  Of all the characters in the Odyssey,

the most interesting to me is Athena.  In my opinion, she guides the main

characters of the Odyssey in the right direction.  She kind of looks over

their  shoulders and serves as a guardian angel.

 

      Athena makes Telemachos go to Pylos and Sparta.   Athena says, "My

advice to you is this, if you will let me advise you.  Get the best ship

you can find, put twenty oarsmen aboard, go and find out about your father

and why he is so long away.  Perhaps some one may tell you, or you may hear

some rumour that god will send, which is often the best way for people to

get news." (Homer 17)  If not for Athena, Telemachos might have taken his

father for dead and encouraged his mother to marry one of her suitors.  But

Athena, under the disguise of Mentes advises Telemachos to go on a journey

to try to find out what happenened to Odysseus.  This is important because

the journey of Telemachos played an important part of his becoming a man.

 

      Athena also rescued Odysseus from certain death at the hands of

Poseidon Earthshaker and brought him to the island of Phaiacia.  "Now it

was the turn of Athenaia the daughter of Zeus, and this was her plan.  She

tied up the courses of all the other winds, and commanded them to rest and

be quiet; but she sent a steady wind from the north and broke down the

waves in front of Odysseus,  that he might make his way and save himself

alive." (Homer 70) At this point in the novel Posiedon is enraged with

Odysseus because he is about to make it home.  It seems every time that

Odysseus is about to make it home, Poseidon is reminded that Odysseus

killed his son Polyphemos.  Again Athena saves Odysseus, this time from

Charybdis.  "Then his skin would have been torn off and all his bones

broken, if Athena had not put a thought into his mind; he flung himself

upon a rock and  caught hold with both hands, and clung there groaning,

until backwash rolled upon him again, and caried him far out into the sea."

(Homer 71)  Charybdis was a whirlpool that shot up water before it sucked

everthing down.  Odysseus grabbed the branch and was swept away while the

whirlpool was resting.

 

      Furthermore, Athena planned how Odysseus could return to his home

and kill the suitors.  This was done in a few steps. "Odysseus awoke.  He

lay on his native soil, and knew it not, since he had been long absent.

For Pallas Athena herself, that divine daughter of Zeus, had covered the

place with mist, that she might tell him everything first and disguise him.

She wished that his wife and friendsmight no know him until he had punished

the wooers of his wife for their outrageous violence." (Homer 152) This is

basically self-explanatory .  Athena wanted Odysseus know completely the

situation that he was about to encounter.  After all, the goings on at his

house were rather drastic.

 

      These are a few of the most obvious examples of Athena's role in

the Odyssey.  To me she is the caretaker of Odysseus and Telemachos.  It is

with her help that makes Odysseus seem so godlike. Who knows or could say

what might have happened to Odysseus and his family had Athena not provided

the great asistance that she did.  I am almost certain that he would not

have made it home without it.

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