Athena is one of the main characters of the great epic story “Odyssey” by Homer. She is a goddess, but she finds it necessary to help Odysseus in all his voyages, fights, challenges, and disguises. As she is a goddess, she has to conceal her essence. For this purpose she uses disguises in her appearance and in the appearance of Odysseus. She does not use disguises to entrap someone, but to protect Odysseus from vicious dangerous people, to help him in his challenges. It is surprising to see such a parallel as “the narrator has more in common with Athena, whose interventions ‘from above’ he records, than he does with Odysseus. This would be an accurate assessment were it not that Athena herself adopts Odysseus’ perspective, confirming his bent toward suspicion and disguise intervening only to further the goals he has himself set” (Doherty 174). Thus, in successive parts Athena assumes the aspect of female less often, which makes her and Odysseus the constituent parts of the hero’s image.
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Athena goes down from Olympus having the appearance of Mentes. She looks for Telemachus, Odysseus son, who is sitting amongst his mother’s admirers. The goddess makes Telemachus believe that his father is alive, and sets him against those admirers. Odysseus was creative and capable of great endurance, and the gods paid heed to him, and it was due to his temper. Athena recognized in Odysseus a male person identical to herself, so she feels urgent to carry of him as of her own son. Moreover, the great goddess managed to recognize in Telemachus a devoted son. The boy is young, so in his position some incitement is required to take control on the situation. In fact Athena conducted Telemachus’ change to virility and advised him how to arrange everything. Though she was disguised at the moment she showed herself to the boy, Telemachus understood that he had faced a god (Moore 1).
Athena is Odysseus’ companion, his deity-counterpart. She is able of taking any appearance, “to take on strategic disguises in order to slip out of the traps set for him along the way”; ability of being in disguise appears to be a powerful weapon of the hero. Finally the main character turns to Ithaca; only disguise helped him to take the matters into his hands (Hawhee 51). Athena helps Odysseus during his adventures. Both father and son are guided during their voyages by the great goddess in disguise; Athena encourages them for good actions, helps them to overcome all difficulties. The whole epic seems to be devoted to making parallels between Odysseus and his son Telemachus: their appearances do not differ much, their tempers coincide, and they both are guided and protected from enemies by the great goddess (Tracy 46). Athena is the most powerful of Odysseus’ protectors. She directs his steps according to her own plans in order to prevent his death, and to help him in his adventures. Athena assures Odysseus of her aid, predicts success, and helps him to be disguised (Lombardo XXVII-XXVIII). Odysseus was made more beautiful than he is by the great goddess, so Telemachus thought him to be a god. “Athena keeps making Odysseus alternately ugly and beautiful; she also gives supernatural beauty to Telemachus, Penelope, and to Laertes. Even the island of Ithaca receives a disguise from Athena, who disguises it from Odysseus” (Sowa 252).
Doherty, Eileen Lillian. Siren songs: gender, audiences, and narrators in the Odyssey. University of Michigan Press, 1995.
Hawhee, Debra. Bodily arts: rhetoric and athletics in ancient Greece. University of Texas Press, 2004.
Lombardo, Stanley. Odyssey. HPC Classics Series. Hackett Publishing, 2000
Moore, Rees John. “Voyaging with Odysseus: The Wile and Resilience of Virtue”. Humanitas 13 (2000): 1.
Sowa, Angier Cora. Traditional themes and the Homeric hymns. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1984.
Tracy, V. Stephen. The story of the Odyssey. Princeton University Press, 1990.