Throughout the epic of The Odyssey of Homer, Odysseus, the main protagonist, receives help, and is frowned upon by the gods. There are many gods, and goddesses who play significant roles in Odysseus’ journey back to his homeland of Ithaca. Athena, the gray-eyed goddess, or the daughter of Zeus, is the most predominant goddess in the epic. One of Athena’s roles is to act as a guardian towards Telemachus. In the beginning, Athena travels to Ithaca in the guise of Mentes, and states to Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, “I’m Mentes, son of wise Anchialus; the Taphian, tenacious oarsmen are the people I rule….
For bright Odysseus has not died upon this Earth: he is alive somewhere, delayed upon an island set among vast waves, held by harsh savages against his will”, (Homer, and Mandelbaum, p. 9-10). Athena is stating that Odysseus, Telemachus’ father is alive, and later on tells Telemachus to “asks the lord of Ithaca to gather here tomorrow; then speak to all, and let the gods be witnesses. Command the suitors to scatter, each on his own way…Find the fittest ship and, with a crew of twenty oarsmen, seek some word of your long-absent father- for a mortal may have heard word of him…” (Homer, and Mandelbaum, p. 2-13). Athena is influencing Telemachus to demand that the suitors leave Odysseus’ halls and that he should set sail in search of word of his father. After Odysseus’ arrival back to Ithaca, Telemachus, who is still in Sparta, is urged to return home by Athena, “Telemachus, don’t wander from your house too long when you have left behind your wealth, with men so arrogant within your gates…” (Homer, and Mandelbaum, p. 295). After hearing the words of Athena, Telemachus chose to return home to Ithaca.
Athena also acts as Odysseus’ guardian during his journey home, and even after he had reached his homeland. When Odysseus washes upon the shores of Scheria, he is met by Nausicaa, the daughter of the king of the Phaeacians, who takes him to her father’s halls. Upon departure for town, Athena sent a thick cloud of mist to surround Odysseus to protect him from the Phaeacians. Also, when Odysseus arrives back in his homeland of Ithaca after 11 years of absence, he is transformed into an elderly man by Athena to disguise himself so none of the Ithacans would recognize Odysseus.
But during the slaughter of the suitors, Athena reveals Odysseus’ true body, and also makes him look more youthful. Athena, in the guise of Mentor, assists Odysseus, Telemachus, and Eumaes by diverting the arrows, and spears thrown by the suitors during the slaughter. In the end, Athena persuades Odysseus to not resort to violence towards the suitors family members and friend. In the end, Athena’s main role throughout the epic was to act a guardian, and as a guide to both Telemachus, and Odysseus.
Zeus, the ruler of all the gods, goddesses, and everything else, and is the most superior and powerful god out of all. During the epic, Zeus uses his powers to help Odysseus, and also uses them to hinder him. On Odysseus’ journey back home to Ithaca, before he was stranded on Calypso’s isle, he and his crew came upon the land of Thrinacia, the land of Helios. Odysseus and his crew were warned by Circe not to slaughter one single beast, but ignoring Circe’s advice, Odysseus’ crew slaughtered, and prepared the beasts of Thrinacia.
This is where Zeus is a hindrance towards Odysseus. Lampetie, a nymph, upon witnessing the slaughter of Helios’s animals, rushed to inform Helios what had occurred. Helios, now infuriated, cried to Zeus, “You, father Zeus, and all the other blessed and deathless gods-you now must take revenge: destroy the comrades of Laertes’ son, Odysseus; in their insolence they killed the herds that I beheld with such delight…If they’re not made to pay a penalty to match their sin, I shall descend to Hades and shine among the dead” (Homer, and Mandelbaum, p. 249).
When Zeus heard this, he sent a dark storm cloud over Odysseus’ ship and Zeus sent a single lightning bolt down to the ship, sparing Odysseus, but killing all of his crew. Odysseus floated on the keel of his ship for ten days until the gods cast him upon Calypso’s coast. But then it was Zeus who sent Hermes, the messenger god, to Ogygia, Calypso’s isle, to release Odysseus. If Zeus wouldn’t have sent the storm cloud that destroyed Odysseus’ ship, Homer wouldn’t have been able to write an epic based on his journey home after being stranded on Calypso’s isle for ten years.
That is an example of home Zeus’ role in the epic is extremely important. Poseidon, the god of the sea, also called the “earth-shaker”, only inflicts harm to Odysseus during his journey home due to an incident on Odysseus’ first trek home to Ithaca. Odysseus and his crew were sailing home from a victory at Troy when they came across the mountaintop home of Polyphemus the Cyclops, Poseidon’s son. Polyphemus trapped Odysseus and his crew, and devoured most of them. To escape Odysseus threw a spear into the eye of the Cyclops, thus blinding him.
The next time the blinded Cyclops drove his herds of animals out into the fields, Odysseus and the remainder of his crew snuck out of Polyphemus’ mountaintop home on the bellies of the sheep, and escaped back to their ship. As they were escaping Polyphemus cursed Odysseus and his crew, “Listen, Poseidon, dark-haired lord who clasps the earth hard fast, if I’m indeed your son and you declare yourself my father, then don’t let this ravager of towns, Odysseus, Laertes son, who lives in Ithaca, return to his own land.
But if his fate let him see his dear ones once again and reach his sturdy home, his native land, then let him struggle back- a battered man, with all his comrades lost, and on a ship of strangers. In his house, let him meet grief” (Homer, and Mandelbaum, p. 186). Throughout the epic, Poseidon does everything in his power to bring hardship upon Odysseus and his crew. Hermes, the messenger god, and the guide for the souls on their way to Hades, is a minor god in the epic. Hermes is the god in which Zeus sends to Calypso to demand her to free Odysseus.
Hermes also appears in the end of the epic when he is leading the shades of the slaughtered suitors to Hades. All in all, the gods and goddesses in The Odyssey of Homer played extremely important roles in the epic. Athena, the most important, acted as a guardian to Telemachus and Odysseus, Zeus was the ruler of all, and changed the way the epic may have turned out, Poseidon inflicted pain, and suffering to Odysseus, and his crew throughout their journey, and Hermes was the messenger. Without the gods, and goddesses in this epic, events throughout the epic may have turned out differently.
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