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Athena: Surrogate Father

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Prince Telemachus is an early example of a coming-of-age story. As the epic opens, Telemachus, approximately 21 years old is on the brink of manhood, uncertain and insecure in his potential power, and in grave danger from the suitors who would prefer to see him dead. Athena plays a critical role in developing Telemachus as a man and is the surrogate father for him to become such. Their relationship throughout The Odyssey is extremely beneficial to Telemachus' growth as a man.

Athena is first introduced to Telemachus as a stranger who calls upon his door. At a divine council on Mount Olympus, Athena pleads with her father, Zeus, to take pity on Odysseus and allow him to return home. She suggests that Zeus dispatch Hermes to liberate Odysseus from Calypso while Athena visits Ithaca to advise Telemachus. Athena arrives disguised as Mentor, an old friend of Odysseus and counsels Telemachus, thus beginning the motivation toward manhood. She predicts that his father will return and insists that the prince must stand up to the suitors and seek more information about Odysseus. "So spoke the Goddess, bright-eyed Athena, and departed, flying upward as a bird; and in his heart she put strength and courage, and made him think of his father even more than before." (Odyssey, 88)

This first arrival of Athena begins Telemachus' journey to manhood. She gives him the motivation necessary to stand up to the suitors and come to know more of his father. Telemachus initially asserts himself by calling an assembly of Ithaca's leaders in order to protest the suitors' activities. Although he speaks well at the meeting and impresses the elders, Antinous and Eurymachus show no respect for either Telemachus or his mother. Athena senses danger and manages to set a course for the prince to visit two foreign kings who are old comrades of his father: Nestor of Pylos and Menelaus of Sparta. "Then bright-eyed Pallas thought of one more step. Disguised as the prince, the goddess roamed through town, pausing beside each likely crewman, giving orders" (Odyssey, 105) for these men to gather beside the ship, beginning the growth of manhood in Telemachus.

During his travels, Telemachus grows as a man and gains character. Athena, disguised as Mentor, guides and instructs him and he learns how to behave among Greek leaders. "Telemachus, no more shyness, this is not the time! We sailed the seas for this, for news of your father... So go right up to Nestor... Press him yourself to tell the whole truth: he'll never lie--the man is far too wise." (Odyssey, 108) She gives him the

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