I was told to analyze this passage in book 1 of The Odyssey, having read only books 1-4:

And sparkling-eyed Athena drove the matter home: “Father, son of Cronus, our high and mighty king, surely he goes down to a death he earned in full!
Let them all die so, all who do such things.
But my heart breaks for Odysseus,
that seasoned veteran cursed by fate so long—
far from his loved ones still, he suffers torments
off on a wave-washed island rising at the center of the seas. A dark wooded island, and there a goddess makes her home, daughter of Atlas, wicked Titan who sounds the deep
in all its depths, whose shoulders lift on high
the colossal pillars thrusting earth and sky apart.
Atlas’ daughter it is who holds Odysseus captive,
luckless man—despite his tears, forever trying
to spellbind his heart with suave, seductive words
and wipe all thought of Ithaca from his mind.
But he, straining for no more than a glimpse
of hearth-smoke drifting up from his own land,
Odysseus longs to die ...
Olympian Zeus, have you no care for him in your lofty heart?
Did he never win your favor with sacrifices
burned beside the ships on the broad plain of Troy? Why, Zeus, why so dead set against Odysseus?”

Here are my takeaways:

  • Athena is obviously very affectionate for Odysseus. Regardless of whether they have any history, I’m suspecting that Athena cares for him as he is essentially her male/mortal counterpart-he is known as a very wise/cunning man, and known for his valor in war, while Athena is the goddess of wisdom and battle. I suspect that she is affectionate for him in the same way that a master is affectionate for their skilled apprentice, although I don’t know how to explicitly support this claim with this passage
  • The Gods seem to favor punishment/use violence as a means for resolving issues. Zeus looks at most humans as corrupt, using Aegisthus as an example. Athena, on the other hand, seems to believe that not all humans are bad, and seeks a way to help them, in this passage she advocates for helping Odysseus, and later on she assists Telemachus in finding his father, as well as helping comfort Penelope, reassuring her that her son was in good hands. The gods seem to have traits typically assigned to their respective gender, the male gods being violent, and the goddesses being kind and compassionate. This, along with other evidence like Zeus deciding to help free Odysseus behind Poseidon’s back, justifying it with essentially “we can overpower him” shows that the gods aren’t necessarily these enlighten beings, they seem to have many of the traits/flaws characteristic to humans
  • I also noticed how Athena, despite having traits commonly possessed by women, acts as a fatherly figure to Telemachus. She guides him on this journey, trying to help him achieve manhood by telling him he has to kill the suitors, be confident, and brave. This isn’t entirely related to the passage but ties into my first observation, although I’m not really certain what the significance of this is.
  • I noticed how Zeus seems to be a fairly poor leader. Almost immediately after Athena makes her point Zeus says that the gods have not freed Odysseus because of Poseidon, but then decides that they should go against him with his only reasoning being that if Poseidon acts out against it, the other gods could overpower him. It seems as if not much has to be said to convince him, however this is the only example I have so far.

Are my takeaways accurate? I feel like there’s not many more observations I can make, though I feel like there’s so much more this passage says about Athena and the gods as a whole. I feel as if some parts of my takeaways are already reaches and don’t know what else is so significant about it. Did I hit on any good points?


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.