Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, household crafts, and war, was a multifaceted deity. While associated with war, Athena emphasized not blood lust and violence, but strategy, skill, and justice. In the Odyssey Athena is portrayed as smart and strategic in helping the protagonist Odysseus.
Throughout his journey, she uses her unique powers to assist him in his most dire and vulnerable moments, making sure that he is eventually able to return home. However, she does not readily jump to his side at every obstacle he faces like a personal servant. Instead, Athena decides for herself when Odysseus will receive her help. The first time Odysseus asks for help in fending off the suitors in his house, Athena berates him and says, “‘You have surely lost / the fury and tenacious force that once / were yours when, for those nine long years, you fought / for white-armed Helen; in those wild assaults, / you killed so many / Why is it, then, / that, with your house and goods again at hand, / you weep and wail?’”. Having seen Odysseus fight in the Battle of Troy, Athena knows of his wise strategies and extraordinary capabilities in battle. These qualities were what drew Athena to Odysseus in the first place. Thus, she expects him to live up to his reputation and fight properly, just as she has seen him do. She does not immediately nor fully give in to Odysseus’s requests, displaying a sign of authority and independence from men. Athena’s words are also a form of encouragement; she alleviates Odysseus’s doubts and assures him that he is capable of winning this battle.
However, Athena still helps Odysseus despite scorning him. Before the fight picks up again, Athena uses her powers to give Odysseus an advantage, “but she did not / give him the strength he’d need to win at once; / the goddess still was bent on trying out / the power to resist and to assault / of both Odysseus and his sturdy son. / Then she herself flew upward, taking on / the likeness of a swallow as she perched / upon a rafter in the murky hall”. Athena exercises self-control in how much strength she allows Odysseus to gain from her; in doing this she pushes him to fight for himself and be hailed as a mighty warrior, while also ensuring that he is not severely harmed in the process. Since Athena values strategy and hard work, she expects Odysseus to fight with these values in mind and thus does not give him too much of her assistance. However, she still watches over Odysseus and Telemachus from high above the battle as they fend off the suitors, which is reassurance that she will be there to protect them if the battle turns against them.
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