The Odyssey

by: Homer

Five Key Questions

1) Why does Telemachus go to Pylos and Sparta?

The goddess Athena, disguised as Mentes, advises Telemachus to visit Pylos and Sparta. Athena tells Telemachus that he might hear news of his father, Odysseus. If he doesn’t hear that Odysseus is still alive, Telemachus will know it is time to hold a funeral and assert his status as master of Odysseus’s house and property. The journey is potentially dangerous. By undertaking the journey, Telemachus shows that he has inherited his father’s courage, and he begins to forge a reputation in his society as a brave and adventurous man. His visits to Nestor and Menelaus require him to tactfully observe the social rules that bind travelers and guests. This introduces one of The Odyssey’s central themes: hospitality and the rules that govern it. Nestor and Menelaus tell Telemachus stories about Odysseus’s achievements in the Trojan War. Menelaus affirms that Telemachus is a worthy son of his famous father: “Good blood runs in you, dear boy.” Menelaus also tells him that his father is alive. This encouragement inspires Telemachus, and his experiences as a traveler help him to mature. When he returns to Ithaca, he is ready to help Odysseus defeat the suitors.