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The Odyssey

Homer
Summary

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers

3) Why doesn’t the goddess Athena get Odysseus home sooner?

The goddess Athena is Odysseus’s patron. She is the goddess of craft and wisdom, so she is fond of the cunning Odysseus: “among mortal men / you’re far the best at tactics, spinning yarns, / and I am famous among the gods for wisdom, / cunning wiles, too.” Athena uses her divine powers to protect Odysseus and to help him get home. However, the god Poseidon is Odysseus’s sworn enemy, because Odysseus blinded his son, Polyphemus the cyclops. Poseidon is more powerful than Athena, and he has a higher rank amongst the gods. He does everything he can to prevent Odysseus from returning home. The action of The Odyssey begins when Athena sees her chance to rescue Odysseus from the nymph Calypso while Poseidon’s back is turned. Odysseus’s fate ultimately depends on the status of his patron goddess, suggesting that hierarchy is inescapable in the universe of The Odyssey.