The Odyssey

by: Homer

Athena Quotes

Quotes Athena Quotes
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.

Athena skillfully manipulates Zeus as she seeks his permission to free Odysseus from Calypso. She begins her request by agreeing with Zeus’s condemnation of Aegisthus—“Let them all die so”—before moving on to discuss the case of Odysseus. Athena does not directly state that Zeus has been less fair to Odysseus than he has to Aegisthus. Instead she emphasizes Odysseus’s suffering. Athena’s skill with words is one of the things she has in common with her favorite, 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 explains why she is so fond of Odysseus. Their relationship is one of mutual respect, based on their shared skill as talkers and schemers. Interestingly, Athena does not champion Odysseus because he is a good man, or because he is her devout worshipper, but rather because they share similar traits.

I could not bring myself to fight my Father’s brother,
Poseidon, quaking with anger at you, still enraged

These two lines, buried in the middle of a long speech, are the only explanation Athena offers for her failure to rescue Odysseus sooner. Athena suggests that she restrained herself from fighting “my Father’s brother” out of respect for their family tie. The reality is that Poseidon is the more powerful and higher-ranking god. Athena could not fight him.