The Odyssey

Manlike: The Odyssean Ideal

The name "Odysseus" resonates in the creak of opening doors in the city of Troy, the murmur of waves, and the song of the Sirens. Over the course of the epic tale, Odysseus' heroism proves far more nuanced than the simple feats of his success at Troy and his triumphant arrival home. In Homer's The Odyssey, Odysseus' relationship with the dominant feminine presence, Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, largely defines his uniquely heroic nature. The relationship casts Odysseus as Athena's heroic counterpart in the mortal realm, and ultimately suggests that Athena derives vicarious thrills from their interactions.

Athena empowers Odysseus, left pining away on Ogygia, to re-assume his true role as a hero. She petitions her father to release Odysseus from Calypso's embrace and helps the Ithacan to endure Poseidon's fury:

But Zeus' daughter Athena had other ideas

She barricaded all the winds but one

And ordered them to rest and fall asleep. (5.385-387)

The daughter of Zeus confers no small favor on Odysseus by calming the winds, for in doing so she disobeys the powerful will of Poseidon. To take such a risk, Athena must truly believe that Odysseus is a mortal hero worthy of her sanction and support.


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