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K ing Nestor
The Wine Red Sea: Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 -2024 by Peter J Ponzio

Home - Book XIII

Odysseus, recognizing the goddess at last, commented on her many disguises and thanked her for her help during the Trojan War. But the hero reproved her for withholding her aid during his many long struggles to return home, and asked why she waited until he arrived in Phaeacia to provide him aid. Athena, rather than being angry with him, answered as follows: ‘Always the same, your wary turn of mind. . . That’s why I can’t forsake you in your troubles- you are so winning, so worldly-wise, so self-possessed! Anyone else, come back from wandering long and hard, would have hurried home at once, delighted to see his children and his wife. Oh, but not you, it’s not your pleasure to probe for news of them- you must put your wife to the proof yourself! But she, she waits in your halls, as always, her life an endless hardship. . . ‘ (XIII 374; 376-384) It is evident that the goddess has a real affection for Odysseus; she and the man of sorrows share the same love of plans and strategies; the same love of disguises; the same love of trickery and deception. But when unable to think their way out of a tough situation, both can best their enemies in a fight. To the ancient Greeks, Odysseus was the ultimate man: skilled at warfare and master of strategies. It is no accident that he is accorded his own epic poem. Odysseus, Hermes and Elpenor Then the goddess parted the mist that obscured the land from the vision of Odysseus, and the man of constant sorrow saw for the first time that he really was in his native country. He kissed the ground and prayed to the nymphs of the place, vowing that he would honor them after he finished his business with the suitors. Athena then counseled Odysseus, hatching plans to destroy the suitors who’d ravaged his household, attempted to kill his son and made Penelope’s life so miserable. Odysseus, acknowledging the advice of the goddess, indicated that he might have experienced the same fate as Agamemnon without her help. The goddess of wisdom weaved her plans, telling Odysseus that she would transform him into an old, shriveled beggar: “I will shrivel the supple skin on your lithe limbs,/strip the russet curls from your head and deck you out/in rags you’d hate to see some other mortal wear;/I’ll dim the fire in your eyes, so shining once. . .” (XIII 455-458). Odysseus and the goddess parted; Odysseus journeying to visit his swineherd, Athena to summon Telemachus home.