What Is Odysseus’s Relationship With Athena and Zeus?

In Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey,” Odysseus’ relationship with Athena is close, as she actively helps him find his way home from Troy to Ithaca, while Odysseus’ relationship with Zeus is more remote. Zeus remains aloof from Odysseus’ ordeals and only intervenes when Athena insists.

Throughout the Trojan War, Athena, the daughter of Zeus, plays an active role in assisting the Achaeans to defeat the Trojans. At the end of the war, she begs her father to let her assist Odysseus in returning to his homeland. Athena influences Princess Nausicaa by appearing to her in a dream and inspiring her to go meet Odysseus and help him. Athena transforms herself into a little girl at one point and leads Odysseus by the hand. When Odysseus reaches Ithaca, Athena becomes a shepherd boy and converses with him. Afterward she changes into her natural appearance as a goddess, makes it clear that she is helping him and plots the overthrow of his wife’s suitors. She disguises Odysseus as an old beggar and leads him to a faithful servant and his son, who help him carry out the scheme. After Odysseus strings his bow, revealing his identity, Athena restores him to his true appearance and helps him carry out his vengeance on the suitors.

Zeus, on the other hand, keeps his distance as an observer. He intervenes on Odysseus’ behalf only once, at Athena’s insistence, when he sends Hermes to persuade Calypso to release Odysseus.