Thesis: The theme of disguise as brought out in THEODYSSEY, its significance, purpose, context and effectiveness.
1. Reasons why gods and mortal men use disguises.
2. Effectiveness and context of these disguises.
3. ATHENA disguised as a young boy. Reasons for this particular disguise and its effectiveness
4. ATHENA disguised as MENTES. The context in which she uses this disguise and its measure of success towards achieving her goals.
5. ATHENA disguised as TELEMACHUS. The reasons that inspired this disguise, its relevance and context in which it is used.
6. ATHNA disguised as MENTOR. Her prediction of what this disguise would have, its relevance towards a greater enlightenment if Greek society and its effects.
7. An insight into the character of the goddess ATHENA and her motivations towards taking up disguises and the general effects of her disguises.
Throughout the ODYSSEY both gods and human beings are seen taking up numerous disguises. In the case of gods it is to conceal their true identity while offering aid to man while in the case of men it is to suit their current disposition. The gods also adopted disguises and interacted with man to test the people’s sense of hospitality before rendering judgment. This instilled a sense of hospitality and kindness to strangers in the people as it is believed every visitor comes from ZEUS (XIV: 64-66).the gods also seem to have an appreciation of a cunning mind and seem to be impressed by well thought out and executed disguises. The goddess ATHENA’S appreciation of ODYSSEUS’ cunningness is seen in line 287 of book 8 as she “smiled at him and stroked him with her hand” soon after he concocts a long and very detailed story aimed at her deception. It is only appropriate that the goddess ATHENA appreciates deception since she herself disguises herself numerous times.
In ODYSSEY 13.221-226, ATHENA disguises herself as a young boy in order to speak with ODYSSEUS, just returning from Ithaka.This disguise is significant as it keeps ODYSSEUS from knowing ATHENA’S true identity thus maintaining the delicate balance between the world of gods and the world of men. Throughout the odyssey gods interact with men but take the disguise of mortal men in order to do so. This may be in order to pass a message, test man’s kindness and behavior towards other seemingly less fortunate men or to offer aid to deserving men as done many times by the goddess ATHENA in aid of ODYSSEUS in his home coming quest. Disguises are significant as they help us learn of the cunning and somewhat deceptive nature of Greek gods. Though their aim while taking disguises are pure and aimed at helping and at the end of the day deception is deception irrespective of whether the ends justify the means. We also learn that the Greek gods do not see things in black and white as one would expect of gods with a divine nature but rather they exist in a realm of grays where achieving their goals by any means necessary is apparently not frowned upon. This helps us learn more of the nature of the gods and how they are similar to human beings in more ways than one. We are able to see past the thick blinding cloud that comes with the title god and are able to get a sneak peak at what it truly means to be a god in Greek society and we also get a brief hind into their true nature.
The goddess ATHENA disguises herself as a Tephian chieftain named MENTES when she visits TELEMACHUS the son of ODYSSEUS. She does this to urge him to search for news of his father whose current predicament was unknown after the Trojan War. ODYSSEUS is thought to have died in troy and many suitors have come to his home to court his wife PENELOPE. ATHENA assumes this disguise to offer much needed comfort and hope of a brighter future to TELEMACHUS in regard to his father. She urges him not to give up but to search relentlessly for news of his father. Here we see the gods taking up disguises to offer much needed hope and guidance to man as to what he should do towards the fulfillment of certain goals. TELEMACHUS offers MENTES hospitality, not knowing that indeed it is the goddess ATHENA and the bard PHEMIUS performs them a narrative. TELEMACHUS displays his kind nature and hospitality to strangers, a value held in high regard by the Greeks.
ATHENA disguises herself as TELEMACHUS and procures a ship and crew for TELEMACHUS. Here we see the god’s relentless resolve to offer unending aid to man. Despite disguising herself as MENTES and urging TELEMACHUS to search for news of his father the goddess ATHENA goes the extra mile and procures a ship and crew to be used by TELEMACHUS upon his endeavors of retrieving his long lost father. We see ATHENA’S determination towards ensuring that ODYSSEUS’ homecoming indeed materializes. We see that she will go to any heights and do what needs to be done to fulfill this goal yet at the same time concealing her godly hand from mortal men through the best thought out and evidently most appropriate and cunning disguises. The procurement for a ship for TELEMACHUS by “TELEMACHUS” goes a long way in helping him in the search for his father. Not only has the goddess ATHENA given him hope that his father might yet be alive she goes the extra mile and gets him the means to look for his long lost father. ATHENA’S disguise as TELEMACHUS while finding the ship is appropriate as it familiarizes the ship’s crew with TELEMACHUS and places him in a high ranking position on the ship. He is therefore better poised and equipped with what he needs to find news of his father.
The goddess ATHENA once again takes up another disguise, that of MENTORwho was a friend of ODYSSEUS and interacts with TELEMACHUS in this form. She does this to keep her true identity hidden from PENELOPE’S many suitors. She encourages TELEMACHUS to stand up against the suitors and to go abroad to seek enlightenment as to the plight of his father. This disguise is very appropriate in the context of what ATHENA was hoping to achieve.MENTOR, being ODYSSEUS’ friend and in old age at that, was someone who TELEMACHUS held in high esteem both as his father’s friend and as a wise elder. If there was any person capable of arming TELEMACHUS with determination to stand up to his mother’s suitors and also convince him to go abroad in search of his father who was thought to be dead it was undoubtedly MENTOR. The goddess ATHENA displays her wit and excellent if not divine ability to choose the best disguise appropriate for invoking an emotional appraisal in TELEMACHUS. She clearly knows the kind of motivation a mentor would have on TELEMACHUS and she exploits this knowledge fully to ensure that ODYSSEUS not only finds his way back home but also finds his loving wife waiting for him. All the necessary requirements for a glorious homecoming after war indeed. Here we see more of ATHENA’S resolve towards ensuring a picture perfect homecoming for ODYSSEUS. The goddess clearly does all that is possible to help ODYSSEUS yet at the same time concealing her divine nature from TELEMACHUS while still managing to encourage him, give him hope and guide him on what he needs to do to help his father get home safe and sound. We also see ATHENA’S prowess at choosing just the right disguise to evoke just the right kind of emotion and motivation all for the fulfillment of the ultimate goal of seeing ODYSSEUS get home safe and sound.
Lattimore, Richmond Alexander.The Odyssey of Homer. New York: Harper & Row, 2003. Print.