The by interfering with his affairs. Although

The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems
ascribed to Homer (the first being “The Iliad”), and considered to be among the
most historically significant to the Western canon of literature. The story
narrates the journey home (or nostos) of legendary hero Odysseus as he
encounters mishaps, mutiny, and adventure during his return to Ithaca from the
war against Troy. Similar to most epic tales, the Odyssey has quintessential
themes weaved throughout its narrative meaning the tale consists of roles
played by forces outside the realm of physical reality. In the case of the
Odyssey, these forces are known as the Odyssean Gods. The Gods become integral
forces working around the events of the story both in terms of framing the
narrative and in the tale of poem itself. The Gods identified in the Odyssey
help to give context to both the story and the storyteller, assist readers to
distinguish valued characteristics in a hero in the ancient Greek world, serve
to identify the distinctive nature of the characters by the relationship they
share with certain characters and also by allowing readers to consider the
contrast between different characters and the Gods (Dotta 2008).

A noteworthy function of the Gods in this epic is how they
at times, directly and indirectly, intervene. Their interference either aid or
hinder the bold hero’s journey home. The most important roles are those played
by Athena, and Poseidon.

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Poseidon, the wrathful sea God, who is angered by the
incident between Odysseus and the Cyclops favours Polyphemus and severely
inhibits Odysseus’ travels home by wrecking his raft and causing Odysseus to
lose all his crewmen. In the tale, Poseidon is regarded as Odysseus’ main enemy
as he repeatedly sabotages Odysseus’ journey home and causes the hero strife by
interfering with his affairs. 

Although at many times, Gods such as Athena worked to assist
Odysseus and often other characters, appearing in the dreams of Odysseus’ wife
and occasionally imploring the Gods on Odysseus’ behalf. From the beginning of
the epic she approaches Telemachus in disguise and encourages him to being his
journey, which ultimately serves to help Odysseus. In the beginning Telemachus
hesitates to stand up to the ill-mannered suitors: once “Athena shed a divine
grace” does Telemachus build up the strength to confront the suitors and
express his disdain for them. She assembles a group of companions for
Telemachus, and helps him to slip away in the night in a ship she also found
for him while the suitors stay in a “sweet slumber.” Athena repeatedly whispers
words of encouragement to Telemachus before his voyage and also when being
questioned by Nestor. Athena does not hold back her generosity for Odysseus –
helping him with the battle he face in Book 22 and in the beginning of Book 5
after the wreckage of his ship.

Some minor cases of divine intervention are for example the
time Aelous tried to help Odysseus by providing him with a bag of wind
(although the bag of wind worked against their favour), or how Zeus, who was
fond of Odysseus, would often send messengers to assist him.

From these interventions, we can see that the God’s are not
simply faceless deities that serve as outside forces, but serve as characters
themselves in the epic. Poseidon is the antagonist who is bitter towards our
hero, whereas Athena is the knowledgeable, helpful mentor who lends a helping hand
to everyone along the way. It is considered whether the Gods in the Odyssey are
truly Godlike or if a mortal being could have easily played the parts of
Poseidon and Athena. Since most cases of intervention are indirect such as an
advisory nudge from Athena in the form of words or a shipwreck brought on by
Poseidon, a mortal could very much so have played the roles of these Gods in
the story.