Divine intervention is often an integral part of ancient epic poetry as seen in Homer's The Odyssey. The role of the goddess Athena was an essential part of Odysseus's journey back to Ithaka. Athena also played a vital part in Telemakhos's life before the return of his father. Even Penelope is impacted by the help of the "grey-eyed" goddess, often inspiring Penelope to hold off the suitors as well as putting her to sleep when a situation became too difficult. Athena demonstrates that she is a critical component of development within the father Odysseus and his son Telemakhos as well as guiding Penelope as a beautiful mother waiting for the return of her husband.
In The Odyssey, Athena has an extensive and caring relationship with Odysseus. At the beginning of the poem, Athena pleads with her father Zeus to allow her to help Odysseus so he can go home to his family, saying, "But my own heart is broken for Odysseus." Later in the poem she again implores her father for help regarding Odysseus. When he is on the island of Kalypso, Athena tells Zeus that Odysseus "cannot stir, cannot fare homeward, for no ship is left him, fitted with oars-no crewmen or companions." Athena also aids Odysseus as he is sailing away from the islands, checking "the course of all the winds but one, commanding them, `Be quiet and go to sleep'." As Odysseus departs she protects him because it is her desire that he will return home safely after a long absence from his family. At the end of his voyage from the island of Kalypso, Odysseus is again blessed by the guidance of Athena. As he reaches the land he spots a "leaf-bed" and Athena "showered sleep that his distress should end, and soon, soon." It should also be noted that Homer often composed moments of sleep to indicate both the help of Athena and the progression of the story.
Once Odysseus arrives in the city that Nausikaa guides him to, Athen "poured a sea fog around him" and disguises herself as a small girl in order to show him the way to the palace. As Athena guides him to the palace, she warns him about what he must avoid in order to be safe in that neighborhood. She also slips in some advice that he may use in his future endeavors to get home, asserting that "a cheerful man does best in every enterprise-even a stranger." The reader is again reminded of the incredible relationship between Athena and Odysseus in book VIII when Odysseus is speaking with Demodokos about the battle of Troy and Odysseus asks him to "shift [his] theme, and sing that wooden horse Epeios built, inspired by Athena." As the minstrel recalls "how Odysseus came like Ares to the door of Deiphobos, with Menolaos, and bred the desperate fight there- conquering once more by Athena's power" the victory at Troy is again attributed to Athena's role in facilitating Odysseus in the victory.
When Athena leads Odysseus back to an Ithaka that he no longer recognizes, she again "poured a grey mist all around him"...