"The goddess of the flashing eyes, Athene"


Athene was the daughter of Zeus and goddess of wisdom in the Greek Pantheon. Though not officially a war goddess, she is associated with strategy, planning and victory. Other associations include craft, civilisation and justice.

Athene is an extremely important deity in The Odyssey because of her connection to and fondness for Odysseus. Odysseus is a different kind of hero from the burly warriors of The Iliad or other Greek mythology. Odysseus uses his wits, daring and cunning to get himself out of (and into!) trouble. It is therefore natural that Athene, goddess of wisdom and stratagems, should feel a strong personal affinity with this mortal man.


Throughout The Odyssey, the reader will come across hundreds of these descriptive phrases attached to certain characters or places. These are epithets, and Homer is extremely fond of them. Epithets are often repeated, so characters and places tend to be associated with specific traits. So, Athene has flashing eyes, Menelaus is always ‘the auburn haired Menelaus,’ the sea is often ‘wine-dark’, and Pylos is always ‘sandy’. Epithets are just one of the narrative techniques used by Homer that are indicative of oral tradition. The use of these formulae is particularly characteristic of epic poetry.