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Mentor 4

John Flaxman (1755‚Ä"1826): Athena, in the shape of Mentor, and Telemachus (Odyss√©en, Niloe 1973).

Mentor 4 was an old friend of Odysseus. To him Odysseus entrusted his household when he joined the coalition that sailed against Troy. Athena, assuming several times the shape of Mentor 4, became the guide of Odysseus' son Telemachus, giving him prudent counsel. Since then, wise and trusted advisers have been called "mentors".

Long absence

When Odysseus joined the alliance that sailed against Troy, he left Mentor 4 in charge of keeping his household safe. But Odysseus stayed away too long, for ten years passed before the Achaeans brought the Trojan War to an end, and another ten elapsed between the end of the war and Odysseus' return to Ithaca. Now, some have said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Also the SUITORS OF PENELOPE found that Ithaca, with no Odysseus, was indeed an isle of beauty; accordingly, they grew fonder and fonder, although not in the usual way, but of Odysseus' estate and wife.

How the SUITORS saw the problem

There was nothing wrong—the SUITORS reasoned—in wishing to marry this queen, whom they considered a widow. But Penelope, they argued, had fooled them several years, asking them to wait for her decision until she had completed the shroud of Laertes, which she in reality never intended to complete, since she wove it by day but undid it by night. To compensate themselves for the queen's tricks, the SUITORS decided that the household would pay for their great feasts until Penelope, leaving her cleverness aside, made her choice. And so the SUITORS, finding it quite natural to organise great parties at the expense of Odysseus' household, slaughtered his animals and drank his wine in his own palace. While all this was taking place, Odysseus' son Telemachus, who at the time did not know whether his father was dead or alive, could neither oppose the SUITORS' pestering of his mother with unwanted attentions, nor his wealth being frittered away by their feasts.

Allowing crime

Now, those who commit crimes are fools because they, failing to discern between right and wrong, and being therefore unjust, destroy everything even for themselves. But those who allow the crimes to be committed create guilt for themselves; for they let evil spread, though they know better than the fools who destroy their own lives through crime. And whereas it is obvious that criminals, acting from the wickedness of their hearts often risk their own skins, those who sit in abject silence giving way to injustice, nurture the vain hope of risking nothing.

Mentor 4 despises his compatriots

That is why Mentor 4 despised the Ithacan citizens more than he hated the SUITORS. For they, although being many, neither condemned the SUITORS nor demanded restraint from them, who were few. This kind of omission, explains Mentor 4, leads to tyranny. For when no gratitude is shown towards a kind, fair, and generous rule, then someone may think that it might be just as well to devote himself to tyranny or lawless deeds. And if one were to judge by the case of King Odysseus, it was apparent that he was not being supported, during his absence, by those who had benefited from his rule. All these thoughts Mentor 4 threw, during an assembly, at the face of the same Ithacan citizens that were the object of his reflection, which shows that he was not hindered by what is called a "hairy tongue", but instead spoke freely.

Athena assumes his shape

Now, either because Mentor 4 was a man of integrity, or because he was an excellent friend of his friends, or because he did not deal in lies, or because he could speak out if necessary, or for all these reasons, or for other motives known or unknown, the goddess Athena assumed his shape many times in order to give counsel to those she wished to help. So turning herself into Mentor 4, she came to Telemachus, and gave him instructions concerning his journey to Pylos and Sparta, where he went to gather news about his father; and when the ship was ready, she gave the order to start the journey and came herself on board, always looking as the trustful Mentor 4 and using his voice.


Nothing can be compared to the favor of the gods: in Pylos, unexperienced Telemachus was closely guided by Athena, in the shape of Mentor 4, when about to meet Nestor:

Telemachus: Mentor, how am I to go up to the great man? How shall I greet him? Remember that I have had no practice in making speeches; and a young man may well hesitate to cross-examine one so much his senior.
Athena: Telemachus, where your native wit fails, heaven will inspire you. It is not for nothing that the gods have watched your progress ever since your birth.

Where is the real Mentor 4?

While Athena was showing herself as Mentor 4 on board and in Pylos, the real man was in Ithaca involuntarily puzzling others. For when Noemon 3, the prominent Ithacan who provided the vessel in which Telemachus sailed in search for his father, answered the questions that were posed by the SUITORS about the nature and details of Telemachus' journey, he answered:

"… As for the young fellows who went with him, they are the noblest in the land, next to ourselves. I noted one going on board as their leader, Mentor, or a god, who was in all things like him. But at this I marvel. I saw the good Mentor here yesterday at early dawn. Yet he certainly boarded my ship for Pylos that night." (Noemon 3 to Antinous 2. Homer, Odyssey 4.650).

Mentor 4 seen in the battle against the SUITORS

When the final battle between Odysseus and the SUITORS took place, Athena appeared once more in the shape of Mentor 4, and she was insulted and threatened by the suitor Agelaus 5 of Same, son of Damastor 3 who addressed her thus:

"Mentor … When we have killed these men, father and son, you too shall join them and shall die … And when our swords have disposed of you and your friends, we shall throw in all you possess, indoors or out, with Odysseus' estate. We shall not let son or daughter of yours live in your house, and your good wife will not dare to show herself in the streets of Ithaca." (Agelaus 5 to Athena in the shape of Mentor 4. Homer, Odyssey 22.215ff.).

What Medon 5 said to the SUITORS' relatives

In spite of these threats, the SUITORS OF PENELOPE were killed by Odysseus and those few who helped him. As a result, a crowd of mourners gathered at Odysseus' gate, carrying out the corpses and burying their dead. After that, the assembled Ithacans denounced Odysseus as an enemy, who having lost army and ships, had at his return slaughtered the noblest among the Ithacans and Cephallenians. It was then that the herald Medon 5 addressed them saying:

"Listen my fellow-Ithacans … and you will understand that in acting as he did Odysseus was not without the guiding of heaven. With my own eyes I saw an immortal, who looked exactly like Mentor, standing at his side …" (Medon 5 to the Ithacans. Homer, Odyssey 24.445).

What Halitherses told to the same SUITORS

Also Halitherses, a soothsayer from Ithaca who had warned the SUITORS OF PENELOPE, and was an old friend of the House of Odysseus, reminded them of their previous meeting, when Mentor 4 had admonished them:

"Your own wickedness, my friends, is to blame for what has happened. You would not listen to me or to your leader Mentor, when we urged you to check your sons in their career of folly." (Halitherses to the Ithacans. Homer, Odyssey 24.455).

Relatives slaughtered

Nevertheless, the SUITORS' relatives, commanded by Eupeithes, rose in arms against Odysseus, attacking the palace, which was defended by Odysseus, his son Telemachus, and his father Laertes. Eupeithes was killed by Laertes, while Odysseus and his son fell on the front rank of the enemy, and smote them with their swords.

Athena again as Mentor 4

Here Athena, using Mentor 4's form and voice once more, commanded Odysseus to put an end to the civil war, and established peace between the two forces. Yet some have said that later, and because of this conflict, Odysseus had to go into exile.

Others with identical name

Mentor 1 is the son of Heracles 1 and Asopis 1, one of the daughters of Thespius.
Mentor 2 is son of Eurystheus and Antimache.
Mentor 3 is father of a Trojan named Imbrius, who was killed in the Trojan War by Teucer 1, son of Telamon, son of Aeacus.



Alcimus 2 & unknown

Related sections Odysseus, Penelope, SUITORS OF PENELOPE  

Hom.Od.2.225, 2.244, 2.254, 2.269, 3.23, 3.240, 4.654, 17.69, 22.205, 22.214, 22.235, 22.249, 24.445, 24.455, 24.504, 24.545ff.