The Plan of Athena
The Odyssey opens by dramatizing the Olympian negotiations behind its action, and the goddess Athena quickly emerges as the source and sponsor of the plot that follows. All of the gods except Poseidon are gathered in the halls of Zeus listening to his meditations on a story that is already concluded, the story of Agamemnon. Athena tactfully shifts Zeus' attention to the story that is on her mind, the still-unconcluded story of Odysseus. When Zeus allows that it is indeed time for Odysseus to return, she responds with a ready set of plans that constitute the two lines of action occupying the next twelve books of the poem: the adventures of Telemachos, initiated by her own visit to Ithaka in the guise of Mentes, and Odysseus' release from the island of Kalypso, initiated by Hermes sent as a messenger from Zeus (1.8095). At the end of that phase of the action, Athena takes an even more direct hand in events, meeting with Odysseus as he reaches the shore of Ithaka in Book 13 and devising with him the plot that will control the second half of the poem.
The Odyssey, then, goes out of its way to identify the story it tells as Athena's project and, in doing so, signals both its concern with issues of gender and its finally conservative position on those issues. Athena has a distinctive role in the Greek mythological tradition as a figure who resolves conflicts between male and female powers. The resolutions she effects involve both the acknowledgment of female strength and the establishment of hierarchies in which the female is subordinated to the male. Through her own origins and nature and