Becoming a Leader in the Ancient World: Athena’s Mentoring of Telemachus in the Odyssey


This case study illustrates the crucial importance of mentoring in the process of becoming a leader by examining the story of Telemachus, son of Odysseus, in the ancient Greek epic, the Odyssey. Students will begin by reflecting on the contemporary meaning of the word mentor in the context of related words (e.g., coach, trainer, role model, sponsor) and then make predictions on what kind of mentoring they expect Telemachus to receive in the epic. They will then compare their predictions to what they discover by carefully reading selected passages of the Odyssey. From these comparisons, students will consider the challenges that people of a different social status (or those facing some kind of bias) face in finding good mentors. Students will then envision ways that the mentoring they and others receive could be improved.

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