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Mentor (Odyssey)

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Telemachus and Mentor (1956 image)

In the Odyssey, Mentor (Greek: Μέντωρ, Méntōr; gen.: Μέντορος)[1] was the son of Alcimus. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War, he placed Mentor in charge of his son Telemachus,[2] and of Odysseus' palace.[3]

Athena's appearance as Mentor should not be confused with her appearance as Mentes in the first book of the Odyssey.[4]

Mentor as term[edit]

Because of Mentor's relationship with Telemachus, and the disguised Athena's encouragement and practical plans for dealing with personal dilemmas, the personal name Mentor has been adopted in Latin and other languages, including English, as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less-experienced colleague.

The first recorded modern usage of the term can be traced to a 1699 book entitled Les Aventures de Télémaque by the French writer François Fénelon.[5] In the book the lead character is that of Mentor. This book was very popular during the 18th century and the modern application of the term can be traced to this publication.[5]


  1. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary - Mentor". Archived from the original on 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  2. ^ Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology; Michael Grant and John Hazel, editors; Merriam-Webster, Springfield (Massachusetts), 1993; p. 279: "MENTOR An old Ithacan of noble family whom Odysseus appointed to bring up Telemachus... in his absence... Athena, on occasion, impersonated him."
  3. ^ The New Century Classical Handbook; Catherine Avery, editor; Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1962, p. 702: "MENTOR...In the Odyssey, an Ithacan to whom Odysseus, when about to depart for the Trojan War, entrusted the care of his house and his son Telemachus. His name has become a synonym for a faithful advisor."
  4. ^ Odyssey, 1.179ff.
  5. ^ a b Roberts, Andy. (1999) "The origins of the term mentor". History of Education Society Bulletin, No. 64, November 1999, pp. 313–329.

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