The Legend that Created Mentoring

September 30th, 2022

With National Mentoring Day approaching, this blog provides the background on where the term, Mentor, originates.

To the best of my knowledge, the word, ‘Mentor’, was first coined by the ancient author, Homer, in his book, The Odyssey, written around the eighth century B.C.. A central character in The Odyssey is, Odysseus, the king of the Greek island of Ithica. He goes off to fight in the Trojan War (the one with the wooden horse), leaving his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. Before leaving, he places Telemachus under the guardianship of a man called Mentor.

Mentor’s skills are soon required, as in Odysseus’ absence, several young noblemen try to marry Penelope, which would deny Telemachus of his birth right. Unfortunately, Mentor wasn’t up to the job! Instead of assisting Telemachus to rise to these challenges, he was initially gripped with insecurity and indecision. Fortunately, the Greek Goddess, Athena, intervened. She took the form of Mentor and supported Telemachus to rise to the challenge and keep order in Ithica until his father returned … and then they all lived happily ever after.

Consequently, it isn’t so much Mentor who should be hailed, but the Greek Goddess of wisdom, Athena (disguised as Mentor).

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