Origins of Mentoring

"Calypso receiving Mentor and Telemachus in the grotto."

William Hamilton, 1751-1804

In Greek mythology, Mentor was a loyal friend and adviser to Odysseus, king of Ithaca. Mentor helped raise Odysseus' son, Telemachus, while Odysseus was away fighting the Trojan War. Mentor became Telemachus' teacher, coach, counselor and protector, building a relationship based on affection and trust.

Mentoring today is synonymous with the process by which we guard and guide others. Mentors seemingly "adopt" those placed in their care.

The Odyssey relates that, when his father failed to return home at the end of the Trojan war, Telemachus set out to search for him, accompanied by the Goddess Athena who was disguised as his old guardian, Mentor.

Telemachus was shipwrecked on the island of the nymph Calypso, where Ulysses too had been wrecked and kept by Calypso who had wanted to marry him. Similarly, Calypso fell in love with Telemachus and detained him by persuading him to relate his previous adventures. Venus sent Cupid to aid her in her designs, but Telemachus fell in love with Eucharis, one of Calypso's nymphs, provoking the godess's wrath. Cupid incited the other nymphs to burn a new boat that Mentor had built to aid Telemachus's escape. Telemachus was delighted by this delay but was thrown into the sea by Mentor and they were picked up by a passing vessel.


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