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The destruction in the wake of withdrawal comes in stages. Demeter nurses the child with nectar and ambrosia, and places him, magically protected, in the fire at night, all with the intent of making him immortal. The plan fails because Metaneira spies on the nurse and discovers, to her horror, Demophoön in the fire. Once found out, Demeter throws the child angrily to the floor, reveals herself as a goddess, and tells the terrified mother that her interference has cost her son immortality. She demands that a temple dedicated to her be built to honor her so as to appease her wrath.

In any event, establishing and maintaining proper relationships with the gods are prime responsibilities of Homeric males in positions of authority, so the visit immediately offers instruction. As they approach the Pylians, Athena goes in front and coaches Telemachus. Go right up to the king, she says, and ask direct questions—this is no time for undue modesty. But Telemachus is still unsure of himself. How should he approach an elder? He has no experience with such discourse. We are reminded that his father has been absent since his infancy, and there has been no other male in authority from whom he could learn.

There is some irony here, in that we know—as Telemachus does not—that Poseidon is angry at Odysseus for blinding his son, Polyphemus the Cyclops, and will make Odysseus’s homecoming as difficult as he can. At the same time, by participating respectfully in the rites, Telemachus may unwittingly help his father’s case. In any event, establishing and maintaining proper relationships with the gods are prime responsibilities of Homeric males in positions of authority, so the visit immediately offers instruction.

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