How did I not know this, as someone who studied Classics?! The word mentor actually comes from Homer’s Odyssey, and has had a bit of a journey itself:
The story of Mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War and entrusts the care of his household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus.
After the war, Odysseus is condemned to wander vainly for ten years in his attempt to return home. In time, Telemachus, now grown, ventures in search of his father. Athena, Goddess of War and patroness of the arts and industry, assumes the form of Mentor and accompanies Telemachus on his quest. Father and son reunite and cast down would-be usurpers of Odysseus’ throne and Telemachus’s birthright.
The word Mentor evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person. History offers many examples of helpful mentoring relationships: Socrates and Plato, Hayden and Beethoven, Freud and Jung. Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person.
History and legend record the deeds of princes and kings, but each of us has a birthright to actualize our potential. Through their deeds and work, mentors help us to move toward that actualization.
*From Shea, Gordon F. (1997) Mentoring (Rev. Ed.). Menlo Park, CA: Crisp Publications
In Homer’s Odyssey, the character, Mentor, first appears in Book 2, and the goddess Athena even ends the entire epic poem in Mentor’s guise. She does this to bring peace to the local warring households that have tried to seize Odysseus’ wife Penelope’s hand in marriage and Odysseus’ estate in Ithaca in his twenty years away: at the Trojan War and on his voyage back home.
A bit more on the word itself:
“wise adviser,” 1750, from Greek Mentor, friend of Odysseus and adviser of Telemachus (but often actually Athene in disguise) in the “Odyssey,” perhaps ultimately meaning “adviser,” because the name appears to be an agent noun of mentos “intent, purpose, spirit, passion” from PIE *mon-eyo- (source also of Sanskrit man-tar- “one who thinks,” Latin mon-i-tor “one who admonishes”), causative form of root *men- (1) “to think.” The general use of the word probably is via later popular romances, in which Mentor played a larger part than he does in Homer.
1888, from mentor (n.). Related: Mentored; mentoring.
I love learning something every day! Including, that we have a lot of history to live up to; so I guess it’s back to the library to prepare for our next round of sessions!