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In Greek mythology, Mentor (Greek: Μέντωρ / Méntōr; gen.: Μέντορος)[1] was the son of Alcumus. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor and Odysseus' foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus, and of Odysseus' palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.

When Athena visited Telemachus she took the disguise of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors of Telemachus' mother Penelope.[2] As Mentor, the goddess encourages Telemachus to stand up against the suitors and go abroad to find out what happened to his father. When Odysseus returns to Ithaca, Athena appears briefly in the form of Mentor again at Odysseus' palace.

Because of Mentor's and Eumaeus' near-paternal relationship with Telemachus, the personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning a father-like teacher.


Mentor as term

The first recorded modern usage of the term can be traced to a 1699 book entitled "Les Aventures de Telemaque", by the French writer François Fénelon[3] 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.[3]

This is the source of the modern use of the word mentor: a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person. Some professions have "mentoring programs" in which newcomers are paired with more experienced people, who advise them and serve as examples as they advance. Schools sometimes offer mentoring programs to new students, or students having difficulties.

Today mentors provide expertise to less experienced individuals to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. In many different arenas people have benefited from being part of a mentoring relationship, including:

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