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Ancient Greek Mythology

Homer's Odyssey: Circe and Calypso

8th century BC, Ancient Greek.

In the interior of this island lies the palace of the goddess Circe. She is a daughter of the sun and her mother is the ocean.

After defeating the Trojans in battle, the victorious Achaeans sail for home. But instead of making his way across the Aegean sea back to Greece, Odysseus finds himself in an enchanted ocean. Perhaps a surprise and murderous attack by his enemies and then a life-threatening storm battering his fleet out at sea have had something to do with this. Odysseus and his ships visit an island of lotus-eaters, and two islands on which giants live. Odysseus arrives at yet another island, his fleet now drastically reduced, and spends three days on its shore. His men are terrified. They have just come from a land of giants where all their ships but one have been brutally destroyed, their crews barbarically slain.

In the interior of this new island lies the palace of the goddess Circe. She is a daughter of the sun and her mother is the ocean. The men find her sitting at a loom, singing with a beautiful voice and weaving an enchanted cloth. She invites the sailors into her abode, gives them fine wine and delicious food to taste, then she turns them into pigs and chases them into her sties.

Odysseus at last obtains the release of his men back into human form; but they are now much younger than they were.

Circe has four handmaidens who are each the nymph of a river or a spring, just as four springs rise near the cave of the goddess Calypso, whose island home Odysseus will visit later in his voyage; and, of course, in Eden.

Circe warns Odysseus that before he can return home it is necessary for him to visit the land of the dead. This he does, and at last, with his entire flotilla lost and all his men perished, he is washed up, clinging to the last remaining piece of his last remaining ship, onto the island of the queenly goddess Calypso.

Here Odysseus spends many years, making love to this goddess at night but craving the island on which he was born during the day. She is a daughter of Atlas, one of the giants who warred with the Olympian gods. Calypso lives alone on this island, in a cave in which she spends her days weaving, and from which four springs emerge, each flowing away in different directions. If these recall the four rivers that flow from the Garden of Eden, then it should be added that if Odysseus were to have agreed to become Calypso’s husband, Homer tells us, she would have offered him immortality and eternal youth.

Story fragments recounted from: Shewring, Walter, with an introduction by Kirk, G. S., 1980, reprinted 2008. Homer: The Odyssey. Translated from ancient Greek with an introduction. Oxford University Press. Book V, Hermes and Calypso, pp 55–66; Book X, Circe, pp 113–27.

See for yourself

Homer – Wikipedia

Odysseus – Wikipedia

The Odyssey – Wikipedia

Circe – Wikipedia

Calypso – Wikipedia

Homer: The Odyssey – English translation, Internet Classics Archive


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