Calypso And Circe In Homer's Odyssey
Calypso and Circe
The islands of Circe and Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey are places where Odysseus’ most challenging problems occur. In contrast to battles with men, Cyclops, or animals, sexual battles with women are sometimes much more difficult to win. These two female characters are especially enticing to Odysseus because they are goddesses. Though it is evident that Odysseus longs to return to Penelope in Ithaka, it sometimes appears that he has lost vision of what life was like with a wife, a son, and with thousands of people who regard him as King. Although his experiences on the islands of these goddesses were similar in that he was retained from Ithaka for the longest periods of his adventure, these goddesses and the ways that Odysseus reacts to his experiences with them represent two very different aspects of Odysseus’ life and disposition in life.
When Odysseus and his men arrive on Circe’s island, they are still in fairly good shape. In Book X, lines 194-196, Odysseus says: "I climbed to a rocky place of observation and looked at the island, and the endless sea lies all in a circle around it" I believe this illuminates a very important aspect in Circe’s tendencies. She doesn’t seem to want to cause any real harm to the men, but wishes to encircle these men with her food, wine, and lust. She seems to be obsessed with lust and material possessions, and it is my belief that she represents all that is weak in women (at least in Homer’s time). In lines 294-296 Hermes is consulting Odysseus on how to avoid harm from Circe: "rush forward against Circe, as if you were raging to kill her, and she will be afraid, and invite you to go to bed with her."
Circe also shows us as readers Odysseus’ weakness towards lust and sexuality. This time spent on Circe’s island was a test of whether he could resist lust from a goddess, and he fails. At first it appears as though the only reason Odysseus sleeps with Circe is to regain his companions, but she easily persuades them to stay. And what’s even worse is the fact that Odysseus isn’t even the first one ready to go. His men are the ones who urge him to leave: "What ails you now? It is time to think about our own country". So though at a glance it appears that Odysseus is merely succumbing to Circe’s schemes for reasons related to their health and well-being, if we read between the lines, we soon begin to realize that Odysseus is weak...
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Calypso and Circe, Important Women of Homer's Odyssey
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Calypso and Circe, Important Women of Homer's Odyssey
Of all the themes in the Odyssey, the one that seems to stand out is Odysseus's struggle to return home. There are many reasons why his journey is deterred, the most obvious being the women he encounters. Of the women, their are two that truly represent "the different aspects of creative and destructive feminiinty." (Taylor, 571)
Calypso is a woman who carries the "true appeal" of a woman, beauty. She offers Odysseus eternal life, and an end to physical suffering. With her, he will be able to keep his identity as a man and enjoy the different pleasures she can offer. She seems like the most tempting offer for Odysseus besides his wife, but he denies her offer. "Odysseus refuses Calypso's offer of bodily immortality for the same reasons that he resists bodily death: in neither case could be preserve his whole being as Odysseus." (Taylor, 571)
I found his refusal to be quite commendable, though his excuse was not.
Circe's charms are also directed towards the same place, but not as blatently as Calypso's. She drugs Odysseus's men to make them forget their homes and then she turns them into pigs. Taylor describes this sequence of events as "significant because it represents the metamorphosis as a collary of forgetting one's native land. The transformation of man to animal is a vivid image of the lessening of human consciousness which forgetting one's origings implies." (Taylor, 572) He also states that the story suggests that "men who let themselves be drugged into a lower level of awareness by the destructive power of the enchantress, become no more than animals to be kept as the woman's pet." (Taylor, 572)
I found this quote to be quite interesting. It made me think of how this could relate to our own societies "fallen men" and also women. Many people today consume alcohol or recreational drugs and let it control their actions, even though if they were sober, they would not be behaving this way. Our society today is weak, just like in the story, to different "potions" that can affect their mental capacity to think straight.
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Calypso Circe Odyssey Homer People Today Return Home Destructive Power Eternal Life Human Consciousness Bodily
Though these women seem destructable, it really symbolized what kind of temptations all of life's journey's will bring and the strength that one must have in order to come out victorious. All in all I found this story to be quite enjoyable, and like Gilgamesh, I think that it had a a wonderful moral.
Taylor, Charles H. " The Obstacles to Odysseus' Return," Yale Review 50, NO.4 1961: 571-73