Calypso and Circe, Homer’s Seductive Goddesses
In the epic, Odyssey, Homer presents both Calypso and Circe as goddesses who employ not only their divine powers, but also the power of seduction used by mortal women, to hold captive the hero, Odysseus. One way the two, Calypso and Circe, are similar is by divine powers. Although the divine powers of both Calypso and Circe are capturing and detaining Odysseus, Homer treats these vaguely defined powers with little respect, and in the case of Circe, even a hint of scorn. Other than the trappings of power to seduce Odysseus, Calypso’s direct use of her powers to take and hold Odysseus are not mentioned except to refer to her as bewitching (Homer 1.17). Circe’s powers to mesmerize, sedate, and magically transform are described much more explicitly in Book 10, yet her drugs and spells fail utterly to capture Odysseus, who is forewarned and forearmed by Hermes (Homer 10.315-341). Where divine magic fails, Circe, like Calypso, falls back on the powers of seduction and the trappings of power, urging Odysseus to “mount my bed and mix in the magic work of love” (Homer 10.371). Another way they are alike is seduction of comfort. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach may be a cliché, but the goddesses don’t disdain to the technique in their seductions of Odysseus. Similarly, they also use baths, massages with oils, warm and comfortable bedchambers, and other comforts to aid in their seduction of the hero. Calypso sets the stage for her final effort to seduce Odysseus by serving him “every kind of food and drink that mortal men will take” (Homer 5.216-217). Later, she “bathed and decked him out in fragrant clothes (Homer 5.290). Circe also lavishes food, drink, and other comforts on not only Odysseus, but also his crew after reversing their transformation to swine (Homer 10.390-412 and 10.495-498). Calypso and Circe also use seduction of beauty. The goddesses use not only their own...