The Nymph Calypso and Her Stone

The back of Odysseus as he turned from Calypso.

The back of Odysseus as he turned from Calypso.

An epic poem by Homer made a mythical woman named Calypso infamous. Scholars have concluded that Homer’s poem The Odyssey (free e-book link below) was written off the Greek coast of Ionia during the latter part of the 8th century (BC). In the poem, Calypso was tragically intrigued by her legendary stone named Odysseus who washed ashore from the Ionian Sea. This poem was laced with temptation, seduction, and diversion. This makes it a classic literary piece, and so begins the Greek myth of Calypso and Odysseus.

Calypso was born to the Greek Titan named Atlas. The mythical Oceanides sea nymph lived on the island of Ogygia. Calypso is said to have had an enchanting voice. She lived in a beautiful cave near the sea. Some scholars and historians believe that the island of Ogygia was a myth, while others think it was actually located in the western Mediterranean Sea. Calypso has been seen as a negative symbol. She has been seen as a symbol of that which diverts men from their goals.

Odysseus was a legendary Greek man who was King of Ithaca. He was a hero in The Odyssey. Odysseus drifted for over a week in the sea before being rescued by Calypso. The king had lost his army and his ship after a battle with “monsters” from Italy and Sicily while returning home from Troy. After floating in the sea for 9 days, Calypso pulled him to shore and decided to keep him because she “became enamored.”

For between 5 and 7 years, Calypso refused to let Odysseus leave her island. Many scholars doubt that she actually forced him to stay and that she probably enchanted him with song. Others think that Calypso held him prisoner or hostage on her island. She offered Odysseus immortality and eternal youth in exchange for his everlasting love. The hero refused, though eventually the two made love apparently against his will.

“Promise” featuring
Calypso and Odysseus
by Jan Styka

It is natural for me to want to look at the woman and man in this Greek myth symbolically. Homer must have realized the symbolic power of these individuals. Odysseus is the stone. He is the hard, positive symbol of this myth while Calypso is the soft, negative symbol. The nymph is but a mere diversion in a mission for the greater good. In essence, this myth captures Odysseus as a classic hero with a noble cause, while Calypso is simply an unwanted muse who spurs distraction.

The golden kiss and enchanting voice of Calypso.

The golden kiss and enchanting voice of Calypso.

It is also interesting to see how scholars have studied the etymology of both names. The origin of the name Odysseus has been connected to two phrases amongst others. Odysseus means “he who causes pain” or “the one who is wrathful.” The name Calypso means “to cover, to conceal, to hide.” Etymologicum Magnum says that the name Calypso means “concealing the knowledge.”

In the end of this myth Calypso releases Odysseus on the sea. She does so against her will so that he can return to his wife Penelope in Ithaca. She had no choice but to do so even though she herself had become enchanted.

**Free E-book** The Odyssey by Homer courtesy of Project Gutenberg

Explore posts in the same categories: Allegory, Allusion, Art, Artists, Authors, Greek Mythology, Illusions, Immortality, Legends, Men, Metaphors, Mythology, Pleasure and Pain, Poetry, Poets, Symbols and Imagery, Women, Worthy Reads, Writers, Writing

5 Comments on “The Nymph Calypso and Her Stone”

  1. ophelia Says:

    Poor Odysseus!

  2. One of my favorite stories. Unfortunately, because it doesn’t end well ๐Ÿ˜‰

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