Calypso is a figure from Greek mythology that has very unclear origins. While it’s not completely clear exactly who or what she is, she is perhaps most famous for her role in Homer’s Odyssey. Her role in that tale composes one of the more important movements in the book, and is her biggest appearance in mythology.
Who is Calypso?
Calypso’s origins are very confusing in Greek mythology. According to Homer, Calypso was a nymph, a kind of minor female goddess that is deeply connected to a specific place. In his account of her past, she is the daughter of the Titan Atlas and she takes order directly from the Olympian gods.
According to Hesiod, though, Calypso is the daughter of Tethys and Oceanus. In this telling, she is one of the Oceanids, a kind of sea nymph. There is some discussion that this might be an entirely different Calypso from the one found in Homer’s tale.
Finally, Apollodorus gives her an entirely different parentage. She is the daughter of Nereus and Doris according to him, and is thus one of the Nereids. In this form, she would be more closely connected to Poseidon.
Regardless of her origin, Calypso is best remembered for her appearance in Homer’s Odyssey. In that tale, she lived on the island of Ogygia. When Odysseus’ journey took him there, she kept him prisoner. As with most things that concern Calypso, there’s some disagreement as to how long Odysseus was there. What is known, though, is that Calypso wanted to keep him for her husband.
Calypso fell in love with Odysseus, much as Greek gods tended to do with Greek women. She used her powers to enchant him as she wove, keeping under her spell for most of the time he was on the island. While Odysseus may have wanted to go home, he certainly didn’t make much of an effort to leave on his own.
Eventually, Odysseus would get Athena to intervene on his behalf. She was ordered to let Odysseus go by the Olympians, though she wasn’t particularly happy about that fact. Fortunately for Odysseus, she was relatively kind to him – not only did she let him go, but she also gave him supplies so he could complete his journey home. Not only was Calypso expected to act differently than the male Greek gods, but she also went out of her way to be kind when she was forced to let her prisoner go.
There’s some disagreement as to whether Calypso and Odysseus had children while he was on the island. In some tales, Calypso is the mother of the Etruscan ruler Latinus. In other stories, Odysseus and Calypso have two sons named either Nausithous and Nausinous or Nausithous and Hyginus.
There is are also a few classical sources that say that Calypso and Odysseus had an unnamed daughter. This girl would go on to marry her half-brother Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope. While this is not found in the Odyssey, it is a fairly common note in folk mythology
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