Calypso (mythology)

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Calypso receiving Telemachus and Mentor in the Grotto detail.jpg
Detail from Calypso receiving Telemachus and Mentor in the Grotto by William Hamilton
Personal information
ParentsAtlas, Pleione
ChildrenBy some accounts Latinus, by others Nausithous and Nausinous

In Greek mythology, Calypso (/kəˈlɪps/; Greek: Καλυψώ, "she who conceals")[1] was a nymph who lived on the island of Ogygia, where, according to Homer's Odyssey, she detained Odysseus for seven years.


The name "Calypso" derives from the Ancient Greek καλύπτω (kalyptō),[citation needed] meaning "to cover", "to conceal", or "to hide".[2] According to Etymologicum Magnum, her name means "concealing the knowledge" (καλύπτουσα το διανοούμενον, kalýptousa to dianooúmenon), which – combined with the Homeric epithet δολόεσσα (dolóessa, meaning "subtle" or "wily") – justifies the reclusive character of Calypso and her island.


Calypso is generally said to be the daughter of the Titan Atlas[3] and Pleione.[4] Hesiod, and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, mention either a different Calypso or possibly the same Calypso as one of the Oceanid daughters of Tethys and Oceanus.[5] Apollodorus includes the name Calypso in his list of Nereids, the daughters of Nereus and Doris.[6]


In Homer's Odyssey, Calypso attempts to keep the fabled Greek hero Odysseus on her island to make him her immortal husband. According to Homer, Calypso kept Odysseus prisoner at Ogygia for seven years.[7] Calypso enchants Odysseus with her singing as she moves to and fro, weaving on her loom with a golden shuttle.

Odysseus soon comes to wish for circumstances to change. He can no longer bear being separated from his wife, Penelope, and wants to go to Calypso to tell her. His patron goddess Athena asks Zeus to order the release of Odysseus from the island, and Zeus orders the messenger Hermes to tell Calypso to set Odysseus free, for it was not his destiny to live with her forever. She angrily comments on how the gods hate goddesses having affairs with mortals, but eventually concedes, sending Odysseus on his way after providing him with wine, bread, and the materials for a raft.

Homer does not mention any children by Calypso. By some accounts, which come after the Odyssey, Calypso bore Odysseus a son, Latinus,[8] though Circe is usually given as Latinus' mother.[9] In other accounts, Calypso bore Odysseus two children: Nausithous and Nausinous.[10] The story of Odysseus and Calypso has some close resemblances to the interactions between Gilgamesh and Siduri in the Epic of Gilgamesh in that "the lone female plies the inconsolable hero-wanderer with drink and sends him off to a place beyond the sea reserved for a special class of honoured people" and "to prepare for the voyage he has to cut down and trim timbers."[11]


Philosophers have written about the meaning of Calypso in the Ancient Greek world. Ryan Patrick Hanley commented on the interpretation of Calypso in Les Aventures de Télémaque written by Fénelon. Hanley says that the story of Calypso illustrates the link between Eros and pride.[12] Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer brought attention to the combination of power over fate and the sensibility of "bourgeois housewives" in the depiction of Calypso.[13]



  1. ^ Grimal, s.v. Calypso.
  2. ^ Entry καλύπτω at LSJ
  3. ^ Homer, Odyssey, 1.14, 1.51–54, 7.245; Apollodorus, E.7.24. She is sometimes referred to as Atlantis (Ατλαντίς),[citation needed] which means the daughter of Atlas, see the entry Ατλαντίς in Liddell & Scott, and also Hesiod, Theogony 938.
  4. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae, Preface
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 359; Homeric Hymn 2.422. According to Caldwell, p. 49 n. 359, the Hesiod Oceanid is "probably not" the same; see also West 1966, p. 267 359. καὶ ἱμερόεσσα Καλυψώ; Hard, p. 41.
  6. ^ Apollodorus, 1.2.7
  7. ^ Homer, Odyssey 7.259
  8. ^ Apollodorus, E.7.24
  9. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 1011
  10. ^ See Hesiod, Theogony 1019, Sir James George Frazer in his notes to Apollodorus, E.7.24, says that these verses "are probably not by Hesiod but have been interpolated by a later poet of the Roman era in order to provide the Latins with a distinguished Greek ancestry".
  11. ^ Dalley, S. (1989) Myths from Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press, Oxford, NY.
  12. ^ Schliesser, Eric (23 September 2016). Ten Neglected Classics of Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2017. ISBN 9780199928927 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Horkheimer, Max; Adorno, Theodore (2002). Dialectic of Enlightenment. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804736336 – via Google Books.


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