Calypso (mythology)


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 or
Oceanus and Tethys
SiblingsPleiades, Hyades, Hyas or the Oceanids and the Potamoi
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. She promised Odysseus immortality if he would stay with her, but Odysseus preferred to return home.


The name "Calypso" may derive from the Ancient Greek καλύπτω (kalyptō),[2] meaning "to cover", "to conceal", or "to hide".[3] 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[4] and Pleione.[5] 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.[6] Apollodorus includes the name Calypso in his list of Nereids, the daughters of Nereus and Doris.[7]


In Homer's Odyssey, Calypso attempts to keep the fabled Greek hero Odysseus on her island to make him her immortal husband, while he also gets to enjoy her sensual pleasures forever. According to Homer, Calypso kept Odysseus prisoner by force at Ogygia for seven years.[8] Calypso enchants Odysseus with her singing as she moves to and fro, weaving on her loom with a golden shuttle.

Odysseus comes to wish for circumstances to change. He can no longer bear being separated from his wife, Penelope, and wants to tell Calypso. He is seen sitting on a headland crying, and at night he is forced to sleep with her against his will.[9] His patron goddess Athena asks Zeus to order the release of Odysseus from the island; Zeus orders the messenger Hermes to tell Calypso to set Odysseus free, for it was not Odysseus's destiny to live with her forever. She angrily comments on how the gods hate goddesses having affairs with mortals.

Calypso provides Odysseus with an axe, drill, and adze to build a boat. Calypso leads Odysseus to an island where he can chop down trees and make planks for his boat. Calypso also provides him with wine, bread, clothing, and more materials for his boat. The goddess then sets wind at his back when he sets sail. After seven years Odysseus has built his boat and leaves Calypso.

Homer does not mention any children by Calypso. By some accounts that came after the Odyssey, Calypso bore Odysseus a son, Latinus,[10] though Circe is usually given as Latinus' mother.[11] In other accounts, Calypso bore Odysseus two children, Nausithous and Nausinous.[12]

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."[13]

According to Hyginus, Calypso killed herself because of her love for Odysseus.[14]


Philosophers have written about the meaning of Calypso in the world of ancient Greece. 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.[15] 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.[16]



  1. ^ Grimal, s.v. Calypso.
  2. ^ Pontani, Filippomaria (2013). "Speaking and concealing – Calypso in the eyes of some (ancient) interpreters". Symbolae Osloenses. 87 (1): 45. doi:10.1080/00397679.2013.822722. ISSN 0039-7679.
  3. ^ Entry καλύπτω at LSJ
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae Theogony 16.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Apollodorus, 1.2.7
  8. ^ Homer, Odyssey 7.259
  9. ^ Homer, Odyssey 5.151-155
  10. ^ Apollodorus, E.7.24
  11. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 1011
  12. ^ 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".
  13. ^ Dalley, S. (1989) Myths from Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press, Oxford, NY.
  14. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 243.7.
  15. ^ Schliesser, Eric (23 September 2016). Ten Neglected Classics of Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2017. ISBN 9780199928927 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Horkheimer, Max; Adorno, Theodore (2002). Dialectic of Enlightenment. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804736336 – via Google Books.


  • Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Bulfinch, Thomas (2018-06-21). The Age of Fable: Stories of Gods and Heroes. Floating Press, The. ISBN 9781776524419.
  • Caldwell, Richard, Hesiod's Theogony, Focus Publishing/R. Pullins Company (June 1, 1987). ISBN 978-0-941051-00-2.
  • Candau, Brittany, Castro, Nachie (2013-15-10). Disney Infinity: Infinite Possibilities. Disney Book Group. ISBN 9781423197744, 1423197747.
  • Grimal, Pierre, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Wiley-Blackwell, 1996, ISBN 978-0-631-20102-1. "Calypso" p. 86
  • Dougherty, Carol (2001-04-05). The raft of Odysseus: the ethnographic imagination of Homer’s Odyssey. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press, Incorporated. ISBN 9780195351453.
  • Hall, Edith (2008). The return of Ulysses: a cultural history of Homer’s Odyssey. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-4416-8132-4. OCLC 693781068.
  • Hard, Robin, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology: Based on H.J. Rose's "Handbook of Greek Mythology", Psychology Press, 2004, ISBN 9780415186360.
  • Hesiod, Theogony, in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, Massachusetts., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Homer, The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Homeric Hymn to Demeter (2), in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, Massachusetts., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Hyginus, Gaius Julius, Fabulae in Apollodorus' Library and Hyginus' Fabulae: Two Handbooks of Greek Mythology, Translated, with Introductions by R. Scott Smith and Stephen M. Trzaskoma, Hackett Publishing Company, 2007. ISBN 978-0-87220-821-6.
  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Calypso"
  • Van Nortwick, Thomas (2009). The unknown Odysseus: alternate worlds in Homers Odyssey. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 9780472025213.
  • West, M. L. (1966), Hesiod: Theogony, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-814169-6.

External links

  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Calypso" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  • CALYPSO from The Theoi Project
  • CALYPSO from Greek Mythology Link