Greek Mythology >> Nymphs >> Calypso (Kalypso)


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Hidden, Veiled (kalyptô)

KALYPSO (Calypso) was the goddess-nymph of the mythical island of Ogygia and a daughter of the Titan Atlas. She detained the hero Odysseus for many years in the course of his wanderings after the fall of Troy but was eventually commanded by Zeus to release him.



[1.1] ATLAS (Homer Odyssey 1.14, Apollodorus E7.23-24, Apollonius Rhodius Argonautica 4.573, Lycophron Alexandra 743, Hyginus Fabulae 125)


[1.1] NAUSITHOOS, NAUSINOOS (by Odysseus) (Hesiod Theogony 1017)
[1.2] TELEGONOS TELEDAMOS (by Odysseus) (Homerica Telegony Frag 2)
[1.3] LATINOS (by Odysseus) (Apollodorus E7.23)


CALYPSO (Kalupsô). Under this name we find in Hesiod (Theog. 359) a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, and in Apollodorus (i. 2. § 7) a daughter of Nereus, while the Homeric Calypso is described as a daughter of Atlas. (Od. i. 50.) This last Calypso was a nymph inhabiting the island of Ogygia, on the coast of which Odysseus was thrown when he was shipwrecked. Calypso loved the unfortunate hero, and promised him eternal youth and immortality if he would remain with her. She detained him in her island for seven years, until at length she was obliged by the gods to allow him to continue his journey homewards. (Od. v. 28, &c., vii. 254, &c.)

AEAEA (Aiaia). A surname of Calypso, who was believed to have inhabited a small island of the name of Aeaea in the straits between Italy and Sicily. (Pomp. Mela, ii. 7; Propert. iii. 10. 31.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Homer, Odyssey 1. 14 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The tale begins when all those who had escaped the pit of destruction [the war at Troy] were safe in their own lands, spared by the wars and seas. Only Odysseus was held elsewhere, pining for home and wife; the Nymphe Kalypso (Calypso), a goddess of strange power and beauty, had kept him captive within her arching caverns, yearning for him to be her husband. And when there came with revolving seasons the year that the gods had set for his journey home to Ithaka, not even then was he past his troubles, not even then was he with his own people. For though all the gods beside had compassion on him, Poseidon's anger was unabated against the hero until he returned to his own land . . .
The other gods were gathered together [in council] in the palace of Olympian Zeus . . . Athene, goddess of gleaming eyes made answer : ‘. . . It is for Odysseus my heart is wrung--so subtle a man and so ill-starred; he has long been far from everything that he loves, desolate in a wave-washed island, a wooded island, the navel of all the seas. A goddess has made her dwelling there whose father is Atlas the magician; he knows the depths of all the seas, and he, no other, guards the tall pillars that keep the sky and the earth apart. His daughter it is who keeps poor Odysseus pining there, and who seeks continually with her soft and coaxing words to beguile him into forgetting Ithaka; but he--he would be well content to see even the smoke rising up from his own land, and he longs to die . . . O son of Kronos (Cronus), father of us and sovereign ruler, if indeed the blessed gods now wish that shrewd Odysseus should come to his own land again, then let us instruct the radiant Hermes, the Messenger, to go to the island of Ogygia and without delay to tell the Nymphe of the braided tresses our firm decree that staunch Odysseus is to depart and journey home.’"

Homer, Odyssey 4. 553 ff :
"[Menelaus captures the prophetic sea-god Proteus who reveals the location of Odysseus :] I [Menelaus] spoke and at once he [Proteus] answered : ‘It is Laertes' son, whose home is in Ithaka (Ithaca). I have seen him on a certain island, weeping most bitterly : this was in the domains of the Nymphe Kalypso (Calypso), who is keeping him with her there perforce and thwarting return to his own country. He has no ships and oars and crew to take him over the wide expanse of ocean.’"

Homer, Odyssey 5. 4 ff :
"The gods were assembling to sit in council, and in their midst was Zeus the Thunderer, sovereign above them all. Athene began to recount to them the many distresses of Odysseus that again had come before her mind, for it irked her that he should still be there in the dwelling of Kalypso (Calypso) : ‘Father Zeus, and you other blessed immortal gods : I could wish that henceforth no sceptred king should set himself to be kind and gentle and equitable; I would have every king a tyrant and evildoer, since King Odysseus goes utterly unremembered among the people that once he ruled with the gentleness of a father. He is pent up in an island now, overwhelmed with misery; he is in the domains of the Nymphe Kalypso, who is keeping him with her there perforce and thwarting return to his own country. He has no ships and oars and crew to take him over the wide expanse of ocean. And now men are plotting to kill his only son as he returns home . . .’
Zeus who masses the clouds made answer : ‘My child, what a word is this that has passed your lips! Was it not you who framed this plan, so that Odysseus on his return might take vengeance upon these men? . . .’
And with this he turned to his dear son Hermes : ‘Hermes, you are always our messenger; go then to the Nymphe of braided tresses and tell her my firm decree for the homecoming of staunch Odysseus, and how he is to begin his journey back, unescorted by gods and men. It will be on a raft firmly put together; on this, in spite of many troubles, he may come in twenty days' time to fertile Skheria; that is the land of the Phaiakians (Phaeacians), a people whose lineage is divine . . .’
So he spoke; and the Keen Watcher, the Radiant One, did not disobey. At once he fastened under his feet the immortal sandals of lovely gold that carried him, swift as airy breezes, over ocean and over boundless earth. And he took the rod that lulls men's eyes for him, at his pleasure, or awakens others when they slumber. With this in hand the strong Radiant One began his flight; over Pieria he passed, then form the upper air dipped down to the sea and sped on over the waves like the seagull . . . But when he had reached that far-off island he left the violet ocean and took to the land until he came to a great cavern; in this the Nymphe of the braided tresses had made her home, and inside this he found her now. On the hearth a great fire was burning, and far and wide over the island was wafted the smell of burning wood, cloven cedar and juniper.
In the space within was the goddess herself, singing with a lovely voice, moving to and fro at her loom and weaving with a shuttle of gold. Around the entrance a wood rose up in abundant growth--alder and aspen and fragrant cypress. Birds with long wings roosted there, owls and falcons and long-tongued sea-crows that have their business upon the waters. Trailing over the cavern's arch was a garden vine that throve and clustered; and here four springs began near each other, then in due order ran four ways with their crystal waters. Grassy meadows on either side stood thick with violet and wild parsley. Even a Deathless One, if he came there, might gaze in wonder at the sight and might be the happier in heart. So the Keen Watcher, the Radiant One, stood there and gazed there too; and having gazed to his heart's content, he passed quickly into the ample cavern. When queenly Kalypso saw him face to face, she as sure at once who he was, for the deathless gods are no strangers to one another, though one may live far apart from the rest. But bold Odysseus was not to be found within; as his custom was, he was sitting on the shore and weeping, breaking his heart with tears and sighs and sorrows.
Queenly Kalypso seated Hermes in a gleaming burnished chair. Then she began to question him : ‘What is your errand here, I wonder, Hermes, god of the golden wand? You are an honoured and welcome guest, although not a frequent one hitherto. Tell me the thing that is in your mind; my heart consents to it already if it si something I can do and something that has been done before.’
And with these words the goddess drew up a table by him, heaping it with ambrosia and mixing the rosy nectar. So Hermes began to eat and drink; when the meal was over and his spirit refreshed with food, he answered Kalypso thus : ‘At my entrance you put a question to me, goddess to god; I will tell you the whole matter frankly, as indeed you wish me to. This visit was not of my own choosing; it was Zeus who commanded me to come. Who of his own free will would traverse those endless briny waters, with not one town to be seen where human beings make sacrifice to the gods and offer choice hecatombs? But when once the master of the aegis has fixed his own purpose, no other god can cross or thwart it. He says that you have with you here a man more luckless than all those others who fought around the great town of Priamos (Priam). This man he bade you let go forthwith, because it is not appointed for him to find his end here, far away from his own people; he is destined to see his own kith and kin again and return to his high-roofed house and his own country.’
So he spoke. The queenly goddess Kalypso shuddered, and her words came forth in rapid flight : ‘You are merciless, you gods, resentful beyond all other beings; you are jealous if without disguise a goddess makes a man her bedfellow, her beloved husband. So it was when Eos of the rosy fingers chose out Orion; you gods who live in such ease yourselves were jealous of her until chaste Artemis in her cloth-of-gold visited him with her gentle shafts and slew him in Ortygia. So it was when Demeter of the braided tresses followed her heart and lay in love with Iasion in the triple-furrowed field; Zeus was aware of it soon enough and hurled the bright thunderbolt that killed him. And no so it is with me; you resent this mortal man beside me. I saved him when he was all alone and astride his keel, when Zeus with his flashing thunderbolt had shattered and shivered his rapid vessel in the midst of wine-dark ocean. All his brave comrades perished then; he alone was borne on to this place by wind and wave. I welcomed him and tended him; I offered him immortality and eternal youth. But, as you say, when once the master of the aigis has fixed his own purpose, no other god can cross or thwart it; so let the man go--if such is the word and behest of Zeus--go where he will over the barren sea. I cannot help him to depart; I have no ships or oars or crew to speed him over the sea's expanse; but gladly enough, without concealment, I will counsel him how best to reach his own land unscathed.’
And the Radiant One answered her : ‘In that way, then, allow him to go, and have regard to the anger of Zeus; if not, you may feel his displeasure afterwards.’
With these words the strong Radiant One departed. The queenly Nymphe, with the message of Zeus still in her ears, went off in quest of bold Odysseus, and found him sitting upon the shore. His eyes were never dry of tears while the sweetness of life ebbed away from him in his comfortless longings for return, since the Nymphe was dear to him no longer. At night-time, true, he slept with her even now in the arching caverns, but this was against his will; she was loving and he unloving. He passed the daytime seated upon the rocky shore, shedding tears and gazing outwards over the barren sea.
Coming up to him, the queenly goddess began to speak : ‘Listen unhappy man; no need to stay here lamenting longer, no need to let your life be wasted; I am willing now, quite willing, to let you go. Come then; take tools of bronze, cut long beams and fashion them into a wide raft; then build half-decks on it, well above, so that the craft may carry you over the misty ocean. I myself will put food in it, with water and with red wine as well, things that will stave off hunger and please the taste. I will give you clothes to wear and will send a fair wind behind you to let you reach your own land unharmed--all this if it please the gods whose home is wide heaven itself, because they are better able than I both to plan and to achieve.’
So she spoke, but he much-tried hero shuddered. His words came forth in rapid flight : ‘Goddess, your purpose cannot be as you say; you cannot intend to speed me home. You tell me to make myself a raft to cross the great gulf of ocean--a gulf so baffling and so perilous that not even rapid ships will traverse it, steady though they may be and favoured by a fair wind from Zeus. I will not set foot on such a raft unless I am sure of your good will--unless, goddess, you take on yourself to swear a solemn oath not to plot against me any new mischief to my ruin.’
These were his words. Queenly Kalypso smiled; and caressing him with her hand she answered : ‘You are all too cunning. No innocent could have mustered such words as those. So be it then--let Earth be witness to me in this, and the arching Heaven above, and the downward water of the Styx--most solemn and most fearsome of oaths with the blessed gods--that I will plot against you no new mischief to your ruin. No; I have in mind--I will ponder now--the very plans I would shape for myself if ever need pressed as hard on me. My whole bent is to honest dealing; in this breast of mine there is no heart of iron; I have compassion.’
So she spoke, this lovely divinity, and led the way forthwith; Odysseus followed in her footsteps. Goddess and man reached the arching cavern; Odysseus sat down in the chair that Hermes had risen from, and Kalypso put in front of him all manner of things such as mortal men eat and drink, then sat down herself facing the king while her handmaids served her with nectar and ambrosia. He and she stretched out their hands to the dishes there; but when they had eaten and drunk their fill, Kalypso the goddess thus began : ‘Son of Laertes, subtle Odysseus--so then, your mind is firmly set on returning now without delay to your home and country? Go then, and joy go with you, in spite of all. Yet if you knew--if you fully knew--what miseries are fated to fill your cup before you attain your own land, you would choose to stay here, to join with me in calm possession of this domain, to be beyond reach of death--this despite all your zeal to see once more the wife that you yearn for, day by day. And yet I doubt if I fall behind her in form and feature--for indeed it would be unbecoming that mortal women should vie in form an face with immortal goddesses.’
Subtle Odysseus answered her : ‘Goddess and queen, do not make this a cause of anger with me. I know the truth of everything you say; I know that my wise Penelope, when a man looks at her, is far beneath you in form and stature; she is a mortal, you are immortal and unageing. Yet, not withstanding, my desire and longing day by day is still to reach my own home and see the day of my return. And if this or that divinity should shatter my craft on the wine-dark ocean, I will bear it and keep a bold heart within me. Often enough before this time have war and wave oppressed and plagued me; let new tribulations join the old.’
So he spoke; and the sun sank and darkness came; then the pair withdrew, and in a recess of the arching cavern they took their pleasure in love, and did not leave one another's side.
Eos (Dawn) comes early with rosy fingers. When she appeared, Odysseus put on his cloak and tunic; the Nymphe put on a long silvery mantle, graceful and delicate; she fastened a lovely gold girdle round her waist and slipped a scarf over her head. Then she turned her mind to helping his departure. She gave him a great axe of bronze, easy to wield, with keen double blade; its haft was of olive, handsome and fitting close; she gave him a polished adze as well. Then she led the way to the far side of the island; tall trees were standing there, alder and aspen and towering silver fir; for some time past, these had been dry and sapless, ready to float easily. When Kalypso had shown him where they stood, she returned homeward while he began to cut down trees; and the work went briskly. He felled twenty trees, all told, and trimmed them with the ace, smoothed them deftly and trued them to the line. Then the goddess brought him augers ,and he bored all his pieces through and made them meet exactly, then pinned the craft together with pegs and joints . . . Meanwhile the goddess brought him pieces of cloth to make a sail of, and he made that too in proper fashion . . .
By the fourth day all his work was done. On the fifth day, Lady Kalypso made ready to let him leave her island; she had bathed him first and clothed him in sweet-smelling garments. Moreover, the goddess had put aboard one skin of dark wine, and another, a larger one, of water, with provisions in a sack and many dainties to please the taste; last, she had summoned up for him a fair wind that was warm and kindly."

Homer, Odyssey 5. 296 ff :
"[As Odysseus departs from the island of Kalypso (Calypso) Poseidon sends a storm to sink his raft :] Then Odysseus felt his knees and his spirit quail; in desperation he spoke to his own heroic heart : ‘Alas for me! What will become of me in the end? I fear the goddess [Kalypos] spoke all too truly when she prophesied of trouble on trouble to bear at sea before I reached my own land. All this is now being brought to pass.’"

Homer, Odyssey 7. 243 ff :
"[Odysseus tells King Alkinous (Alcinous) of his travels :] Far from here there lies an island called Ogygia. The daughter of atlas has her home there, Kalypso (Calypso), a goddess of awesome power and many wiles. She is seldom visited, whether by mortals or by immortals; but I, alas, was brought by ill fortune to her hearth, a sole survivor when Zeus with his flashing thunderbolt shattered and shivered my rapid ship in the midst of the wine-dark ocean. There and then my good comreades perished; for myself, I threw my arms round the vessel's keel and was carried on for nine whole days; in the murkiness of the tenth night the gods brought me to Ogygia. The goddess welcomed me lovingly, tended me, offered me immortality and eternal youth; yet she never won the heart within me. I remained with her for seven full years, and watered with continual weeping the celestial garments that she gave me. But when the eighth year came circling round, she told me and urged me to return, perhaps because Zeus had sent her warning, perhaps because her own mind had changed. So she sent me away on a firm raft, giving me many gifts, food and sweet wine, and clothing me in celestial garments; moreover she sent a fair wind for me, warm and kindly. For seventeen days I sailed on across the ocean, and on the eighteenth their loomed before me the shadowy hills of this land of yours . . . [and his raft destroyed in a storm]."

Homer, Odyssey 8. 452 ff :
"The palace of lovely-haired Kalypso (Calypso), though all the time that he [Odysseus] was with her he had had the comforts a god might have."

Homer, Odyssey 9. 29 ff :
"[Odysseus addresses King Alkinous (Alcinous) :] ‘There was a time when divine Kalypso (Calypso) kept me within her arching caverns and would have had me to be her husband, and another time subtle Aiaian Kirke (Aeaean Circe) confined me in her palace and would have had me for husband also. Yet neither of them could win the heart within me.’"

Homer, Odyssey 12. 388 ff :
"[Odysseus tells King Alkinous that the Sun-God complained to Zeus about the slaughter of his holy cattle by Odysseus' men :] ‘All this I heard from Kalypso (Calypso) of the lovely hair, who herself had heard it, so she told me, from Hermes, messenger o the gods.’"

Homer, Odyssey 12. 448 ff :
"[Odysseus' ship was destroyed by the whirlpool of Kharybdis (Charybdis) and he escaped on floating wreckage :] For nine days I [Odysseus] drifted; on the tenth night the gods let me reach the island of Ogygia; there dwells Kalypso (Calypso), the goddess of braided hair and of strange powers and of human speech; she welcomed me and tended me."

Homer, Odyssey 17. 124 ff :
"[Telemakhos (Telemachus) tells Penelope of his conversation with Menelaus :] ‘The old god [Proteus] said he had seen Odysseus in much distress. This was upon a certain island and in the house of the Nymphe Kalypso (Calypso); she is keeping him with her there perforce and thwarting return to his own country. He has no ships and oars and crew to take him over the wide expanse of ocean. Such were the words of Menelaus.’"

Homer, Odyssey 23. 236 ff :
"[Odysseus tells Penelope of his travels :] ‘How he came to the island of Ogygia and to the Nymphe Kalypso (Calypso), who kept him there in her arching caves, desiring him to be her husband, lavishing every care upon him and offering him deathlessness and agelessness--yet all this without winning his heart to it.’"

Hesiod, Theogony 1017 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Kalypso (Calypso), shining among goddesses, joining in love's delight with Odysseus, bore him Nausithoos (Nausithous) and Nausinoos (Nausinous). These [goddesses] went to bed with mortal men and, themselves immortal, bore to them children in the likeness of immortals."

Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 40A :
"Patient-souled Odysseus whom in aftertime Kalypso (Calypso) the queenly Nymphe detained for Poseidon."

Cinaethon of Sparta or Eugammon of Cyrene, Telegony Fragment 2 (from Eustathius 1796. 35) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 6th B.C.) :
"The author of the Telegony, a Kyrenaian, relates that Odysseus had by Kalypso (Calypso) a son Telegonos (Telegonus) or Teledamos (Teledamus)."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E7. 23 - 24 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Odysseus] borne through the sea to the island of Ogygia. There Kalypso (Calypso), the daughter of Atlas, welcomed him, and after sleeping with him bore him a son Latinos (Latinus). He lingered with her for five years, after which he made a raft and sailed away." [N.B. Latinos was the eponym of Latium, the ancient kingdom that became Rome.]

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 573 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Nymphaia (Nymphaea) [an island near Sicily], the home of the powerful Kalypso (Calypso) daughter of Atlas."

Callimachus, Fragment 524 (from Ammon. De different 103) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Gaudos, Kalypso's (Calypso's) little isle."

Lycophron, Alexandra 743 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"After brief pleasure in wedlock with Atlantis (Daughter of Atlas) [i.e. Kalypso], he [Odysseus] dares set foot in his offhand vessel."

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 16d (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"In describing Kalypso's (Calypso's) house, Homer causes Hermes to stand in wonder at it."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 125 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Wandering from this place [the island of the sacred cattle of Helios the Sun], his [Odysseus'] comrades lost in the shipwreck, he swam to the island of Aeaea, where the nympha Calypso, daughter of Atlas, lived. She enamoured of the handsome form of Ulysses, kept him a whole year, and was unwilling to release him until Mercury [Hermes], by Jove's [Zeus'] command, bade her release him. When a raft had been made there, Calypso sent him off with an abundance of provisions, but Neptunus shattered the raft with his waves because he had blinded his son, the Cyclops."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 243 :
"Calypso, daughter of Atlas, out of love for Ulysses [Odysseus] killed herself."

Propertius, Elegies 1. 15 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"Thus was Calypso affected by the Ithacan's [Odysseus's] departure, when in ages past she wept to the lonely waves: for many days she sat disconsolately with unkempt tresses uttering many a complaint to the unjust sea, and although she was never to see him again, yet she still felt pain when she recalled their long happiness together."

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 3. 97 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"[In the Adriatic Sea] ten miles out [from the promontory of Lacinium in southern Italy] lies the Island of the Dioscuri and another called Calypso's Island, which is thought to be Homer's island of Ogygia."





Other references not currently quoted here: Eustathius on Homer's Odyssey 1796, Pomponius Mela 2.7, Tzetzes on Lycophron 44 & 696.


A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.