THE CAPTIVE OF
THE SEA NYMPH CALYPSO
Odysseus became the captive of the sea nymph Calypso while on his long journey back to his native land, Ithaca. Calypso means "I will conceal" and probably relates to the time when she was a major goddess. Her father was the titan Atlas. She lived on an island called Ogygia that was so beautiful the gods themselves were stunned by it. Calypso, too, was famous for her beauty and the beauty of her braided hair. Briefly, here is the story of her time with Odysseus:
Odysseus' ships were destroyed by the gods because his men had slaughtered the cattle of Helios. Since Odysseus himself had not taken part in the slaughter he was spared. He held onto the keel of his ship for nine days till he reached the island of Ogygia. There the sea nymph Calypso tended his wounds and fell and in love with him. She offered him her home, her love and ageless immortality but Odysseus declined. He wanted to return to his wife Penelope and his own kingdom as soon as possible. The Calypso would not accept his rejection and kept her with him for seven years hoping he would change his mind. During that time they had two children - Odysseus apparently deciding to make the best of things.
Athena, Odysseus' patron goddess, finally persuaded Zeus to free him. Zeus sent Hermes to tell Calypso it was time for Odysseus to leave. Calypso regretfully agreed. She gave Odysseus an ax and other tools to make a raft, and she supplied him with food, water and "a fair wind at his back" for his trip.
Soon after leaving Ogygia Odysseus' raft was sunk by Poseidon.
The author of the Odyssey is not the same person as the author of the Iliad, even though both are called Homer. For one thing, the books were written 200 years apart. Today, many people believe that the Homer of the Odyssey was a woman. The Greeks are well known for their misogyny yet there are many strong women who play important roles in the Odyssey: Athena, Calypso, Circe, Scylla, Charybdis and Penelope. In fact, the large number of powerful goddesses in Greek mythology have led to the theory that early Greek culture was female-dominated.
The sea nymph Calypso was probably also a fertility goddess. Many times in the Odyssey and other works the authors refer to Calypso's arching caverns. Homer pointedly says that this is where she and Odysseus made love.