In book 1 of The Odyssey, Athena says to Zeus (in Robert Fagles' translation):

"Atlas’ daughter it is who holds Odysseus captive,
luckless man—despite his tears, forever trying
to spellbind his heart with suave, seductive words
and wipe all thought of Ithaca from his mind.

But he, straining for no more than a glimpse
of hearth-smoke drifting up from his own land,
Odysseus longs to die …"

Are the 'suave, seductive words' an attempt to forget Ithaca, or trying to find beauty in his imprisonment, or some other thing?

1 Answer 1


Earlier in book 1 it was explained that Odysseus wanted to return home to his wife Penelope and his kingdom of Ithaca, but Calypso kept him imprisoned because she wanted to marry him:

But one man alone…
his heart set on his wife and his return—Calypso,
the bewitching nymph, the lustrous goddess, held him back,
deep in her arching caverns, craving him for a husband.

Homer. Odyssey, 1.13–15. Translated by Robert Fagles (1996). Penguin.

So the “suave, seductive words” are Calypso’s attempts to persuade Odysseus to forget his wife and his kingdom and stay with her forever. Later, in book 5, Calypso complains to Hermes thus:

So now at last, you gods, you train your spite on me
for keeping a mortal man beside me. The man I saved,
riding astride his keel-board, all alone, when Zeus
with one hurl of a white-hot bolt had crushed
his racing warship down the wine-dark sea.
There all the rest of his loyal shipmates died
but the wind drove him on, the current bore him here.
And I welcomed him warmly, cherished him, even vowed
to make the man immortal
, ageless, all his days…

Odyssey, 5.129–136.

  • Thank you, I completely missed that! Commented Jun 28 at 6:01

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