Calypso (mythology)

Calypso (Kalypso)

Detail from Calypso receiving Telemachus and Mentor in the Grotto by William Hamilton
Abode Ogygia
Symbol Dolphin
Parents Atlas
Children By some accounts Latinus, by others Nausithous and Nausinous

Calypso (/kəˈlɪps/; Greek: Καλυψώ, Kalypsō) was a nymph in Greek mythology, who lived on the island of Ogygia, where she detained Odysseus for several years. She is generally said to be the daughter of the Titan Atlas.[1]

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.[2] Apollodorus includes the name Calypso in his list of Nereids, the daughters of Nereus and Doris.[3]

The Odyssey

The Kalypso Grotto in Gozo

Calypso is remembered most for her role in Homer's Odyssey, in which she keeps 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,[4] while Apollodorus says five years[5] and Hyginus says one.[6] Calypso enchants Odysseus with her singing as she moves to and fro, weaving on her loom with a golden shuttle. During this time they sleep together, although Odysseus soon comes to wish for circumstances to change.

Odysseus 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,[7] though Circe is usually given as Latinus' mother.[8] In other accounts Calypso bore Odysseus two children, Nausithous and Nausinous.[9] 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."[10]


The etymology of Calypso's name is from καλύπτω (kalyptō), meaning "to cover", "to conceal", "to hide", or "to deceive".[11] According to Etymologicum Magnum her name means καλύπτουσα το διανοούμενον (kalýptousa to dianooúmenon), i.e. "concealing the knowledge", which combined with the Homeric epithet δολόεσσα (dolóessa), meaning subtle or wily, justifies the hermetic character of Calypso and her island. καλύπτω is derived from Proto-Indo-European *ḱel-, making it cognate with the English word Hell.


  1. Homer, Odyssey, 1.14, 1.5154, 7.245; Apollodorus, E.7.24. She is sometimes referred to as Atlantis (Ατλαντίς), which means the daughter of Atlas, see the entry Ατλαντίς in Liddell & Scott, and also Hesiod, Theogony 938.
  2. 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.
  3. Apollodorus, 1.2.7
  4. Homer, Odyssey 7.259
  5. Apollodorus, E.7.24
  6. Hyginus, Fabulae 125.16
  7. Apollodorus, E.7.24
  8. Hesiod, Theogony 1011
  9. 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".
  10. Dalley, S. (1989) "Myths from Mesopotamia" Oxford University Press, Oxford, NY.
  11. Entry καλύπτω at LSJ
Calypso mourning the loss of Odysseus as he has sailed off from her island. This event occurs early in the Odyssey as he is allowed to leave her and sets out on his journey back to Ithaca.


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