In Greek Mythology, the name Calypso means “she that hides or conceals.” Calypso was a sea nymph of the island of Ogygia. She is also popularly known as the one who fell for Odysseus, who was shipwrecked off the shores of Calypso’s island.
Calypso did not let him escape her island for seven long years. Homer’s Odyssey narrates the passionate love of Calypso for Odysseus, which eventually fails even though she promises to grant complete immortality to him.
A dolphin or a crab are the symbols representing her.
Calypso is the daughter of the Titan god named Atlas, the supreme god representing the sky. Her mother is unknown. But according to Hesiod’s account, she is believed to be the child of Oceanus and Tethys. The nymph goddesses, including Calypso, were known to be amongst the prettiest of all.
Hesiod’s Theogony states that while Odysseus was trapped on the island, Calypso and Odysseus gave birth to twins Nausithous and Nausinous.
The reason why Calypso is called a minor goddess is that she was a nymph. She was powerful but not as powerful as the gods and goddesses living on Mount Olympus. The strengths of a nymph were restricted to specific elements of nature such as mountains, islands, sea, etc.
They were spirits who lived all their lives serving and protecting these landforms or water bodies. Calypso was similarly assigned to rule and protect Ogygia Island.
Calypso was recorded as one of the earliest known feminists in Greek mythology who complained about glaring inequalities among Greek gods and her. She was looked down upon for having multiple sexual partners, but she resisted this opposition by pointing out the fact up front that there was nothing wrong with it. And it would be unfair if only the Greek gods got this privilege.
Calypso accused Olympian gods of forcing and abducting goddesses to serve their own temptations. She even called out Zeus for kidnapping Ganymede. Despite holding Ganymede in captivity against her wishes, Zeus still enjoyed his right to live on Mount Olympus, gorging on ambrosia and nectar.
Although stunning and gracious, her negative trait was marked by extreme jealousy. Considering how madly she was in love with Odysseus, Calypso was massively envious of Odysseus’s wife. She resented every single mention of Penelope by Odysseus.
So, in ancient Greek mythology, since times immemorial, Calypso has always been compared with Penelope. She has both positive and negative interpretations of the pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses.
The Mythical Island of Ogygia
Ogygia was derived from a word that meant something extremely primordial and belonging to the prehistoric times primeval or from the beginning of time. There were different interpretations and theories about where exactly this island was located on the contemporary world map. According to Homer, it was situated somewhere in present-day Greece. But has never been recognized on the maps of Greece.
Some theories state that it was probably located in the Western Mediterranean region in the Ionian sea. Another legend says that the Island of Ogygia was possibly tracked down to one of the Maltese islands, while some had other vague theories that revealed that Ogygia was closer to Corfu, also known as Kérkyra, an island in the Ionian sea away from mainland Greece. It was also speculated that the island of Ogygia was discovered in Egypt.
According to the Greek philosopher, essayist, and historian Plutarch, Ogygia was located somewhere in the vast waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The beautiful island of Ogygia was known to be remote, extremely secluded, lush, and in the middle of nowhere, as gods hardly ever stopped by to visit.
So, Calypso spent all her life living in complete isolation away from the gods as well as the mortals. This indicates that despite having powers to lure both mortals and immortals with her ravishing beauty, she had a lonely existence pretty much her entire life.
Calypso and Odysseus
Calypso was not allowed to leave the island of Ogygia and was supposed to live there all her life. This was because she was cursed for helping her father in the battle of Titans versus Olympians. Odysseus, unfortunately, lost to the Italian and Sicilian armies and was returning from Troy.
It was a turn of fate that suddenly caused Odysseus to lose his ship along the way. It is believed that his ship was destroyed by Zeus to make peace with Helios.
He built a makeshift raft from the broken ship, and he sailed aimlessly for nine days like a ship without a rudder, not knowing where to go. Finally, his raft drifted and somehow reached the coast of Ogygia Island. Mesmerized to see Odysseus, Calypso rescued the fatigued hero who was almost on his last legs.
Calypso instantly falls in love with Odysseus. So, she holds him in captivity, desires to make him immortal, blesses him with eternal youth, and plans on marrying Odysseus. But to her surprise, Odysseus refuses and constantly keeps longing to go back to his wife and home in Ithaca.
The popular goddess and also a famed Greek seductress eventually become successful in making love to Odysseus. The pseudo couple shares the bed every night, and their sexual union finally leads to the birth of Calypso’s twin sons.
Legend says that Odysseus and Calypso together gave birth to many children, but the documented sources written by Hesiod only mention the twins named Nausithous and Nausinous. They are also called Latinus and Telegonus, according to some ancient Greek myths. Sons of Calypso were also popularly known as the sons of Circe.
Release of Odysseus
When Calypso refuses to leave Odysseus, the gods and goddesses participate in resolving the one-sided love affair and rescuing Odysseus.
Odysseus starts missing his wife, Penelope. He spends restless days crying on the shore, looking in the direction of his home Ithaca, and looking forward to returning. At the end of the day, he would retreat into Calypso’s cave, going about the rest of the evening behaving like her husband and duly performing his duties as a husband.
The vision of the crying Odysseus on Ogygia is captured by Proteus and sent to Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Proteus was known for his flawless prophecies, and he was the old man of the seas who lived near the Nile river. He immediately recognized the place where Odysseus was trapped.
The Spartan king relays this message to Telemachus, Odysseus’s adult son. Telemachus is known to have explored vast lands already in pursuit of his father. Upon getting the information about the hideout, he informs Athena.
Athena shielded Odysseus from all evils and ordeals. She wanted Odysseus to return to his home, but it was not easy since Odysseus was required to face Poseidon before he could make it back to Ithaca.
One day Odysseus gathers his courage, and he requests Calypso to let him go to Ithaca, his homeland. After Poseidon leaves Olympus, Odysseus’s patron goddess Athena capitalizes on this opportunity and informs Zeus about him being held in captivity by Calypso. So, he orders Calypso to release Odysseus by sending her a message through the messenger god, Hermes.
Calypso does try to prevent Odysseus from leaving her island by tricking him into granting the forever youth promise. But that is not enough to break and distract the iron-willed Odysseus. After she realizes that none of her charms seem to be working in bewitching the King of Ithaca, Calypso eventually obeys Zeus and allows Odysseus to run free to his wife and home.
Talking about Calypso’s positive qualities, when she finally agreed to release Odysseus from her shackles, she helped Odysseus reconstruct the boat and made it sturdy enough for his long journey to Ithaca. She also helped Odysseus with generous food, water, and wine supplies for him to sustain his travel.
Odysseus safely made it to his abode, thanks to good winds provided by Calypso to ensure the journey was successful.
The End of Calypso
Calypso was truly heartbroken and miserable after Odysseus left the island. Her depression and sadness overpowered her, and she committed suicide. However, Calypso was immortal for eternity, so it is not clearly known if she really killed herself after she was driven to sadness and melancholy due to Odysseus’s departure.
Some accounts or sources state that Calypso kept waiting for her unrequited love to become a reality. She stood at the shore anticipating her sweet union with Odysseus, staring into the sea in the direction of the departure of Odysseus, longing for him to come back willingly to her and become her husband for life.
Whether she must be called the primary protector of Odysseus while he was stuck on the island or she was responsible for keeping him trapped for her selfish motive is debatable and subjective.
Talking about Calypso’s representation in modern society, Percy Jackson’s books mention her occasionally. Percy Jackson is known to be a demigod, the son of the mortal Sally Jackson and the Greek god Poseidon.
Calypso and Percy shared a fair amount of mutual attraction. According to Percy, Calypso was stunningly more beautiful than Aphrodite. It is believed that Percy and Calypso spent seven blissful years together before they parted ways. She is also quite a popular character depicted in the movie named Pirates of The Caribbean. She is known to be an acquaintance of Jack Sparrow and to be in a romantic relationship with Davy Jones.