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1-08-2015, 16:46

The arrival of Odysseus

Odysseus arrived at this island paradise as a solitary castaway, bereft of everything after several years of travel and arduous adventures. The one remaining ship of his fleet had been destroyed by a storm sent by the gods and all his men had been killed. For Odysseus, Calypso was a savior, like several other women encountered by him during his travels.

At first, Odysseus was very happy to be with Calypso, but gradually he spent more and more time sitting on the rocks by the seashore, looking out to sea and yearning for his homeland of Ithaca and his wife, Penelope. When Zeus finally sent Hermes, the messenger of the gods, with instructions for Calypso to release Odysseus, she did so, helping him build a raft to continue his journey. First, though, she tried to persuade him to stay, offering him immortality and the opportunity to spend the rest of time with her on Ogygia. Odysseus’s refusal, and his insistence

Above: Ulysses and Calypso by Italian painter Luca Giordano (1641—1711).The painting shows Calypso pouringfrom a pitcher and attended by handmaidens, although in Homer’s Odyssey she lived alone.

On remaining mortal and returning to Ithaca, is a significant symbolic moment in the sequence of tests and challenges that he faces on his long journey home.

Some scholars have proposed that Calypso symbolizes one of several variant forms of marriage offered to Odysseus as alternatives to his ideal of life with Penelope on Ithaca. Calypso represents a form of utopian isolation. Other women encountered by the hero on his travels offer different forms of romantic bliss. For example, the princess Nausicaa, whom Odysseus encountered when he was shipwrecked on the island of Scheria, represented the pleasures of family life.

Mother of Telegonus, although others say his mother was the enchantress Circe. Telegonus later came to Ithaca and accidentally killed his father Odysseus.

Calypso rarely featured in ancient Greek art. However, from around 1600 CE the story of Odysseus and Calypso became popular with European painters. It was around this time that Flemish artist Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568—1625) painted Fantastic Cave Landscape with Odysseus and Calypso, which depicted Odysseus and Calypso sitting in a romantic embrace against a lush backdrop. Around 70 years later, Dutch artist Gerard de Lairesse painted the more dramatic Hermes Ordering Calypso to Release Odysseus. Another 17th-century artist, the Italian Luca Giordano, also depicted the pair. His Ulysses and Calypso (Ulysses was the Roman name for Odysseus) shows Calypso pouring a drink for her guest.

Anthony Bulloch