K ing Nestor
The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

Circe, Book X

Odysseus and his men waited on the island for three days, and on the third day, Odysseus climbed a mountain crag to scout out the land.  He spied smoke fires, coming from the direction of a house.  Coming down the mountain, Odysseus spotted a stag, speared it, and dragged it back to the ship for his men to eat.  The next day, Odysseus and his men gathered to discuss a way to determine who lived in the house, and if they were friendly.  Dividing into to platoons of twenty-two men each, Odysseus commanding one and Eurylochus another, they drew lots to determine who would investigate the house. Eurylochus and his men drew the short lot, and went to scout out the house.  The men, arriving at the house were greeted by tame mountain lions and wolves, each of whom had been enchanted by the nymph Circe.  Inside the house, the nymph sang, “her spellbinding voiced as she glided back and forth/at her great immortal loom, her enchanting web/a shimmering glory only goddesses can weave” (X, 243-245).  A the reader will recall, weaving is a sign of plotting or cunning; and Circe was plotting a fate for Odysseus’ men.  She called to them, and invited them into her house; Eurylochus, sensing something not quite right, remained outside. Circe, in the meantime, offered the men Pramnian wine, “but into the brew she stirred her wicked drugs/to wipe from their memories any thought of home” (X259- 260).  After the men drained their wine, she touched each of them with her wand, turning them into swine and placing them in her pigsty.  Eurylochus made his way back to the ship and informed Odysseus about what happened to the men, and Odysseus made his way back to Circe’s house, telling Eurylochus “I must be off.  Necessity drives me on” (X, 301). As Odysseus made his way to the house, Hermes appeared to him and gave him a drug to ward off Circe’s spells.  Arriving at the house, Circe invited him in and gave him a drought of her magic potion.  Expecting Odysseus to succumb to the spell of the drug, Circe was caught off guard when he drew his sword on her, unaffected by the poison.  Who are you?  where are you from?  your city? your parents? I’m wonderstruck-you drank my drugs, you’re not bewitched! Never has any other man withstood my potion, never, once it’s past his lips and he has drunk it down. You have a mind in you no magic can enchant! You must be Odysseus, man of twists and turns- Hermes the giant-killer, god of the golden wand, he always said you’d come homeward from Troy in your swift black ship. (X, 361-369) Several important themes stand out in this address from Circe.  Once the potion did not work, she hailed Odysseus in the words used by a host to greet her guests.  Next, she guessed his identity based upon Hermes’ frequent mentions that a man named Odysseus would visit her island.  Finally, the goddess acknowledged the War and Odysseus’ exploits in it.  As the tale progresses, the reader learns that Odysseus cannot resist extolling his exploits in the War.  Shortly thereafter, Odysseus and Circe went to bed together, a task which he found enticing, given his stay of more than one year on the island.
Odysseus and Circe