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

Circe, Book X

After leaving the island of the Cyclops, Odysseus and his men made landfall on the island of Aeolus, keeper of the winds.  Aeolus was accompanied by his wife, and six sons and daughters who were married to one another.  Odysseus and his men were greeted by the king, and treated as guests.  When the feasting was over, Odysseus told his story, and asked Aeolus for help.  Aeolus assisted the men as they prepared to leave, and made Odysseus a gift of a sack of the winds to use as a guide to their port. Odysseus and his men sailed for nine days and nine nights, without stopping.  On the tenth day, they neared Ithaca and Odysseus, who had not slept the entire time, felt sleep come over him: But now, an enticing sleep came on me, bone-weary from working the vessel’s sheet myself, no letup, never trusting the ropes to any other mate, the faster to journey back to native land.  (X, 35-38) As Odysseus slept, the crew argued among themselves, speculating about the contents of the bag Odysseus received from Aeolus.  Finally, thinking that Odysseus meant to trick them of some precious spoils, the men opened the bag, letting the winds out, and driving them far from their native land, and back to the island of Aeolus. Odysseus and a comrade went back to the halls of Kin Aeolus, and told him their tale, asking for help a second time.  But the King refused, saying: Away from my  island-fast-most cursed man alive! It’s a crime to host a man or speed him on his way when the blessed deathless gods despise him so. Crawling back like this- it proves the immortals hate you!  get out! (X, 79-83) So Odysseus and his men left the island, dejected, and rowed for six day and six nights, nonstop.  On the seventh day, they landed in the land of the Lastrygonians.  The man of many sorrows sent a crew ahead to learn who lived in this land, hoping that they would be hospitably received.  They met a girl, the king’s daughter, who asked them to go inside the huge hall to meet the king.  Inside, they were greeted by the huge king and queen of the land.  The king grabbed one of the men and ate him alive.  The other men raced to the ships, but by now, the entire town was up in arms, running down to capture Odysseus’ men.  Only one ship, that of Odysseus, was able to escape the land of the Lastrygonians alive. The ship and crew rowed next to the island of Aeaea, home of Circe, “the nymph with lovely braids, and awesome power too/who can speak with human voice,/the true sister of murderous-minded Aeetes” (X, 149-151).  Clearly, the description of Circe provides a foreboding; a foreboding that will, unfortunately prove too true.
Circe