Circe is a goddess of sorcery who is best known for trapping Odysseus and his men on her island for a year, and giving him warnings for his journey ahead. She is usually depicted with pigs or lions, and a cup.
Circe was the goddess of sorcery, the daughter of Helios and Perseis, and the sister of King Aeetes of Colchis and Queen Pasiphae of Crete. She was especially well-known for being able to transform people into animals, which she did to Odysseus’ men in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. When they landed on her island called Aeaea, a few of Odysseus’ men were sent to explore. One man managed to escape and tell Odysseus that Circe turned the rest of the men into swine. Hermes, the messenger god, arrived to give Odysseus a special herb that would protect him from Circe’s powers.
Circe managed to seduce Odysseus, and he and his men stayed on her island for about a year. Finally, he told her he had to leave for Ithaca again. Begrudgingly, she agreed to let him go, but first gave him instructions to visit Tiresias in the Land of the Dead, to allow himself only to hear the Sirens’ songs, and to avoid the dangers of Scylla and Charybdis.
In later versions of the myth, Odysseus stayed on the island much longer than a year, and he and Circe had three or four children together.
Helios and Perseis
Be sure to check out the lesson plans on The Odyssey!
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