10.388-427

"ὣς ἐφάμην, Κίρκη δὲ διὲκ μεγάροιο βεβήκει

ῥάβδον ἔχουσ᾽ ἐν χειρί, θύρας δ᾽ ἀνέῳξε συφειοῦ,

ἐκ δ᾽ ἔλασεν σιάλοισιν ἐοικότας ἐννεώροισιν.390

οἱ μὲν ἔπειτ᾽ ἔστησαν ἐναντίοι, ἡ δὲ δι᾽ αὐτῶν

ἐρχομένη προσάλειφεν ἑκάστῳ φάρμακον ἄλλο.

τῶν δ᾽ ἐκ μὲν μελέων τρίχες ἔρρεον, ἃς πρὶν ἔφυσε

φάρμακον οὐλόμενον, τό σφιν πόρε πότνια Κίρκη·

ἄνδρες δ᾽ ἂψ ἐγένοντο νεώτεροι ἢ πάρος ἦσαν,395

καὶ πολὺ καλλίονες καὶ μείζονες εἰσοράασθαι.

ἔγνωσαν δέ μ᾽ ἐκεῖνοι ἔφυν τ᾽ ἐν χερσὶν ἕκαστος.

πᾶσιν δ᾽ ἱμερόεις ὑπέδυ γόος, ἀμφὶ δὲ δῶμα

σμερδαλέον κονάβιζε: θεὰ δ᾽ ἐλέαιρε καὶ αὐτή.

ἡ δέ μευ ἄγχι στᾶσα προσηύδα δῖα θεάων:400

‘διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν᾽ Ὀδυσσεῦ,

ἔρχεο νῦν ἐπὶ νῆα θοὴν καὶ θῖνα θαλάσσης.

νῆα μὲν ἂρ πάμπρωτον ἐρύσσατε ἤπειρόνδε,

κτήματα δ᾽ ἐν σπήεσσι πελάσσατε ὅπλα τε πάντα·

αὐτὸς δ᾽ ἂψ ἰέναι καὶ ἄγειν ἐρίηρας ἑταίρους.’405

ὣς ἔφατ᾽, αὐτὰρ ἐμοί γ᾽ ἐπεπείθετο θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ,

βῆν δ᾽ ἰέναι ἐπὶ νῆα θοὴν καὶ θῖνα θαλάσσης.

εὗρον ἔπειτ᾽ ἐπὶ νηὶ θοῇ ἐρίηρας ἑταίρους

οἴκτρ᾽ ὀλοφυρομένους, θαλερὸν κατὰ δάκρυ χέοντας.

ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἂν ἄγραυλοι πόριες περὶ βοῦς ἀγελαίας,410

ἐλθούσας ἐς κόπρον, ἐπὴν βοτάνης κορέσωνται,

πᾶσαι ἅμα σκαίρουσιν ἐναντίαι· οὐδ᾽ ἔτι σηκοὶ

ἴσχουσ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἁδινὸν μυκώμεναι ἀμφιθέουσι

μητέρας· ὣς ἔμ᾽ ἐκεῖνοι ἐπεὶ ἴδον ὀφθαλμοῖσι,

δακρυόεντες ἔχυντο· δόκησε δ᾽ ἄρα σφίσι θυμὸς415

ὣς ἔμεν, ὡς εἰ πατρίδ᾽ ἱκοίατο καὶ πόλιν αὐτὴν

τρηχείης Ἰθάκης, ἵνα τ᾽ ἔτραφεν ἠδ᾽ ἐγένοντο.

καί μ᾽ ὀλοφυρόμενοι ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδων·

‘σοὶ μὲν νοστήσαντι, διοτρεφές, ὣς ἐχάρημεν,

ὡς εἴ τ᾽ εἰς Ἰθάκην ἀφικοίμεθα πατρίδα γαῖαν·420

ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε, τῶν ἄλλων ἑτάρων κατάλεξον ὄλεθρον.’

ὣς ἔφαν, αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ προσέφην μαλακοῖς ἐπέεσσι·

‘νῆα μὲν ἂρ πάμπρωτον ἐρύσσομεν ἤπειρόνδε,

κτήματα δ᾽ ἐν σπήεσσι πελάσσομεν ὅπλα τε πάντα·

αὐτοὶ δ᾽ ὀτρύνεσθε ἐμοὶ ἅμα πάντες ἕπεσθαι,425

ὄφρα ἴδηθ᾽ ἑτάρους ἱεροῖς ἐν δώμασι Κίρκης

πίνοντας καὶ ἔδοντας: ἐπηετανὸν γὰρ ἔχουσιν.’

    Circe restores the transformed comrades of Odysseus to human shape. Odysseus goes to the ships and reunites with his men, inviting them back to Circe’s palace.

    Circe goes to release the crew and the poet teases us:

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    ὣς ἐφάμην, Κίρκη δὲ διὲκ μεγάροιο βεβήκει
    ῥάβδον ἔχουσ᾽ ἐν χειρί, θύρας δ᾽ ἀνέῳξε συφειοῦ,

    So I spoke, and Circe went out of the hall,
    holding the wand in her hand, and opened the doors of the stye…

    Odyssey 10.388–89

    We imagine the bard pausing slightly after the verb in line 389, as our ears, tuned by the repeated traditional phrase (cf. 10.230, 256, 312) wait for the adjective φαεινὰς. Beyond the humor, we hear echoes of the power struggle running through the entire episode, the doors of the stye standing in for the doors of the house, both enclosures metaphors for the suffocating emasculation that feminine sexuality threatens for the masculine hero. As it happens, Circe not only returns the crew to their human form, but also makes them younger, bigger, and more handsome than they were before. Here the parallel with Athena surfaces, as the once malevolent witch now plays the role of the hero’s protector, signaling that the struggle is quiet for now.

    The reversal of Circe’s magic reflects the Odyssey’s overall narrative strategy, which moves toward restoration of the hero’s status in Ithaka. We have come to call this structure, “comic,” in contrast to the tragic form of stories like The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad, where the energy of the narrative urges us toward the recognition of the inescapable fact of human mortality. The outcome of Circe episode prefigures the world that Athena is determined to restore in Ithaka, where threats to the status of the hero are always reversible. There, as here, the hero will need to win over a formidable female who has been warned that he may be coming. The sword that subdues Circe will be deployed again, but this time against a crowd of usurpers. The crew, saved for now, will be long gone by the time Odysseus reaches Ithaka, victims of their own lack of self-control. But for now, the tranquility that settles over Aiaia, coming near the center of the poem, foreshadows the final triumph of the returning hero.

    After Circe reverses her magic and the crew members joyfully greet their captain, the witch urges Odysseus to fetch the rest of his men from the ship so they can join the feast. The simile that Odysseus uses to describe the men’s ecstatic response to his return seems striking at first: Sailors, hardened by an exhausting and dangerous trek across the sea, are compared to young calves gamboling out of their pen to greet their mothers. But this view of Odysseus’s companions should not surprise us, since the crew has been essentially infantilized throughout the poem, unable to exhibit the control of their impulses that marks a mature male in the Odyssey. In this, they resemble the suitors, notorious for their gluttonous appetites, for food and sex with the maids in Ithaka. In both cases, the parent in the room is Odysseus, father to his wayward children, finally unable to keep them from harming themselves. The parallel continues as the crew by the ship crowd around:

    σοὶ μὲν νοστήσαντι, διοτρεφές, ὣς ἐχάρημεν,
    ὡς εἴ τ᾽ εἰς Ἰθάκην ἀφικοίμεθα πατρίδα γαῖαν:

    We are as happy to see you returned, cherished of Zeus,
    as if we had come back home to Ithaka, our fatherland!

    Odyssey 10.419–20

    The participle νοστήσαντι is used elsewhere exclusively in the poem of Odysseus returning home. We, like the crew, are urged to see this pleasant interlude as a rehearsal for Odysseus’ ultimate return to his rightful status in Ithaka.

    If we conclude that Circe foreshadows the queen who offers pleasure and respite in Ithaka, we should also note the potential in Penelope for realizing the darker aspects of witch’s nature. Both are deceptive weavers, whose tricks can lead a man to ruin; both must be won over by the hero—with the help of divine intervention—before their allegiance is assured; each offers Odysseus vital information that will eventually secure his homecoming. And finally, when Penelope tells the beggar her dream about geese (19.535–53), do we not hear a faint echo of the “mistress of animals” who controls the wolves and lions in Aiaia?

     

    388  βεβήκει: "she went," plupf., translated as simple past (Smyth 1946, 1952).

    390  ἐκ δ᾽ ἔλασεν: "she drove out," tmesis, 3rd sing. aor. > ἐξελαύνω.

    390  ἐοικότας: “(men) resembling,” followed by a dative.

    392  προσάλειφεν: "she smeared on," unaugmented 3rd sing. impf. act. > προσαλείφω, followed by an accusative object and a dative indirect object (ἑκάστῳ).

    393  τῶν: “their.”

    393  τρίχες: "bristles,” i.e., the hair covering the body of the swine > θρίξ, ἡ.

    393  ἔφυσε: “made grow.”

    394  τό: neut. rel. pron.

    394  σφιν: dat. pl. indir. obj. ( > σφεῖς).

    394  πόρε: unaugmented impf.

    396  εἰσοράασθαι: “to look upon” (Monro 232; Smyth 2005).

    397  ἔφυν τ᾽ ἐν χερσὶν: “clasped my hand" (lit., “grew onto me with his hand”). 

    397  φῦ: = ἔφυ, unaugmented 3rd sing. impf. > φύω, “to grow.”

    398  ἱμερόεις: “passionate,” masc. nom. sing.

    398  ὑπέδυ: “came upon,” with dative. See LSJ ὑποδύω II.4, "[of feelings] to steal into" or "over."

    398  ἀμφὶ: “all around,” adverbial.

    399  σμερδαλέον: adverbial accusative.

    400  θεάων: “among goddesses,” partitive genitive.

    402  ἔρχεο: imperat. sing.

    403  ἐρύσσατε: “drag up,” imperat. pl. (assuming Odysseus needs help to drag his ship onto the shore).

    404  πελάσσατε: “carry,” imperat. pl.

    405  ἰέναι: infin. > εἶμι, used as an imperative. 

    406  ἐμοί: dative of possession with θυμός.

    407  βῆν δ᾽ ἰέναι: “I set out to go” (Monro 77).

    410  ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ(ε): “as when …,” introducing a simile. In similes, the main verb is usually in the subjunctive, but here the verb σκαίρουσιν is in the indicative, in which case there is either anacoluthon ("as when heifers in the field around their mothers, whenever they have their fill of grass—they all leap to meet them..."), or the verb should be emended to σκαίρωσιν, the subjunctive (see the discussion by Edwards).

    411  ἐπὴν: ἐπεί ἄν + subj., introducing a general temporal clause.

    411  κορέσωνται: “have their fill of,”  aor. subj. > κορέννυμι, with genitive.

    412  σκαίρουσιν: the subject is πόριες in 410.

    412  ἐναντίαι: “to meet (their mothers).” ἐναντίος can mean “meeting” or “in order to meet.”

    413  ἁδινὸν: “constantly,” adverbial acc.

    414  ὣς: “so," "in this way,” closing off the simile.

    415  ἔχυντο: “came in a dense throng,” “thronged around me,” 3rd pl. aor. pass. > χέω; see LSJ χέω II.6.

    415–16  δόκησε … / ὣς ἔμεν: “seemed thus to be,” “seemed to be,” ἔμεν = εἶναι.

    415  θυμὸς: “feeling,” “mood”

    416  ὡς εἰ … ἱκοίατο: “as if they had reached….” ὡς εἰ + opt. is used in Homer for similes and comparisons (Smyth 2484, citing this passage). 

    416  ἱκοίατο: 3rd pl. aor. opt. > ἱκνέομαι.

    417  τρηχείης: "rough, rocky, rugged," a standard Homeric epithet for Ithaca. fem. sing. gen. adj. > τρηχύς, epic form of τραχύς. It declines like εὐρύς.

    417  ἵνα: “where”

    417  ἔτραφεν: 3rd pl. aor. pass. indic. > τρέφω

    419  νοστήσαντι: aor. ptc. dat. sing. > νοστέω

    419  ὣς ἐχάρημεν: “we rejoice thus at," or “how we rejoice at…!” followed by a dative. 

    419  ἐχάρημεν: 1st pl. aor. pass. > χαίρω. The aorist is often used in similes and comparisons for the point of comparison, as here (Monro 78.2; Smyth 1935).

    420  ὡς εἴ … ἀφικοίμεθα: "as if we'd reached...," same construction as in line 416.

    423–24 ἐρύσσομεν ... / ... πελάσσομεν: hortatory short-vowel subjs. (Monro 80). Lines 423–24 echo lines 403–4.

    425  αὐτοὶ ... ὀτρύνεσθε: “rouse yourselves,” 2nd pl. pres. mid. imperat., with a reflexive sense > ὀτρύνω.

    426  ἴδηθ᾽: = ἴδητε, 2nd pl. aor. subj. > ὁράω, in a purpose clause.

    427  ἐπηετανὸν: "a never-ending abundance (of food and drink)."

    Κίρκη –ης ἡ: Circe, the enchantress, daughter of Helius, sister of Aeētes, dwelling in the isle of Aeaea

    διέκ: through and out of

    μέγαρον –ου τό: a large room, hall, feast-hall

    ῥάβδος –ου ὁ: a rod, wand, stick, switch

    θύρα –ας ἡ: door

    ἀνοίγνυμι ἀνοίξω ἀνέῳξα ἀνέῳχα ––– ἀνεῴχθην: open, (pass.) be open, stand open

    συφεός –οῦ ὁ: a hog-sty

    σίαλος –ου ὁ: a fat hog 390

    ἐννέωρος –ον: nine years old

    προσαλείφω προσαλείψω προσήλειψα προσαλήλιφα προσαλήλιμμαι προσηλείφθην: to rub

    φάρμακον –ου τό: drug

    μέλος –ους τό: a limb

    θρίξ τριχός ἡ: hair, bristle

    ῥέω ῥυήσομαι ––– ἐρρύηκα ––– ἐρρύην: to flow, run, stream

    φάρμακον –ου τό: drug

    οὐλόμενος –η –ον: destructive, ruinous, cursed, unfortunate

    σφεῖς: they

    πόρω ––– ἔπορον ––– ––– –––: to offer, furnish, supply, give; (pf. pass. 3 sing.) it is fated

    πότνια –ας ἡ: mistress, queen

    ἄψ: back 395

    πάρος: before, formerly

    εἰσοράω εἰσόψομαι εἰσεῖδον εἰσεόρακα/εἰσεώρακα/εἰσόπωπα εἰσεόραμαι/εἰσεώραμαι/εἰσῶμμαι εἰσώφθην: to look into, look upon, view, behold

    ἱμερόεις –εσσα –εν: lovely, desirable, passionate

    ὑποδύομαι ὑποδύσομαι ὑπεδυσάμην – ὑποδέδυμαι ὑπεδύθην: to slip in under, to put on; to come upon

    γόος –ου ὁ: wailing, lamentation

    δῶμα –ατος τό: house (often in plural)

    σμερδαλέος –α –ον: dreadful

    κοναβίζω ––– –––: to resound, clash, ring, reecho

    θεά –ᾶς ἡ: goddess

    ἐλεαίρω ἐλεαρῶ ἐλέηρα: to take pity on

    ἄγχι: near 400

    προσαυδάω προσαυδήσω προσηύδησα προσηύδηκα προσηύδημαι προσηυδήθην: to speak to, address, accost

    δῖος –α –ον: divine, godlike, shining

    διογενής –ές: sprung from Zeus (epithet of Odysseus)

    Λαερτιάδης –ου ὁ: son of Laertes (Odysseus)

    πολυμήχανος –ον: full of resources, inventive, ever-ready

    Ὀδυσσεύς –έως ὁ: Odysseus, king of Ithaca, hero of the Odyssey

    θοός –ή –όν: swift

    θίς θινός ὁ: shore, beach

    ἄρα: now, then, next, thus

    πάμπρωτος –η –ον: first of all, the very first

    εἰρύω/ἐρύω ἐρύσω/ἐρύω εἴρυσα/ἔρυσα/ἔρυσσα εἴρυσα/ἔρυσα/ἔρυσσα –– –– εἰρύσθην: to pull, draw, drag; to guard

    ἤπειρόνδε: to the mainland

    κτῆμα –ατος τό: possession

    σπέος gen. σπείους, dat. σπῆι, pl. dat. σπέσσι and σπήεσσι, τό: a cave, cavern, grotto

    πελάζω πελάσω ἐπέλασα ––– ––– ἐπελάσθην: (trans.) to bring, carry, conduct (to an indicated place); (intrans.) to draw near, approach

    ἄψ: back 405

    ἐρίηρος –ον: faithful, devoted, trusty

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    ἀτάρ (or αὐτάρ): but, yet

    ἐπιπείθομαι ἐπιπείσομαι ἐπεπιθόμην – ἐπιπέπεισμαι ἐπεπείσθην: to be persuaded (to)

    ἀγήνωρ –ορος: manly, courageous, heroic

    θοός –ή –όν: swift

    θίς θινός ὁ: shore, beach

    θοός –ή –όν: swift

    ἐρίηρος –ον: faithful, devoted, trusty

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    οἰκτρός –ά –όν: pitiable, in piteous plight

    ὀλοφύρομαι ὀλοφυροῦμαι ὠλοφυράμην – – ὠλοφύρθην: to lament, wail; pity

    θαλερός –ά –όν: blooming, fresh

    δάκρυον –ου τό: a tear

    χέω χέω ἔχεα or ἔχευα κέχυκα κέχυμαι ἐχύθην: to pour, shed

    ἄγραυλος –ον: dwelling in the field 410

    πόρις –ιος ἡ: a calf, young heifer

    ἀγελαῖος –α –ον: belonging to a herd, feeding at large

    κόπρος –ου ἡ: manure; farmyard

    ἐπήν = ἐπεὶ ἄν: when, after

    βοτάνη –ης ἡ: grass, fodder

    κορέννυμι (Ion. κορέω) κορέσω ἐκόρεσα κεκόρεσμαι ἐκορέσθην: to sate, satiate, satisfy

    σκαίρω – – – – –: to skip, frisk

    σηκός –οῦ ὁ: a pen, fold

    ἴσχω ––– ––– ––– ––– –––: to hold; to hold back, check, restrain

    ἀδινός –ή –όν: close-packed

    μυκάομαι μυκήσομαι ἐμυκησάμην: to moo, bellow, roar

    ἀμφιθέω ἀμφιθεύσομαι ἀμφέδραμον ἀμφιδεδράμηκα: to run round about

    δακρυόεις –εσσα –εν: tearful, much-weeping 415

    χέω χέω ἔχεα or ἔχευα κέχυκα κέχυμαι ἐχύθην: to pour, shed

    ἄρα: now, then, next, thus

    σφεῖς: they

    ἱκνέομαι ἵξομαι ἱκόμην ––– ἷγμαι –––: to come, reach

    τρηχύς –εῖα –ύ: rough

    Ἰθάκη –ης ἡ: Ithaca, the home of Ulysses, an island on the West coast of Greece

    ἠδέ: and

    ὀλοφύρομαι ὀλοφυροῦμαι ὠλοφυράμην – – ὠλοφύρθην: to lament, wail; pity

    πτερόεις πτερόεσσα πτερόεν: winged

    προσαυδάω προσαυδήσω προσηύδησα προσηύδηκα προσηύδημαι προσηυδήθην: to speak to, address, accost

    νοστέω νοστήσω ἐνόστησα νενόστηκα: return home

    διοτρεφής –ές: nourished by Zeus, Zeus-nurtured

    Ἰθάκη –ης ἡ: Ithaca, the home of Odysseus, an island on the West coast of Greece 420

    γαίη –ης ἡ: land, region, district

    ἄγε: come! come on! well!

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    καταλέγω καταλέξω κατέλεξα κατείλοχα κατείλεγμαι κατελέχθην: to recount, tell at length and in order; (mid.) καταλέχομαι to lie down

    ὄλεθρος –ου ὁ: ruin, destruction, death

    ἀτάρ (or αὐτάρ): but, yet

    πρόσφημι πρόσφησω προσέφησα: to speak to, address

    μαλακός –ή –όν: soft

    ἄρα: now, then, next, thus

    πάμπρωτος –η –ον: first of all, the very first

    εἰρύω/ἐρύω ἐρύσω/ἐρύω εἴρυσα/ἔρυσα/ἔρυσσα εἴρυσα/ἔρυσα/ἔρυσσα –– –– εἰρύσθην: to pull, draw, drag; to guard

    ἤπειρόνδε: to the mainland

    κτῆμα –ατος τό: possession

    σπέος gen. σπείους, dat. σπῆι, pl. dat. σπέσσι and σπήεσσι, τό: a cave, cavern, grotto

    πελάζω πελάσω ἐπέλασα ––– ––– ἐπελάσθην: (trans.) to bring, carry, conduct (to an indicated place); (intrans.) to draw near, approach

    ὀτρύνω ὀτρυνῶ ὤτρυνα ––– ––– –––: to urge on 425

    ὄφρα: while; until; so that; ὄφρα … τόφρα, while … for so long

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    δῶμα –ατος τό: house (often in plural)

    ἔδω ἔδομαι ἤδα ἔδηδα ἐδήδοται ἠδέσθην: to eat

    ἐπηετανός –όν: lasting forever, abundant

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    Suggested Citation

    Thomas Van Nortwick and Rob Hardy, Homer: Odyssey 5–12. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2024. ISBN: 978-1-947822-17-7 https://dcc.dickinson.edu/homer-odyssey/x-388-427