12.36-72

"καὶ τότε δή μ᾽ ἐπέεσσι προσηύδα πότνια Κίρκη·

‘ταῦτα μὲν οὕτω πάντα πεπείρανται, σὺ δ᾽ ἄκουσον,

ὥς τοι ἐγὼν ἐρέω, μνήσει δέ σε καὶ θεὸς αὐτός.

Σειρῆνας μὲν πρῶτον ἀφίξεαι, αἵ ῥά τε πάντας

ἀνθρώπους θέλγουσιν, ὅτις σφεας εἰσαφίκηται.40

ὅς τις ἀιδρείῃ πελάσῃ καὶ φθόγγον ἀκούσῃ

Σειρήνων, τῷ δ᾽ οὔ τι γυνὴ καὶ νήπια τέκνα

οἴκαδε νοστήσαντι παρίσταται οὐδὲ γάνυνται,

ἀλλά τε Σειρῆνες λιγυρῇ θέλγουσιν ἀοιδῇ

ἥμεναι ἐν λειμῶνι, πολὺς δ᾽ ἀμφ᾽ ὀστεόφιν θὶς45

ἀνδρῶν πυθομένων, περὶ δὲ ῥινοὶ μινύθουσι.

ἀλλὰ παρεξελάαν, ἐπὶ δ᾽ οὔατ᾽ ἀλεῖψαι ἑταίρων

κηρὸν δεψήσας μελιηδέα, μή τις ἀκούσῃ

τῶν ἄλλων· ἀτὰρ αὐτὸς ἀκουέμεν αἴ κ᾽ ἐθέλῃσθα,

δησάντων σ᾽ ἐν νηὶ θοῇ χεῖράς τε πόδας τε50

ὀρθὸν ἐν ἱστοπέδῃ, ἐκ δ᾽ αὐτοῦ πείρατ᾽ ἀνήφθω,

ὄφρα κε τερπόμενος ὄπ᾽ ἀκούσῃς Σειρήνοιιν.

εἰ δέ κε λίσσηαι ἑτάρους λῦσαί τε κελεύῃς,

οἱ δέ σ᾽ ἔτι πλεόνεσσι τότ᾽ ἐν δεσμοῖσι διδέντων.

αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν δὴ τάς γε πάρεξ ἐλάσωσιν ἑταῖροι,55

ἔνθα τοι οὐκέτ᾽ ἔπειτα διηνεκέως ἀγορεύσω,

ὁπποτέρη δή τοι ὁδὸς ἔσσεται, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὸς

θυμῷ βουλεύειν· ἐρέω δέ τοι ἀμφοτέρωθεν.

ἔνθεν μὲν γὰρ πέτραι ἐπηρεφέες, προτὶ δ᾽ αὐτὰς

κῦμα μέγα ῥοχθεῖ κυανώπιδος Ἀμφιτρίτης·60

Πλαγκτὰς δή τοι τάς γε θεοὶ μάκαρες καλέουσι.

τῇ μέν τ᾽ οὐδὲ ποτητὰ παρέρχεται οὐδὲ πέλειαι

τρήρωνες, ταί τ᾽ ἀμβροσίην Διὶ πατρὶ φέρουσιν,

ἀλλά τε καὶ τῶν αἰὲν ἀφαιρεῖται λὶς πέτρη·

ἀλλ᾽ ἄλλην ἐνίησι πατὴρ ἐναρίθμιον εἶναι.65

τῇ δ᾽ οὔ πώ τις νηῦς φύγεν ἀνδρῶν, ἥ τις ἵκηται,

ἀλλά θ᾽ ὁμοῦ πίνακάς τε νεῶν καὶ σώματα φωτῶν

κύμαθ᾽ ἁλὸς φορέουσι πυρός τ᾽ ὀλοοῖο θύελλαι.

οἴη δὴ κείνη γε παρέπλω ποντοπόρος νηῦς,

Ἀργὼ πᾶσι μέλουσα, παρ᾽ Αἰήταο πλέουσα.70

καὶ νύ κε τὴν ἔνθ᾽ ὦκα βάλεν μεγάλας ποτὶ πέτρας,

ἀλλ᾽ Ἥρη παρέπεμψεν, ἐπεὶ φίλος ἦεν Ἰήσων.

    Circe gives Odysseus advice about how to get back to Ithaca, describing the Sirens and the Wandering Rocks.

    The Sirens will be Odysseus’s next challenge. Seductive singers who lure sailors to their doom appear frequently in folktales about the sea. Such creatures are bound to be useful to this poet and in fact their appearance here is the distilled essence of a pervasive motif in the story. Singing is a gendered pursuit in the Odyssey (see above on 9.161–192). Male bards, Phemios in Ithaka, Demodokos and Odysseus himself in the royal palace on Scheria, tell of the heroism and suffering of the Greeks returning from Troy. By their narratives they record the kleos that will preserve the nobility of the warriors for generations to come, models for masculine behavior. Female singers have quite a different function, inviting heroes to abandon their missions, to give in and rest. If they compose with words, we rarely hear them. Instead the music is usually mysteriously seductive, surrounding the hero with amorphous sound.

    read full essay

    Homer describes the power of the Sirens with θέλγω ,“to charm, enchant,” (40, 44). As we might expect, Calypso too can enchant (Od.1.57), as can Penelope (Od.18.282). But the verb is not used only of beguiling females in the poem. Male gods have that power, of course: Hermes uses his magic wand to charm the eyes of humans (Od.5.47; 24.3) and Telemachus imagines that some god may have bewitched him into believing the ragged stranger before him is his father (Od.16.195). But an artful human storyteller can also weave a spell with his words, like the duplicitous bard who leads Clytemnestra astray in her husband’s absence (Od. 3.264) or, of course, the most accomplished raconteur in the poem, Odysseus himself (Od.17.514). It is among the many tantalizing ironies in the poem that the hero, who is constantly fighting against the seductive female forces that would keep him from his home, practices his own kind of enchantment.

    After the Sirens comes a somewhat confusing passage which describes the way past two different threats to the crew’s survival. Circe says that she will not tell Odysseus which of two courses he should pursue. She will describe each and he must choose, either to try sailing by the “wave of dark blue Amphitrite” (60), which drives ships against overhanging rocks, called the Πλάγκται (Clashing Rocks, 61) by the gods, or threading their way between Skylla, a monster with six heads who eats sailors, and Charybdis, a whirlpool that sucks ships down (73–110). The first alternative gets a much briefer treatment and we get the sense that Homer is struggling to juggle two separate mythical traditions here. Homer’s mention of the Argo’s mission (69–72) has prompted scholars to suggest that the Wandering Rocks may be from a version of the story of Jason and the Argonauts, earlier than the Odyssey and now lost. These moving rocks are apparently lethal to birds, crunching them as they fly over. One small detail prompts further thought: Every time one of the doves bringing ambrosia to Zeus perishes, the god replaces it, so that the total number of doves remains constant. As he did with the Elpenor episode, so here the poet seems to be introducing themes that will reappear in the cattle of the sun episode, which he has already singled out as particularly important (1.6–9). The cattle of Helios, we will be told, are divided into seven herds of fifty each and their number is neither increased by new births nor diminished by death. The total number (350) suggested to Aristotle that the cattle might correspond to the days of the year (appropriately for the sun god’s herd), in which case to kill any of the cows would be to attack time itself. No wonder the crew has to pay with their own lives.

    Further Reading

    Dimock, G. 1989. The Unity of the Odyssey, 163–166. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

    Edwards, M.W. 1987. Homer: Poet of the Iliad, 23–28. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Heubeck, A. and Hoekstra, A. ed. 1989. A Commentary on Homer’s Odyssey, vol. II, Books IX–XVI, 118-121. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Morrison, J. 2003. A Companion to Homer’s Odyssey, 113. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

    Page, D. 1973. Folktales in Homer’s Odyssey, 85–90. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    37  πεπείρανται: “have been gone through,” “have been experienced,” 3rd plural perfect passive, > πειράω. An instance of a plural verb with a neuter plural subject (ταῦτα πάντα) (Smyth 959). Circe is probably referring to all the events of the journey to the Underworld which Odysseus has experienced. 

    37  ἄκουσον: imperative.

    38  μνήσει: "will remind," 3rd singular future active indicative, > μιμνήσκω.

    39  ἀφίξεαι: 2nd singular future middle (deponent), > ἀφικνέομαι.

    40  ὅτιςείσαφίκηται: indefinite, or conditional, relative clause, with aorist subjunctive without ἄν (Monro 282). Notice the shift from the plural antecedent ἀνθρώπους to the singular relative pronoun ὅτις, which has a collective force (Smyth 2502c).

    41  ὅς τιςπελάσῃ καὶἀκούσῃ: indefinite, or conditional, relative clause, with aorist subjunctive without ἄν (Monro 282).

    41  ἀϊδρείῃ: dative of manner.

    42  τῷ: dative singular demonstrative pronoun, object of compound verb παρίσταται.

    42  οὔ τι: “not at all”

    43  νοστήσαντι: dative singular aorist participle, agreeing with τῷ.

    43  παρίσταται: singular verb with both γυνή and νήπια τέκνα as its subjects, > παρίστημι.

    45  ἥμεναι: present participle (> ἧμαι).

    45  πολὺς: “great,” “large,” modifying θὶς. Supply the verb ἔστι.

    45  ἀμφ᾽: “around them.”

    45  ὀστεόφιν: “(made) from…,” dative of material (Smyth 1508c), with θὶς.

    46  περὶ: “around (the bones).”

    46  ῥινοὶ μινύθουσι: “the skin shrivels,” distributive plural (Monro 171), more easily translated as singular.

    47  παρεξελάαν: aorist infinitive, > παρεξελαύνω, used as an imperative (Monro 241).

    47  ἐπὶοὔατ᾽: “on the ears.”

    47  ἀλεῖψαι: aorist infinitive used as an imperative, > ἀλείφω.

    48  μή τιςἀκούσῃ: negative purpose clause with μή τις and subjunctive (Monro 281; Smyth 2193b).

    49  τῶν ἄλλων: partitive genitive, with τις in line 48.

    49  αὐτὸς: “you yourself,” intensive.

    49  ἀκουέμεν: complementary present infinitive with ἐθέλῃσθα.

    49  αἴ κε ἐθέλῃσθα: protasis of a future more vivid conditional (αἴ κε = ἐἀν). ἐθέλῃσθα, 2nd singular present active subjunctive, > ἐθέλω.

    50  δησάντων: 3rd plural imperative, > δέω.

    50  χεῖρας τε πόδας τε: “hand and foot,” accusatives of respect.

    51  ὀρθὸν: “standing up”; modifying σε (σ᾽) in line 50.

    51  ἐκ ... αὐτοῦ: “from there” (i.e., the mast).

    51  πείρατ᾽ ἀνήφθω: “let the ends (of the rope) be fastened,” 3rd singular perfect passive imperative, > ἀνάπτω.

    52  ὄφραἀκούῃς: purpose clause (ὄφρα = ἵνα).

    52  Σειρήνοιϊν: genitive dual.

    53  εἰκε λίσσηαικελεύῃς: protasis of a future more vivid conditional. λίσσηαι, 2nd singular present subjunctive middle (deponent), > λίσσομαι.

    54  οἱ: i.e., Odysseus’s men.

    54  πλεόνεσσι: "more," >πολύς, comparative. 

    54  διδέντων: 3rd plural imperative, > δίδημι.

    55  ἐπὴνἐλάσωσιν: general temporal clause (ἐπήν = ἐπεὶ ἄν + subjunctive). ἐλάσωσιν, 3rd plural aorist active subjunctive, > ἐλαύνω (“to row”)

    55  τὰς: i.e., the Sirens, object of παρέξ (anastrophe). 

    57  ὁπποτέρηὁδὸς: “which route”; indirect question.

    58  βουλεύειν: infinitive as imperative

    59  ἔνθεν: understand εἰσί. ἔνθεν μὲν introduces the Clashing Rocks, which represent the hazard Odysseus would face if he takes the first of the two routes that Circe describes. The description of the Clashing Rocks occupies lines 59-72. It is answered by οἱ δὲ in line 73, introducing the description of Scylla and Charybdis, the hazards Odysseus would face on the second of the two possible routes. 

    59  προτὶ: “against” (πρός).

    61  καλέουσι: the verb takes an object and predicate accusative: "to call (accusative) (accusative)."

    64  τῶνἀφαιρεῖται: “takes them away,” “eliminates them,” > ἀφαιρέω + genitive. The genitive is properly partitive, “takes away (one) of them.”

    65  ἄλλην: i.e., another (replacement) dove.

    66 τῇ δ᾽: answering τῇ μέν in line 62. An example of anaphora, or the repetition of a word at the beginning of successive clauses (Smyth 3010). 

    66  τις ἵκηται: indefinite relative clause (subjunctive without ἄν). ἥ τις refers to a ship (νηῦς). 

    69  παρέπλω: 3rd singular aorist active indicative, >παραπλέω (an Epic 2nd aorist form).

    70  πᾶσι μέλουσα: “known to all” (literally, “being a concern for all”). Sometimes appearing as a single word, πασιμέλουσα.

    71  κεβάλεν: “would have thrown,” κε (ἄν) + aorist, expressing past potential (Monro 324; Smyth 1784). The subject of βἀλεν is the neuter plural κύματα in line 68.

    71  τὴν: i.e., the ship

    71  ποτὶ:  πρὸς

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

    πότνια –ας ἡ: mistress, queen

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

    ἐρῶ εἴρηκα ἐρρήθην: to say, tell, speak

    Σειρήν –ῆνος ἡ: a Siren

    ἄρα: now, then, next, thus

    θέλγω θέλξω ἔθελξα ἐθέλχθην: to bewitch 40

    σφεῖς: they

    εἰσαφικνέομαι (Ion. ἐσαπικνέομαι) εἰσαφίξομαι εἰσαφικόμην εἰσαφικόμην: to come into

    ἀϊδρείη –ης ἡ: want of knowledge, ignorance

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

    φθόγγος –ου ὁ: sound; voice

    Σειρήν –ῆνος ἡ: a Siren

    νήπιος –α –ον: infant, child; silly, ignorant, without foresight

    οἴκαδε: homeward

    νοστέω νοστήσω ἐνόστησα νενόστηκα: return home

    παρίστημι παρήσω παρέστησα (or παρέστην) παρέστηκα παρέσταμαι παρεστάθην: to stand by or near

    γάνυμαι γανύσσομαι γεγάνυμαι: to be glad, be happy, rejoice; to be happy for, rejoice in (+ dat.)

    Σειρήν –ῆνος ἡ: a Siren

    λιγυρός –ά –όν: clear, whistling

    θέλγω θέλξω ἔθελξα ἐθέλχθην: to bewitch

    ἀοιδή –ῆς ἡ: song, a singing

    ἧμαι (or κάθημαι) ––– ––– ––– ––– –––: sit 45

    λειμών –ῶνος ὁ: grassland, meadow, field

    ὀστέον –ου τό: a bone

    θίς θινός ὁ: shore, beach

    πύθω πύσω ἔπῡσα ––– ––– –––: to make rot, to rot

    ῥινός –οῦ ἡ: the skin

    μινύθω – – – – –: to make smaller

    παρεξελαύνω παρεξελῶ παρεξήλασα παρεξελήλακα παρεξελήλαμαι παρεξηλάθην: to drive out past, to pass, pass by

    οὖς ὠτός τό: ear

    ἀλείφω ἀλείψω ἤλειψα ἀλήλιφα ἀλήλιμμαι ἠλείφθην: to anoint, smear

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    κηρός –οῦ ὁ: bees-wax

    δέψω δεψήσω ἐδέψησα: to work or knead (until something is soft)

    μελιηδής –ές: honey-sweet

    ἀτάρ (or αὐτάρ): but, yet, consequently

    θοός –ή –όν: swift 50

    ἱστοπέδη –ης ἡ: base of the mast

    πεῖραρ –ατος τό: border, limit

    ἀνάπτω ἀνάψω ἀνῆψα ––– ἀνῆμμαι ἀνήφθην: to attach, tie, fasten

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

    τέρπω τέρψω ἔτερψα ––– ––– ἐτάρφθην/ἐτέρφθην: to delight; (mid./pass.) to have one's full of

    ὄψ ὀπός ἡ: a voice

    Σειρήν –ῆνος ἡ: a Siren

    λίσσομαι ––– ἐλλισάμην/ἐλιτόμην ––– ––– –––: to pray, beg; to beseech with prayer

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    δεσμός –οῦ ὁ (pl. δεσμά): a bond

    δίδημι – – – – –: to bind, fetter

    ἀτάρ (or αὐτάρ): but, yet 55

    ἐπήν = ἐπεὶ ἄν: when, after

    παρέξ or παρέκ: beyond, past; outside, before; out and away; beside, alongside

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    διηνεκής –ές: continuous, unbroken; (adv.) from beginning to end, fully

    ἀγορεύω ἀγορεύσω ἠγόρευσα ἠγόρευκα ἠγόρευμαι ἠγορεύθην: to speak, say

    ὁπ(π)ότερος –α –ον: whichever of two

    ἐρῶ εἴρηκα ἐρρήθην: to say, tell, speak

    ἀμφοτέρωθεν: on both sides, in both directions

    ἔνθεν: from here, from there

    πέτρη –ης ἡ: rock, cliffs, shelf of rock

    ἐπηρεφής –ές: overhanging

    κῦμα –ατος τό: wave 60

    ῥοχθέω – – – – –: to dash with a roaring sound

    κυανῶπις –ιδος: dark-looking

    Ἀμφιτρίτη –ης ἡ: Amphitrite, goddess of the sea, personifying the element

    Πλαγκταί –ῶν αἱ: the Clashing Rocks

    τοι: let me tell you, surely

    μάκαρ μάκαρος: blessed, happy; blessed ones, gods

    τῃ (dat. fem. of ὁ): here, there

    ποτητός –ή –όν: flying, winged

    παρέρχομαι παρεῖμι παρῆλθον παρελήλυθα ––– –––: to go by, beside, outstrip, pass over

    πέλεια –ας ἡ: pigeon, dove

    τρήρων –ωνος: timorous, shy

    ἀμβροσίη –ης ἡ: ambrosia

    Ζεύς Διός ὁ: Zeus

    λίς ἡ: smooth, shiny

    πέτρη –ης ἡ: rock, cliffs, shelf of rock

    ἐνίημι ἐνήσω ἐνῆκα ἐνεῖκα ἐνεῖμαι ἐνείθην: to launch a ship into the sea; to send in, set out 65

    ἐναρίθμιος –ον: in the number, to make up the number

    πω: up to this time, yet

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

    ὁμοῦ: together, at the same place or time

    πίναξ –ακος ὁ: a board, plank

    φώς φωτός ὁ: man

    κῦμα –ατος τό: wave

    ἅλς ἁλός ὁ: salt (m.); sea (f.)

    φορέω φορέσω/φορήσω ἐφόρεσα/ἐφόρησα πεφόρηκα πεφόρημαι ἐφορήθην: to bear, carry

    ὀλοός –ή –όν: destroying, destructive, fatal, deadly, murderous

    θύελλα –ης ἡ: storm, eruption

    οἶος –α –ον: alone

    παραπλέω παραπλευσοῦμαι/παραπλεύσομαι παρέπλευσα παραπέπλευκα: to sail by; sail past; sail along

    ποντοπόρος –ον: passing over the sea, seafaring

    Ἀργώ –οῦς ἡ: the ship named Argo 70

    μέλω μέλησω ἐμέλησα μεμέληκα ––– –––: be an object of care or interest

    Αἰήτης –ου ὁ: Aeetes, King of Colchis, brother of Circe and father of Medea, from whom Jason took the Golden Fleece

    ὦκα: quickly, swiftly, fast

    πέτρη –ης ἡ: rock, cliffs, shelf of rock

    Ἥρα –ας (Ion. Ἥρη) ἡ: Hera

    παραπέμπω παραπέμψω παραπέπομφα παραπέπομφα παραπέπεμμαι παρεπέμφθην: to send past, convey past

    Ἰάσων –ονος ὁ: Jason, an Aiolid, son of Aison, of Iolkos, leader of the Argonauts, reared by Cheiron

    article nav
    Previous
    Next

    Suggested Citation

    Thomas Van Nortwick and Rob Hardy, Homer: Odyssey 9-12. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 20122. ISBN: 978-1-947822-17-7 https://dcc.dickinson.edu/homer-odyssey/xii-36-72