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Circe | The unhappy Greeks turned into swine

In Greek mythology, Circe or Kírkē (Greek Κίρκη, falcon), was a Queen goddess (or sometimes nymph or sorceress) living on the island of Aeaea.

 

Circe's father was Helios (or Helius), the God of the Sun and the owner of the land where Odysseus' men ate cattle, and her mother was Perse, an Oceanid; she was sister of Aeetes, the king of Colchis and of Pasiphaë and Aga. Circe transformed her enemies, or those who offended her, into animals through the use of magical potions. She was renowned for her knowledge of drugs and herbs.

  

In Homer's Odyssey, her home Aeaea is described as a water mansion standing in the middle of a clearing in a dense wood. Around the house prowled lions and wolves, the drugged victims of her magic; they were not dangerous, and fawned on all newcomers. Circe worked at a huge loom. She invited Odysseus' crew to a feast, the food laced with one of her magical potions, and she turned them all into pigs with a wand after they gorged themselves on it. Only Eurylochus, suspecting treachery from the outset, escaped to warn Odysseus and the others who had stayed behind at the ships. Odysseus set out to rescue his men, but was intercepted by Hermes. Hermes told him to use the herb moly to protect himself from Circe's potion and, having resisted the potion, to draw his sword and act as if he would attack Circe. From there, Hermes told Odysseus that Circe would ask him to bed, but to be wary, because even there, the goddess would be treacherous. She would take his manhood, so he should have Circe swear by the names of the gods that she would not. For one year Odysseus and Circe were lovers. She later assisted him in his quest to reach his home.

According to Homer, she suggested to Odysseus two alternative routes to return to Ithaca: either toward the "Wandering Rocks" (possibly the pumiceous Lipari Islands; in the 13th-century Chinese travel notes of Chou Ju-kua they are called similarly[citation needed]), where King Aeolus reigned. Or, to pass between the dangerous Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis, conventionally identified with the Strait of Messina.

 

Towards the end of Hesiod's Theogony (1011f) we find that Circe bore of Odysseus three sons: Agrius (otherwise unknown), Latinus, and Telegonus who ruled over the Tyrsenoi, that is the Etruscans.

 

Later poets generally only speak of Telegonus as Odysseus' son by Circe. When grown to manhood, later poets reported, she sent him to find Odysseus, who had long since returned to his home on Ithaca, but on arrival Telegonus accidentally killed his father. He brought the body back to Aeaea and took Odysseus' widow Penelope and son Telemachus with him. Circe made them immortal and married Telemachus, while Telegonus made Penelope his wife.

 

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1.72.5) cites Xenagoras the historian as claiming that Odysseus and Circe had three sons: Romus, Anteias, and Ardeias who respectively founded three cities called by their names: Rome, Antium, and Ardea.

 

That Circe also purified the Argonauts for the death of Apsyrtus may be early tradition.

 

In later tales Circe turned Picus into a woodpecker for refusing her love, and Scylla into a monstrous creature with six dogs' heads when Glaucus (another object of Circe's affection) declared his undying love for her. She had one daughter: Aega, who was born from the ocean in a shield of ice.

  

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Taken on January 27, 2008