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Circe: The Famous Sorceress

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CIRCE (Gr. Κ?ρκη), in Greek legend, a famous sorceress, the daughter of Helios and the ocean nymph Perse. Having murdered her husband, the prince of Colchis, she was expelled by her subjects and placed by her father on the solitary island of Aeaea on the coast of Italy. She was able by means of drugs and incantations to change human beings into the forms of wolves or lions, and with these beings her palace was surrounded. Here she was found by Odysseus and his companions; the latter she changed into swine, but the hero, protected by the herb moly (q.v.), which he had received from Hermes, not only forced her to restore them to their original shape, but also gained her love. For a year he relinquished himself to her endearments, and when he determined to leave, she instructed him how to sail to the land of shades which lay on the verge of the ocean stream, in order to learn his fate from the prophet Teiresias. Upon his return she also gave him directions for avoiding the dangers of the journey home (Homer,Odyssey, x.-xii.; Hyginus, Fab. 125). The Roman poets associated her with the most ancient traditions of Latium, and assigned her a home on the promontory of Circei (Virgil, Aeneid, vii. 10). The metamorphoses of Scylla and of Picus, king of the Ausonians, by Circe, are narrated in Ovid (Metamorphoses, xiv.).


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