Ogygia: An Island in The Odyssey

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has taught 9th grade ELA and AP Literature for over 8 years. She has a dual master’s in English Literature and Teaching Secondary Ed from Simmons University. She is also a contracted freelance writer and certified AP Test Reader.

Sometimes we need space to determine what means the most to us. In this lesson, we'll analyze the significance of Calypso's island Ogygia and learn how Odysseus' time there shaped his future. Updated: 02/26/2021

Life's Distractions

Distractions can be considered great coping mechanisms in the fast-paced world we live in, but sometimes distractions aren't asked for, or even wanted. On the island of Ogygia, Odysseus was held captive for more than seven years by a beautiful sea nymph, Calypso, and while the distraction may have been pleasant at first, her selfish desire for his companionship quickly turned sour. Let's take a look at Odysseus's time on the island of Ogygia and analyze the island's significance and symbolism in The Odyssey as a whole.

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  • 0:03 Life's Distractions
  • 0:36 Calypso's Ogygia
  • 2:09 Significance in ''The…
  • 3:41 Analysis
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Calypso's Ogygia

Odysseus fights the tumultuous sea for nine days after losing his ship and men and washes ashore on the island of Ogygia. A sea nymph and sorceress, Calypso, rules the island. Calypso is the daughter of Atlas, the Titan who was thought to hold up the sky and/or the heavens as punishment for taking part in the Titan war against Zeus. It has been thought that Calypso was banished to Ogygia due to her loyalty to her father during the war, but minimal information has been found regarding her background or the origin of the mythical island.

The name Ogygia connects to the oldest known ancient Greek King Ogynes. The word itself translates to primal, ancient, or primeval, but not much else is documented regarding the word and its origin. The island is seemingly fictional, yet over the years scholars have mentioned the island dating back to Greek antiquity. From a random island in the middle of the Mediterranean, to a mythical island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, this island seems to only exist in fiction.

Regarding location, Zeus' messenger Hermes tells Calypso that he didn't want to send the message to release Odysseus because her island is so far from the rest of the world, reminding the reader that even the gods don't wish to travel there. The distance is also significant because it points out the severity of Odysseus' punishment for harming Helios' cattle. This comment made by Hermes shows the reader just how far away Odysseus is from home.

Significance in The Odyssey

In the epic poem, Odysseus is held prisoner on Ogygia for seven years. Calypso refuses to help him get home, offering him everything from sex to immortality to persuade him to forget Penelope and his family in Ithaca. Calypso's greedy heart wants Odysseus to stay with her forever as her husband.

The island is described as having luxurious fruits and vegetation, lush fields and meadows, and caves for shelter. Odysseus has everything he could ever want and need, but his loyalty to his wife and home could not be broken. While he did act as Calypso's lover, that love soon faded from Odysseus. He is described crying every day, wishing he could return home to his wife. Odysseus, our epic hero, is forced to live a life of isolation, fulfilling no purpose as a warrior or leader. The island forces Odysseus to have no purpose except as Calypso's forced companion.

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