According to our ancient sources, Circe was descended from divine parents. The Greek poet Hesiod claims that her parents were Helios, the god of the Sun, and the Oceanid Perseis. This means that Circe was the sister not only to King Aeetes, but also another legendary figure - Pasiphae.
In the Odyssey, Homer calls Circe a goddess. Perhaps the suggestion that she is an immortal explains her ability to cast the bewitching spells that have the power to change men into animals. And like many goddesses, the beautiful Circe had charms that few men could resist. The Odyssey includes a delightful scene in which the crew of Odysseus first encounter the goddess on her island:
"In the entrance way they stayed
to listen there: inside her quiet house
they heard the goddess Circe.
Low she sang
in her beguiling voice, while on her loom
she wove ambrosial fabric sheer and bright,
by that craft known to the goddesses of heaven."
The lovely female who sings while she weaves seems quite innocent to the companions of Odysseus. However, this innocence is an illusion. For as soon as Circe lures the men into her lair, she transforms them into swine. It is the hero Odysseus who comes to the rescue. With the assistance of the god Hermes (and the herb called moly), Odysseus resists Circe's enchantments - well, almost. In the end, Odysseus spends a year with the goddess, and his time with Circe is undoubtedly one of the hero's more pleasurable encounters.
Circe in Art
Gallery | for pictures and information about Circe in art, visit the Mythography gallery!
Do you have a specific question about Greek mythology? Then try the Mythography forum!
We recommend Robert Fitzgerald's translation of this compelling epic.
Who's Who in Classical Mythology
This book is a great source for information about Greek and Roman mythology! Organized alphabetically, this who's who features information about over 1200 of the most intriguing characters from Classical myth and legend.