Legends and mythology have been an integral part of the history of Greece and none more so than the iconic Homer’s Odyssey. Despite being written in 8th century BC it has left its mark on history and art and is still influencing culture today. Homer’s Odyssey tells the tale of Odysseus and his epic journey home from Troy to Ithaca, within the story one of the most outstanding myths is that of the intriguing nymph Calypso. Her importance to classical history has been immortalised in various works of art. Most famously in Calypso receiving Telemachus and Mentor in the Grotto by William Hamilton. Calypso was the daughter of the Titan, Atlas, who was imprisoned on the island of Ogygia due to supporting her father in the battle between Titans and Olympians.
In the Odyssey, Calypso holds the Greek hero Odysseus captive on her island for seven years in order to make him her immortal husband although the length of time he is held captive is often disputed amongst classical Greek writers. Although it is universally accepted that she ensnared Odysseus with her enchanting singing when weaving her loom with a golden shuttle. For a while Odysseus was content on Calypso’s island but as time passed his desire to return to his wife Penelope won through. Eventually, Zeus forced Calypso to free Odysseus, at Athena’s request, stating it wasn’t Odysseus’ destiny to live with Calypso forever. Angrily, Calypso acquiesces but not before her comments on how the gods hate goddesses having affairs with mortal men. Although Homer doesn’t state they had children, other accounts tell of how Calypso bore Odysseus a son, Latinus or two children, Nausithous and Nausinous.
Myths surround the island of Gozo and there has been much debate whether Gozo is the legendary island of Ogygia, some have even considered the possibility that it could be the mythical sunken city of Atlantis. Many scholars are reluctant to actually place the island geographically as they believe Homer’s story to be one of fictional mythological intent. However, if you find yourself in beautiful Gozo you can take a trip to the legendary cave of Calypso, located just off of the sandy beach at Ramala Bay. Not only can you wander in the footsteps of Odysseus but it is one of the most stunning views of the island. It is clear from the sights alone how this picturesque location could be the inspiration for the mythical home of the seductress Calypso.
It was believed that Calypso’s cave in Gozo contained a complex labyrinth that extended all the way down to the sea level in some areas but nowadays stone boulders block the way after just a few metres. The view is clearly the best aspect of the cave’s location and you can see the valley and the remains of the Marsailforn Tower, which was built by the Knights of Malta in 1720 in order to guard the northern approach to Gozo. If you are taking a trip there it is a good idea to check and see if the cave is open to the public before going, although the views alone are certainly worth the trip, if the cave is open it is free of charge and definitely should be investigated. Be warned though as there is no lighting, so it is worth carrying a portable torch.
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