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This book of The Odyssey does not show the hero Odysseus in his best light. In fact, the only reason he even survives the episode at all is because the god Hermes gives him a potion to counteract Circe’s spell and tells him how to handle her. Then, Odysseus lingers with Circe, being unfaithful to his wife, instead of hurrying back to his journey. As is usually the case, it is Odysseus’ cunning that helps him here.
About the best thing that can be said of Odysseus in this book is that he is able to manipulate Circe’s sexual desire for him. When Circe invites him to her bed, Odysseus insists that she release his men from her spell. She agrees to do so. This shows that Odysseus is true to his men and smart enough to figure out a way to get Circe to do what he wants.
Odysseus himself admits that he and his men are not always particularly heroic. When Circe suggests that they remain with her and enjoy her comforts, he says:
As we were men we could not help consenting.
This line sounds like the ancient version of “boys will be boys.”
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