In The Odyssey, how did Circe seduce Odysseus?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Food is the key to any man's heart.

In The Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew have been victims of cannibalism by both Polyphemus (the Cyclops) in Book IX and the Laestrygonians at the beginning of Book X.  Now, in the second half of Book X, Odysseus and his men want to rest, to be treated as guests by proper hosts, and--quite frankly--to eat fine food and drink instead of being eaten themselves.  As such, Circe seduces Odysseus and his men to stay an entire year on her island not only because she is a beautiful goddess, but because she is a magnificent hostess.

Compared to the cannibalism of the Cyclops's cave, just look at this spread!

"Meanwhile her [Circe's] four servants, who are her housemaids, set about their work. They are the children of the groves and fountains, and of the holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them spread a fair purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet underneath it. Another brought tables of silver up to the seats, and set them with baskets of gold. A third mixed some sweet wine with water in a silver bowl and put golden cups upon the tables, while the fourth she brought in water and set it to boil in a large cauldron over a good fire which she had lighted. When the water in the cauldron was boiling, she poured cold into it till it was just as I liked it, and then she set me in a bath and began washing me from the cauldron about the head and shoulders, to take the tire and stiffness out of my limbs. As soon as she had done washing me and anointing me with oil, she arrayed me in a good cloak and shirt and led me to a richly decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also under my feet. A maid servant then brought me water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a silver basin for me to wash my hands, and she drew a clean table beside me; an upper servant brought me bread and offered me many things of what there was in the house, and then Circe bade me eat, but I would not, and sat without heeding what was before me, still moody and suspicious.

The guest-host relationship was sacred to the ancient Greeks. They prided themselves on welcoming, feeding, clothing, and entertaining strangers, even before they asked their names.  Granted, Circe turned his men into pigs, but she more than makes up for her rudeness.  So, not only does Odysseus take pride in being the boy-toy of a beautiful goddess, but he relishes having his men spoiled by her extravagance.  Who wouldn't stay a year?  Perhaps more?

There's not an ounce of regret in Odysseus' narration for staying a full year:

We stayed with Circe for a whole twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat and wine. But when the year had passed in the waning of moons and the long days had come round, my men called me apart and said, 'Sir, it is time you began to think about going home, if so be you are to be spared to see your house and native country at all.'

It is ironic, though, that Odysseus' men are the ones who urge their leader to think again of home and wife.  But, they do it with respect, having had their fill of Circe's bounty.  Renewed, the men sail again for Ithaca.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, Odysseus first encounters Circe with the plan to rescue his men from her. Armed against her spells because of a special herb he received from the messenger god Hermes, Odysseus and Circe began fighting which caused her to plead for Odysseus' mercy when he was about to overtake her. From this position of weakness, she convinces Odysseus to follow her to bed. She plays the female. She makes him know he could hurt her. It is almost as if Odysseus feels sorry for her that he goes with her. But he also senses an advantage. He obviously knows what she wants. After he performs for her, he refuses to eat unless she frees his men from their state of being pigs. She complies. This illustrates Odysseus' cunning and willingness to use every feature of his being to retrieve his men.