Friday, 22 September 2023

Mljet – a place where nymph Calypso fell in love with Odysseus

Written by  Mar 30, 2020

Mljet is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, we all know that, but now's the perfect time to scratch beneath the surface of the place where many of us love to spend our vacation! This island has numerous myths and stories connected to it, but one of the favorites is surely the one connected with Homer's Odyssey.

It's believed that Mljet is Ogygia, an island mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, Book V, as the home of the nymph Calypso, the daughter of the Titan Atlas. In Homer's Odyssey, Calypso detained Odysseus on Ogygia for seven years and kept him from returning to his home of Ithaca, wanting to marry him. She assured Odysseus that marrying her would make him eternally young and immortal.

The epic description of the beauties of the climate, the gentle bays, the crystal caves and the beaches of this mythical island of Ogygia relate to the unique beauties of Mljet.

The Odyssey describes Ogygia as follows:

...and he (Hermes) found her within. A great fire was burning in the hearth, and from afar over the isle there was a fragrance of cleft cedar and juniper as they burned. But she within was singing with a sweet voice as she went to and fro before the loom, weaving with a golden shuttle. Round about the cave grew a luxuriant wood, alder and poplar and sweet-smelling cypress, wherein birds long of wing were wont to nest, owls and falcons and sea-crows with chattering tongues, who ply their business on the sea. And right there about the hollow cave ran trailing a garden vine, in pride of its prime, richly laden with clusters. And fountains four in a row were flowing with bright water hard by one another, turned one this way, one that. And round about soft meadows of violets and parsley were blooming...

According to the Mljet Tourist Board, Aristid Vucetic from Dubrovnik, claimed that Mljet was Calypso's island Ogygia. Because Mljet is the only one among the southernmost Dalmatian islands that has a cave, which by its natural characteristics corresponds to the place where nymph Calypso lives. In his book on Odysseus's wanderings along our coast, Vucetic seeks to prove that Mljet is a marvelous island: ''Many places on Mljet and many markings bear the name of baba (the old lady), and the largest place in the middle of Mljet is called Babino Polje (the old lady's field) ... The present names of Baba could have originated because the nymph Calypso reached a deep old age on the island and the people of Mljet called her property – Babino (old lady's). To this day, there is a legend among the inhabitants of Mljet that in ancient times the owner of the whole island was a old lady who lived as a queen, and that is the famous Calypso ... ".

One of the oldest legends says that Odysseus came to the island of Mljet through the rock called Ogiran. During high tide or during strong southern winds rock is completely covered by the sea and is a great danger to the sailors. According to the legend, because of that Odysseus was shipwrecked and swam to the cave where he took shelter. That's why that cave now carries the name Odysseus cave.

However, this wasn't a happy love story. Athena complained about Calypso's actions to Zeus, who sent the messenger Hermes to Ogygia to order Calypso to release Odysseus. Hermes is Odysseus's great grandfather on his mother's side, through Autolycos. Calypso finally, though reluctantly, instructed Odysseus to build a small raft, gave him food and wine, and let him depart the island.

Mljet might be Ogygia, but even if it isn't, it is certanily one of the most beautiful islands for romance, vacation or just a walk. It's a place full of stories, amazing nature and the most important thing: peace.

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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