A mythical sorceress, or φαρμακεία (pharmakeia), whom Homer calls a fair-locked goddess, a daughter of Helios by the Oceanid Perse, and a sister of Aeëtes.1 She lived in the island of Aeaea; and when Odysseus on his wanderings came to her island, Circe, after having changed several of his companions into pigs, became so much attached to the unfortunate hero, that he was induced to remain a whole year with her. At length, when he wished to leave her, she prevailed upon him to descend into the lower world to consult the seer Tiresias. After his return from thence, she explained to him the dangers which he would yet have to encounter, and then dismissed him.2

Her descent is differently described by the poets, for some call her a daughter of Hyperion and Aerope,3 and others a daughter of Aeëtes and Hecate.4 According to Hesiod5 she became by Odysseus the mother of Agrius.

The Latin poets too make great use of the story of Circe, the sorceress, who metamorphosed Scylla and Picus, king of the Ausonians.6


Circe is portrayed on several Greek vases, such as a Boeotian skyphos (ca. 400 BCE; London) on which she hands a magic potion to Odysseus. On one of the Odyssey-landscapes (45-25 BCE; Rome) Odysseus demands of Circe that she transform his men back to their original shape. More recent is the painting by Dossi.



  1. Odyssey x, 135.
  2. Odyssey x-xii.; comp. Hyginus. Fabulae, 125.
  3. Orphic. Argonautica, 1215.
  4. Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, iii, 200.
  5. Theogony, 1011.
  6. Ovid. Metamorphoses xiv, 9 ff.


  • Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.