In Greek mythology, Circe was a goddess living on the island of Aeaea. It was identified by classical writers with mount Circeo on Cape Circaeum on the western coast of Italy - circa 100 km south of Rome - which may have looked like an island due to the marshes and sea surrounding its base but it is, in fact, a small peninsula. It was already a peninsula in the days of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, according to his work. However, it may have been still an island in the days of Circe, with a long "lido" or sandy peninsula that gradually became attached to the mainland, by a common geological development. The cave of Circe the sorceress still exists here, it is called "Grotta della Maga Circe." She suggested to Odysseus two alternative routes to return to Ithaca: either toward the "Wandering Rocks" (the pumiceous Lipari Islands; in the 13th-century Chinese travel notes of Chou Ju-kua they are called similarly), where King Aeolus reigned. Or, to pass between the dangerous Scylla and Charybdis, the Strait of Messina.
Her father was Helios, the Sun god, and her mother was Perse, an Oceanid; she was sister of Aeetes, the king of Colchis and Pasiphae and Aga. She transformed her enemies, or those who offended her, into animals through the use of magical potions. She turned Picus into a woodpecker for refusing her love, and Scylla into a monstrous creature with six dogs' heads when Glaucus (another object of Circe's affection) declared his undying love for her. She was renowned for her knowledge of drugs and herbs. She had one daughter: Aega.
In Homer's Odyssey, her home is described as a stone mansion standing in the middle of a clearing in a dense wood. Around the house prowled lionss and wolves, the drugged victims of her magic; they were not dangerous, and fawned on all newcomers. Circe worked at a huge loom. She invited Odysseus' crew to a feast, the food laced with one of her magical potions, and she turned them all into pigs with a wand after they gorged themselves on it. Only Eurylochus, suspecting treachery from the outset, escaped to warn Odysseus and the others who had stayed behind at the ships. Odysseus set out to rescue his men, but was intercepted and told by Hermes to procure some of the herb moly to protect him from the same fate. When her magic failed he was able to force her to return his men to human form. She later fell in love with Odysseus and assisted him in his quest to reach his home after he and his crew spent a year with her on her island.
The Romans believe that Circe bore Odysseus four sons; Telegonus, Nausinous, Argius, and Latinus (the latter involved in the founding of Rome). She sent Telegonus to find Odysseus, who had long since returned to his home on Ithaca, but on arrival Telegonus accidentally killed his father. He brought the body back to Aeaea and took Odysseus' widow Penelope and son Telemachus with him. Circe made them immortal and married Telemachus, while Telegonus made Penelope his wife.
Circe is also a chess variant; see Circe chess.