'10.349 Meanwhile, four slaves, her house girls, were at work around the palace. They were nymphs, the daughters of fountains and of groves and holy rivers'
Nymphs were semi-divine, usually immortal, female beings associated with water or woods. Are there any other instances in Greek Mythology of what we would call supernatural beings like nymphs becoming slaves? How would they become so? Or is Professor Wilson's translation misleading here?
I ask as one of the ways Emily Wilson set out to be different from other translators of the Odyssey was that where Homer's original Greek text uses words implying slavery she made this clear, where previous translators often softened this to words less shocking to a modern audience like 'servant', 'attendant' or 'maid'.
However, I wonder if she sometimes overdoes this. Other translations I have checked merely refer to Circe having nymphs serving her (rather as the goddess Artemis has nymph attendants), and does not say they are slaves.
I raised this on another internet forum and the one opinion I received was that semi-divine creatures like nymphs could not be 'owned' as property as a slave, and the translation must be making a false assumption, automatically equating 'service' with slavery.
I also have doubts about 2 other references to slaves earlier in Book 10, when Odysseus sends a party of three men to make contact with the inhabitants, first on returning unexpectedly to Aeolus' island and again on landing on the island of the Laestragonians.
10.59 '...I took one slave with me And one crew member, back to see Aeolus'
10.100 'I picked two men, and one slave as the third, And sent them to find out what people lived And ate bread in this land'
If these translations are correct they are the only explicit references to Odysseus having slaves on board his ships. However, again, no other translation I have checked refers to slaves at these points, most saying 'herald' or 'messenger'. I assume this is the Greek word 'kerux', often translated, as the nearest equivalent 'herald', meaning men trusted to convey important messages on behalf of important people in this illiterate culture, where it was not possible just to send a letter or note.
As far as I know, 'heralds / kerykes' were moderately important people in that society and not normally slaves. Also, while the loyalty and commitment of slaves varies considerably in the Odyssey, it is at least surprising that a slave, who might be more likely than a free man to be tempted to escape, desert or switch sides, would be trusted as part of such a small group on such a delicate mission.
So, are these instances all examples of Prof. Wilson getting carried away and being too ready to assume relationships of subordination in Homer's epics are actually slavery?
Having said all that I find Emily Wilson's Odyssey translation overall the best there is in English, but that does not mean that I agree with her on everything.