Homer's Ithaca

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Map of Homeric Greece, Ithaca can be seen to the west

Ithaca (/ˈɪθəkə/; Greek: Ιθάκη, Ithakē [iˈθaci]) was, in Greek history, the island home of the hero Odysseus (Odyssey). The specific location of the island, as it was described in Homer's Odyssey, is a matter for debate. There have been various theories about its location, although modern Ithaca (Ithaki) is generally accepted to be Homer's island by most scholars.

The central character of the ancient allegory, Odyssey, Odysseus, was believed to be a fictional character. Yet many claim that the Homeric hero was the King of Ithaki, and the detailed geographic descriptions, and places, in the epic have renewed faith and integrity in the authenticity of the history, and that Homer's characters did exist at the locations detailed.

By visiting the various locations detailed in the works of Homer, Heinrich Schliemann discovered Odysseus's palace on the island of Ithaki, which he excavated twice. Many other locations around the Mediterranean are detailed in the Odyssey and many have been verified as places associated with the characters, including the palace and treasury of Agamemnon at Mycenae and the Citadel of Priam at Troy near the western Turkish town of Hissarlik and also the palace of Nestor at Pylos to list just three.

These discoveries have been the subject of much scholarly research, archaeological work, and controversy.

Following Schliemann's discovery of Troy, the myths of ancient Hellenic Greece became historical facts, and the characters were revealed as true identities.[1]

Theories on the location of "Homer's 'Ithaca'" were formulated as early as the 2nd century BC, and continue. Each approach to identifying a location has been different, varying in degrees of scientific procedure, empirical investigation, informed hypothesis, wishful thinking, fervent belief, and sheer fantasy. Each investigator and each investigation merits interest, as an indicator both of the temper of the times in which a particular theory was developed, and of the perennial interest in the Odyssey of Homer, and the facts of his life.

Leading precursors[edit]

Theorists, and excavations elsewhere, on the location of "Homer's 'Ithaca'"

  • Eratosthenes (276 BC – 194 BC).
  • Demetrius of Scepsis (near Troy) -- writing mid-2nd century BC (near Troy) -- source used by Strabo (below).
    • Pfeiffer, R. (1968). History of Classical Scholarship: From the Beginnings to the End of the Hellenistic Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 249–51. See Bittlestone/Diggle/Underhill (below): James Diggle at p. 508.
  • Apollodorus of Athens (born c. 180 BC) -- writing mid-2nd century BC—source used by Strabo (below), and Apollodorus also relied upon Demetrius of Scepsis (above).
    • Jacoby, Felix (1929). Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker II B. Berlin: Weidmann. 244, F 154-207.
    • Pfeiffer, Rudolf (1968). History of Classical Scholarship: From the Beginnings to the End of the Hellenistic Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 249–51. See Bittlestone/Diggle/Underhill (below): James Diggle at p. 508.
  • Strabo (63/4 BC – c. 24 AD).
    • Jones, P.V. (1917–1932). Strabo : Geography (Loeb Classical Library ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • William Gell—writing in 1807—he believed Homer's "Ithaca" was on the Aetos isthmus of Ithaki island, facing east, in or near the bay of Vathy.
    • The Geography and Antiquities of Ithaca. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme. 1807.
  • William M. Leake—writing in 1835—he thought "Ithaca" was on the northwestern coast of Ithaki island, near Polis Bay.
    • Travels in the Morea with a Map and Plans. London: John Murray. 1830.
    • Travels in Northern Greece. London: John Murray. 1835.
  • Théophile Cailleux—writing in 1878—located "Ithaca" in south-west Spain, in the delta of the Guadalete, near Cádiz.
    • "Pays atlantiques décrits par Homère, Ibérie, Gaule, Bretagne, Archipels, Amériques, Théorie nouvelle. (trsl: Atlantic lands described by Homer: the Iberian peninsula, Gaul, Britain, the Atlantic islands, the Americas. A new theory)". Paris: Maisonneuve et cie; OCLC: 23413881. 1878.
  • Samuel Butler developed a controversial theory that the Odyssey came from the pen of a young Sicilian woman, who presents herself in the poem as Nausicaa, and that the scenes of the poem reflected the coast of Sicily, especially the territory of Trapani and its nearby islands. He described the "evidence" for this theory in his The Authoress of the Odyssey (1897) and in the introduction and footnotes to his prose translation of the Odyssey (1900). Robert Graves elaborated on this hypothesis in his novel Homer's Daughter.
  • Wilhelm Dörpfeld (December 26, 1853 – April 25, 1940) -- having performed extensive excavations at various locations of Ithaca and Lefkada, he proposed that the palace of Odysseus was located west of Nidri at the south coast of Lefkada.
    • Dörpfeld, Wilhelm (1965). Alt-Ithaka, ein Beitrag zur Homer-Frage. Studien und Ausgrabungen aus der insel Leukas-Ithaka. Unter Mitarbeit von Peter Goessler [u.a.] (Neudruck der Ausg. 1927. ed.). Osnabrück: Zeller.
  • G. Volterras—writing in 1903—he believed Paliki once may have had "Strabo's channel" at the isthmus which now separates Paliki and Kefalonia (see Bittlestone/Diggle/Underhill, below).
    • Kritiki Meleti peri Omerikis Ithakis (A Critical Study of Homeric Ithaca). Athens: [self?]. 1903.
  • A.E.H. Goekoop—writing in 1908—he believed "Ithaca" was in southwestern Kefalonia island, on the St. George hilltop near Mazarakata village, southeast of the city of Argostoli, with its harbor at Minies near the modern airport.
    • Ithaque La Grande. Athens: Beck & Barth. 1908.
  • Lord Rennell of Rodd—writing in 1927—believed "Ithaca" was on Ithaki island.
    • Rennell, J.R. (1927). Homer's Ithaca : A Vindication of Tradition. London: Arnold.
  • W.A. Heurtley and Sylvia Benton—believed "Ithaca" was on Ithaki island, and their excavations at the Polis Bay harbor turned up 8th- to 9th-century BC artifacts.
  • C.H. Goekoop—writing in 1990, grandson of A.E.H. Goekoop—he thought "Ithaca" was on Kefalonia, but in the northern Erissos region, near the town of Fiscardo.
    • Op zoek naar Ithaka. Weesp: Heureka. 1990.
    • Where on Earth is Ithaca? A Quest for the Homeland of Odysseus. Delft: Eburon. 2010. ISBN 978-90-5972-344-3.
  • E.S. Tsimaratos—published posthumously in 1998—he thought "Ithaca" was in central Kefalonia, but he agreed with Strabo about Paliki once having been cut off from Kefalonia.
    • Poia I Omeriki Ithaki? (Which is Homeric Ithaca?). Athens: Etaireias Meletes Ellenikes Historias. 1998.
  • J.V. Luce -- (1920-2011) -- writing in 1998—he believed "Ithaca" was on Ithaki island.
    • Luce, John Victor (1998). Celebrating Homer's landscapes : Troy and Ithaca revisited. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07411-5.
  • Nicolas G. Livadas (Author), Constantine Bisticas (Editor, Translator)
    • Odysseus' Ithaca: The Riddle Solved (Paperback)
  • Henriette Putman Cramer, Gerasiomos Metaxas - the authors believe that the centre of Homeric Ithaca was in south-east Kefalonia where now the village of Poros in the Eleios-Pronnoi municipality is situated.
    • Omiriki Ithaki – ena atavtisto kentro sta nesia ton Kefallenon-. Kaktos editions, Athens, 2000. ISBN 960-382-408-9.
  • Gilles le Noan—writing in 1989-2004—he suggested Paliki as the location of "Ithaca", but discounted the geology supporting "Strabo's channel".
    • A la recherche d'Ithaque, la ferme d'Eumée, le palais d'Ulysse. Quincy-sous-Senart, France: Editions Tremen. 2005.
    • The Ithaca of the sunset. Quincy-sous-Senart, France: Editions Tremen. 2005.
    • Η καλόδυση Ιθάκη. Quincy-sous-Senart, France: Editions Tremen. 2005.
  • Christos Tzakos—writing 1999 - 2002—he believed "Ithaca" was on Ithaki island.
    • "Concerning Homeric Ithaki: Asteris". Odusseia (95): –. 1999.
    • "kefa-ll-ines Kefa-ll-inia Kefa-ll-onia". Odusseia (70–2): –. 2000.
    • Ekthesi Synoptiki peri Omerikis Ithakis (A Brief Essay on Homeric Ithaca) (Angelos Eleutheros ed.). Athens. 2002.
  • Robert Bittlestone, James Diggle & John Underhill—first working in 2003—they believe Paliki is the location of "Ithaca", also believe in "Strabo's Channel" separating it from Kefalonia, see Odysseus Unbound.
    • Robert Bittlestone ; with James Diggle and John Underhill. (2005). Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer's Ithaca. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-85357-5. Odysseus Unbound website
  • Felice Vinci - suggests that many Homeric places can be identified in the geographic landscape of the Baltic.
  • Whitcroft, Jerome (2018). Odyssey of Homer. Zeus Press. ISBN 9-781-79072-563-2. [2]

See also[edit]


  • Bittlestone, Diggle & Underhill (2005), cited above, Chapter 9 generally.
  • Several of the floruit dates above are taken from Wikipedia articles about the writers.
  1. ^ Bittlestone, Diggle & Underhill (2005), cited above, page 39, note 2.
  1. ^ *Whitcroft, Jerome (2018). Odyssey of Homer. Zeus Press. ISBN 9-781-79072-563-2. [1] Page: 18

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