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Mythology & Heroic Sagas of Culture & Myth => Greek Mythology => Topic started by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 05:39:01 pm

Title: Odysseus/Ulysses
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 05:39:01 pm

                                       Date set for Odysseus' return from Trojan War

AP Science Writer
June 23, 2008
WASHINGTON - Using clues from star and sun positions mentioned by the ancient Greek poet Homer, scholars think they have determined the date when King Odysseus returned from the Trojan War and slaughtered a group of suitors who had been pressing his wife to marry one of them.
It was on April 16, 1178 B.C. that the great warrior struck with arrows, swords and spears, killing those who sought to replace him, a pair of researchers say in Monday's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Experts have long debated whether the books of Homer reflect the actual history of the Trojan War and its aftermath.

Marcelo O. Magnasco of Rockefeller University in New York and Constantino Baikouzis of the Astronomical Observatory in La Plata, Argentina, acknowledge they had to make some assumptions to determine the date Odysseus returned to his kingdom of Ithaca.

But interpreting clues in Homer's "Odyssey" as references to the positions of stars and a total eclipse of the sun allowed them to determine when a particular set of conditions would have occurred.

"What we'd like to achieve is to get the reader to pick up the "Odyssey," and read it again, and ponder," said Magnasco. "And to realize that our understanding of these texts is quite imperfect, and even when entire libraries have been written about Homeric studies, there is still room for further investigation."

Their study potentially adds support to the accuracy of Homer's writing.

"Under the assumption that our work turns out to be correct, it adds to the evidence that he knew what he was talking about," Magnasco said. "It still does not prove the historicity of the return of Odysseus," he said. "It only proves that Homer knew about certain astronomical phenomena that happened much before his time."

Homer reports that on the day of the slaughter the sun is blotted from the sky, possibly a reference to an eclipse. In addition, he mentions more than once that it is the time of a new moon, which is necessary for a total eclipse, the researchers say.

Other clues include:

_Six days before the slaughter, Venus is visible and high in the sky.

_Twenty-nine days before, two constellations — the Pleiades and Bootes — are simultaneously visible at sunset.

_And 33 days before, Mercury is high at dawn and near the western end of its trajectory. This is the researchers' interpretation, anyway. Homer wrote that Hermes, the Greek name for Mercury, traveled far west to deliver a message.

"Of course we believe it's amply justified, otherwise we would not commit it to print. However we do recognize there's less ammunition to defend this interpretation than the others," Magnasco said.

"Even though the other astronomical references are much clearer, our interpretation of them as allusions to astronomical phenomena is an assumption," he added in an interview via e-mail.

For example, Magnasco said, Homer writes that as Odysseus spread his sails out of Ogygia, "sleep did not weigh on his eyelids as he watched the Pleiades, and late-setting Bootes, and the Bear."

"We assume he means that as Odysseus set sail shortly after sunset, at nautical twilight the Pleiades and Bootes were simultaneously visible, and that Bootes would be the later-setting of the two," Magnasco explained. "It is a good assumption because every member of his audience would know what was being discussed, as the Pleiades and Bootes were important to them to know the passage of the seasons and would be very familiar with which times of the year they were visible. Remember the only calendar they had was the sky."

Since the occurrence of an eclipse and the various star positions repeat over different periods of time, Magnasco and Baikouzis set out to calculate when they would all occur in the order mentioned in the "Odyssey."

And their result has Odysseus exacting his revenge on April 16, 1178 B.C.

Title: Re: DATE SET For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 05:45:44 pm

In The Odyssey, written by Homer in 800 BC, the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin) is away from home for 20 years fighting the Trojan War and trying to get home against the opposition of the god Poseidon. When he finally returns home to Ithaca, he disguises himself as a beggar to discover what was going on in his palace during his absence. The only one to recognize him was his hound Argus, who is described in terms that marks him clearly as a sighthound.

The myth mentions that the very old dog died just after recognizing his master having fulfilled his destiny of faith.

Argus and Odysseus
(Homer, The Odyssey Book XVII)

As they were thus talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised
his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argus, whom Odysseus had
bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any work out of
him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when
they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his
master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow
dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come
and draw it away to manure the great close; and he was full of
fleas. As soon as he saw Odysseus standing there, he dropped his ears
and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When
Odysseus saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear
from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:

"Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap:
his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he
only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept
merely for show?"

"This hound," answered Eumaeus, "belonged to him who has died in a
far country. If he were what he was when Odysseus left for Troy, he
would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in
the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its
tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead
and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their
work when their master's hand is no longer over them, for Jove takes
half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him."
As he spoke he went inside the buildings to the cloister where the
suitors were, but Argus died as soon as he had recognized his master.

Title: Re: DATE SET For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 05:50:45 pm

                                                    P E N E L O P E ' S   W E B


[157] OF all the heroes that fought against Troy, the wisest and shrewdest was Ulysses, the young king of Ithaca. Yet he went not willingly to the war. It would have pleased him better to remain at home with his fair wife, Penelope, and his baby boy, Telemachus. He was far happier pruning his grapevines and plowing among his orchard trees than he could ever be in the turmoil of battle, wielding the sword or thrusting the spear. But the princes of Greece demanded that he should help them, and rather than be deemed a coward he consented.

"Go, Ulysses," said Penelope, "I will keep your home and kingdom safe until you return."

"Do your duty, Ulysses," said his old father, Laertes. "Go, and may wise Athene speed your coming back."


And so, bidding farewell to Ithaca and all that he held dear, he sailed away. Forgetting the quiet delights of home, he thenceforth gave all his thoughts to war.

[158] Ten years passed before the weary siege of Troy was ended. When at length the city was laid in ashes, the Greeks embarked in their ships, and each chieftain with his followers sought, in his own way, to return to his native land. Fondly then did the thoughts of Ulysses turn to his loved wife and his child, now a sturdy lad with winning ways; and he longed to see again the rugged hills and pleasant shores of Ithaca.

"Spread the sails, my men, and row hard," he said to his fellows ; "for Penelope waits at home for my return, and keeps my kingdom for me."

But scarcely were his little ships well out to sea ere fearful storms arose. The vessels were tossed hither and thither at the mercy of the winds and waves. They were driven far, far out of their course. The sailors lost their reckoning, and not one could tell which way to steer for Ithaca. By strange, wild shores they sailed, past lands where barbarous people dwelt; and every puff of wind and every stroke of oars drove them farther and farther away from the port which they sought.

Title: Re: DATE SET For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 05:52:15 pm


Now, one by one, the other heroes reached their homes, and the news of their coming was carried [159] to every part of Greece. But of Ulysses and his companions there came no word whether they were living or dead. Daily did Penelope and young Telemachus and feeble old Laertes stand by the shore and gaze with aching eyes far over the waves. No sign of sail or of glinting oars could they discern. Months passed by and then years, and still no word.

"His ships are wrecked, and he lies at the bottom of the sea," sighed old Laertes; and after that he shut himself up in his narrow room and went no more to the shore.

"Surely Ulysses has perished," said the men and women of Ithaca; "else some news would come to us of his whereabouts."

But Penelope still hoped and hoped and hoped. "He is not dead," she said; "and until he comes I will hold this fair kingdom for him."

Every day his seat was placed for him at the table; his house coat was hung by his chair; his chamber was aired and dusted; his great bow that hung in the hall was polished and kept supple.

Ten years passed thus with constant watching. Telemachus had become a young man, graceful and tall and gentle-mannered; and his mother's queenly beauty had not faded with the lapse of time, but grace and dignity were added to her girlish loveliness. Throughout all Greece fair [160] Penelope's fame was sounded. Men talked of nothing but the charms of her face and form, the sweetness of her manners, and the nobleness of her mind.

"But how foolish of her," said they, "to be forever looking for Ulysses. Everybody knows that he is dead. She ought to marry some one of the young chieftains of Greece and share with him the kingdom of Ithaca; for no woman in the world is more richly endowed than she."

The chieftains and princes who were looking for wives took the hint at once. One after another they sailed to Ithaca, hoping to win the love of Penelope and also the riches which were said to be hers. The first to arrive was Antinous, a young spendthrift, haughty, overbearing, and insolent. After him came Agelaus, a foppish fellow, proud of his slender figure and fine clothes and long, curling hair. The third was a rich old merchant, Leocritus, fat and pompous, and glorying in his wealth. Scarcely were these landed safely in Ithaca before many others arrived, whose names have been forgotten, as they deserved to be.

Straight to the palace they went, with their servants and belongings, not waiting for an invitation. For they knew that they would be treated as honored guests, whether they were welcome or not.

[161] "Penelope," they said, "it is not the custom in our country for a widow to live long unwedded. We have come as suitors for your hand, and you dare not turn us all away. Choose, now, the man among us who pleases you best, and the rest will forthwith depart." And then each one began to tell of his own good qualities, of his noble family, his powerful friends, his wealth, and his courage.

But Penelope answered sadly, "Princes and heroes, this cannot be; for I am quite sure that Ulysses still lives, and I must hold his kingdom for him till he returns."

"Return, he never will," answered the suitors. "So make your choice, as becomes your duty."

"Give me yet a week, a month, to wait for him," she pleaded. "In my loom I have a half-finished web of soft linen. I am weaving it for the shroud of our father, Laertes, who is very old and cannot live much longer. If Ulysses fails to return by the time this web is finished, then I will choose, although unwillingly."

"Will you work upon this web every day?" asked Antinous.

"Every day," she answered, "I will sit at my loom and weave the web. It would be a sin, indeed, if Laertes should go to the grave while the shroud is unfinished."

[162] "Let her delay her choice as she desires," said Agelaus. "In the meantime, we will enjoy ourselves."

Forthwith the suitors made themselves at home in the palace. They seized upon the best of everything. They feasted daily in the great dining hall, eating and wasting the provisions that had been stored away with greatest care against the homecoming of Ulysses. They helped themselves to the wine in the cellar and to the fruits and flowers in the garden. They were rude and uproarious in the once quiet and beautiful chambers of the palace. They were insolent and overbearing to the servants and friends of Penelope, and they kept the people of Ithaca in constant terror by reason of their lawless deeds.

Title: Re: DATE SET For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 05:54:58 pm


Every day Penelope sat at her loom and wove. "See how much I have added to the length of the web," she would say when the evening came. But in the night, while the suitors were asleep, she raveled out all the threads she had woven in during the day. Thus, although she was always at the work, the web was never finished. And Telemachus, while his mother toiled, sat moodily in the [163] hall or strolled about the palace, angry and sad, and praying for his father's return.

So long as the wine and provisions held out, the suitors seemed to care but little about the web. "We can wait," they said; "and while she is weaving the shroud, we will spend our days in eating, drinking, and making merry."

At the end of a month, however, the cellar was almost empty. The fatted beeves had been killed and eaten; and it was hard for the kitchen maids to find food for the daily feasts. Then the suitors began to wonder and complain.

"How soon may we expect that web to be finished?" they impatiently asked.

"I am busy every day," answered Penelope, "and yet the web grows very slowly. But see how fine and soft it is, and how delicate the meshes. Such a piece of work cannot be completed in a day."

Agelaus, however, was not satisfied. In the dead of night he crept quietly through the great hall and the long passageways, and peeped into the weaving room. There, by the light of a little lamp, sat Penelope, busily unraveling the work of the day and whispering to herself the name of Ulysses.

The spying suitor stayed but a little while, watching her movements. Then he stole silently back [165] to his own place. "The trick is a good one," he said to himself, "but it will not last long."


Ulysses makes himself known to Telemachus 

The next morning the secret was known to every one of the unwelcome guests. When Penelope came down into the hall, as was her wont, they greeted her with jibes and laughter.

"Fair queen," they said, "you are very cunning; but we have found you out, and all your gentle tricks are known to us. The web that has been so long in weaving must be finished to-day; and you must make your choice this very evening. We shall wait no longer."

"Oh, ask not that which is impossible," pleaded Penelope. "Give me yet a little more time. Give me one more day; and I promise you that the web shall then be finished. To-morrow evening the moon will be at its full. Do but wait until then, and you shall have my answer."

"We will wait until that hour," said Antinous, haughtily; "but not a moment longer."

"No, not a moment longer," echoed all the rest.

Title: Re: DATE SET For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 05:57:43 pm


The next afternoon the unwelcome guests were assembled in the great hall as usual. The feast was set, and they ate and drank and sang and [166] shouted as never before. They made such an uproar that the very timbers of the palace shook, and the shields and swords that hung on the walls rattled against each other.

While the turmoil was at its height, Telemachus came in, followed by Eumæus, his father's oldest and most faithful servant. The guests were so busy enjoying themselves that their entrance was scarcely noticed.


"My young master," said Eumæus, "those shields and swords have hung long in their places, waiting for the return of your father."

"Yes," answered Telemachus, "and they are becoming tarnished with the smoke and dust. Let us take them down and put them in the great chest in the treasure room. They will be much better kept there."

"It is a good thought, master," said the old servant. "I will carry the shields and the bows, and you may bring the swords."

"Very well, Eumæus; and let us do the task at once. But my father's great bow that hangs at the head of the hall must not be touched. My mother polishes and supples it every day, and she would sadly miss it if it were removed."

To lift the weapons from the walls was no hard matter; but there were a number of them, and the [167] prince and old Eumæus had to go and come many times before all were removed.

"What are you doing with those swords and shields?" cried Antinous, as they were going out with the last load.

"We are putting them in the big chest in the treasure room. They were being ruined with hanging here so long in the dust and smoke," answered Telemachus, not deigning to stop.

"The lad is uncommonly cheerful to-day," remarked one of the younger suitors.

"Perhaps he is expecting his father," said old Leocritus, with a sneer.

Title: Re: DATE SET For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 06:00:02 pm


At that moment a strange beggar entered the courtyard. He was dressed in rags; his feet were bare, his head was uncovered, his hands trembled as he slowly walked toward the doorway of the great hall. Some of the servants who saw him laughed at his poverty, and bade him begone; but others pitied his distress and checked their rudeness. "Deal gently with him," they said; "for mayhap he brings news of our master, the lordly Ulysses. He looks as though he had traveled far."

An old greyhound, Argos, was lying on a heap [168] of ashes by the kitchen door. Twenty years before he had been the swiftest and most beautiful of hunting dogs—the pet and companion of Ulysses. But now, grown old and helpless, he was neglected and abused. His teeth gone, his eyes grown dim, his legs shaky and useless, he had no longer any joy of life. When he saw the beggar slowly moving through the yard, he raised his head to look. Then a strange light came suddenly into his old eyes. His tail wagged feebly, and he tried with all his failing strength to rise. He looked up lovingly into the beggar's face, and uttered a long but joyful howl like that which he was wont to utter in his youth when greeting his master.

The beggar stooped and patted his head. "Argos, old friend!" he whispered.


" 'Argos, old friend!' he whispered." 

The dog staggered to his feet, then fell, and was dead with the look of joy still in his eyes.

"What ails the old dog?" asked Antinous; for the sound of his howling was heard even in the feast hall.

"Doubtless he is bewailing the loss of his mistress," said Agelaus; and all the suitors laughed.

A moment afterward the beggar stood in the door.

"Well, well!" cried Leocritus. "What newcomer is this who thus pushes himself among his betters?"

[170] "What do you want here, Old Rags?" said another of the suitors, hurling a crust at his head. "Don't you know that this is the king's palace? Begone!"

"Yes, begone!" shouted old Eumæus, trying to appear harsh.

"I wish to speak with the son of Ulysses," said the beggar, humbly.

"Then speak, for I am he," said Telemachus, frowning and seeming angry. "Make your story short."

"O noble youth," said the beggar, "you are strong and fair, and life is all before you. But I am old and have fallen upon evil days. I pray that you will have pity on my distress." Then in a low voice he added, "Have you removed all the weapons as I bade you? And are they safe in the great chest?"

"All except the great bow which hangs at the head of the hall," whispered Telemachus. "What say you? Shall we strike now?"

"Shall we strike now?" said old Eumæus, drawing near and speaking below his breath.

"What is it the old vagrant is telling the boy?" cried Antinous. "Out with him!"

"Yes, out with him!" cried the younger suitors, crowding forward with threatening gestures.

[171] "Let him stay," said Leocritus. "Let him stay. We shall have great sport with him. Perhaps he, too, has come to claim the hand of fair Penelope. Say, is it not so, my humble friend?"

The beggar made no answer. He grasped his staff with a firmer grip and gazed across the hall where was the lofty stairway that led to the queen's chambers. Down the stairs came Penelope, stately and beautiful, with her servants and maids around her.

"The queen! the queen!" cried the suitors. "She has come to redeem her promise."


"Telemachus, my son," said Penelope, "what poor man is this whom our guests treat so roughly?"

"Mother, he is a strolling beggar whom the waves cast upon our shores last night," answered the prince. "He says that he brings news of my father."

"Then he shall tell me of it," said the queen, "But first he must rest and be fed and receive the attentions due to every guest." With this she caused the beggar to be led to a seat at the farther side of the room, and she bade Telemachus bring him food and drink with his own hands. "Here, Melampo," she said to one of her maids, "bring a bowl and water with which to wash the poor man's feet."

[172] "Not I," said the proud maid; "I touch no beggar's foot."

"Then I will do the queen's bidding," said Dame Eurycleia, the old nurse who had cared for Ulysses when he was a child.


Forthwith she brought a great bowl and warm water and towels; and kneeling on the stones before the stranger she began to bathe and wash his feet. Then suddenly, with a scream, she sprang up, overturning the bowl in her confusion. "O master! the scar!" she muttered hoarsely, but so low that only the stranger heard her. And then, to turn away suspicion, she added in a louder tone, "How awkward I have become in my old age, that I should do so careless a thing! Now I shall have to refill the bowl."

"Dear nurse," whispered the seeming beggar, "you were ever discreet and wise. You know me by the old scar that I have carried on my knee since boyhood. Keep well the secret, for I bide my time and the hour of vengeance is nigh."

"O Ulysses, my master," she answered softly, "I knew that you would come."

This man in rags was indeed Ulysses, the king. Alone in a little boat he had been cast, that very morning, upon the shore of his own island. He had made himself known first to old Eumæus and [173] then to his son Telemachus, but to no other person; and it was by his orders that the weapons had been removed from the great hall.

But the old nurse was prudent and shrewd. With the empty bowl in her hands, she hobbled from the hall to refill it, muttering loud complaints against the troublesome beggar. And Telemachus, bending over his father, whispered hoarsely, "Shall we not strike now?"

Title: Re: DATE SET For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 06:01:30 pm


In the meanwhile the suitors had gathered again around the feast table and were more boisterous than before. "Come, fair Penelope!" they shouted. "Come and grace our banquet with your presence. The beggar can tell his tale to-morrow, for we shall delay no longer. The moon is full, and your promise must be redeemed. Come! choose a husband from among us. For know you this, that Ulysses, even though he lives, shall never again enter this house."

"Yes, choose! choose!" cried the younger men, as the queen passed slowly to the head of the hall.

"Choose me," said Agelaus, the fop; "for not even Apollo can match me for grace of form and figure."

[174] "Choose me," said rich Leocritus, "and the treasures of land and sea shall be yours."

"Choose me," said Antinous, the insolent; "for you dare not arouse my displeasure, and you shall be mine whether you choose or not."

"Chiefs and princes," said Penelope, in trembling tones, "it is not fit that I should decide this question. Let us leave it to the gods. Behold, there hangs the great bow of Ulysses with which he was wont to do most valiant deeds ere cruel fate called him to Troy. Let each of you try his strength in bending it, and I will choose that one who can shoot an arrow from it the most skillfully."

"Well said!" cried all the suitors, "and we agree to it. Hand us the bow, Telemachus, and let us make the trial."

First Antinous took the bow in his hands, and struggled long to bend it. Then, losing patience, he threw it upon the ground and strode away. "None but a giant can string a bow like that," he said.

Then, one by one, the other suitors made trial of their strength; but all in vain.

"Perhaps the old beggar who has just had his feet washed would like to take a part in this contest," said Agelaus, with a sneer.

Then Ulysses in his beggar's rags rose from his [175] seat and went with halting steps to the head of the hall. He lifted the great bow and looked with fond recollection at its polished back and its long, well-shaped arms, stout as bars of iron. "Methinks," he said, "that in my younger days I once saw a bow like this."

He took the slender bowstring of rawhide in his fingers. With seeming awkwardness he fumbled long with the bow, seeming unable to bend it. "Enough! enough, old man!" cried Antinous, striking him in the face with his hand. "Drop the bow, and stay no longer in the company of your betters."

Suddenly a great change came over Ulysses. Without apparent effort he bent the great bow and strung it. Then, rising to his full height, he shook off his beggar's rags and appeared in his own true likeness, clad in armor from head to foot, and every inch a king.

"O Ulysses! Ulysses!" cried Penelope, falling, fainting into the arms of the old nurse.

The suitors were speechless with amazement. Then in the wildest alarm they turned and tried to escape from the hall. But the arrows of Ulysses were swift and sure, and not one missed its mark. "Now I avenge myself upon those who have eaten up my substance and would destroy my home!" cried the hero.


[176] Twang! went the bow; and Antinous, the insolent, fell headlong upon the threshold of the palace. Twang! went the bow; and Agelaus in his silken robes rolled in the dust. Twang! went the bow; and all the wealth of Leocritus availed him nothing. And thus, one after another, the lawless suitors perished—slain by the wrath of the hero whom they had wronged.

Title: Re: DATE SET For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War
Post by: Bianca on June 23, 2008, 06:02:44 pm

* * * * * *

The next day as Ulysses sat in the great hall with his queenly wife and his noble son Telemachus and the joyful men and maidens of his household, he told the story of his long wanderings over the sea. And Penelope, in turn, related how she had faithfully kept the kingdom for him, as she had promised, though beset by insolent and wicked suitors. Then she brought from her chamber a roll of soft, white cloth of wonderful fineness and beauty, and said, "This is the web, Ulysses. I promised that on the day of its completion I would choose a husband; and I choose you."

Title: Re: Date Set For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War (& Homer's Tale)
Post by: Bianca on October 06, 2008, 08:31:08 pm

                                           Archeologists Make Historic Discovery

August 27, 2005
By Thomas Elias - Columnist
The Madera Tribune

POROS, Island of Kefalonia, Greece - The tomb of Odysseus has been found, and the location of his legendary capital city of Ithaca discovered here on this large island across a one-mile channel from the bone-dry islet that modern maps call Ithaca.

This could be the most important archeological discovery of the last 40 years, a find that may eventually equal the German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann’s 19th Century dig at Troy. But the quirky people and politics involved in this achievement have delayed by several years the process of reporting the find to the world.

Yet visitors to Kefalonia, an octopus-shaped island off the west coast of Greece, can see the evidence for themselves at virtually no cost.

The discovery of what is almost certainly his tomb reveals that crafty Odysseus, known as Ulysses in many English renditions of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” was no mere myth, but a real person. Plus, passages in the “Odyssey” itself suggest that modern Ithaca and its main town of Vathi probably were not the city and island of which Homer wrote.

Rather, this small village of Poros on the southeast coast of Kefalonia now occupies part of a site that most likely was the much larger city which served as capital of the multi-island kingdom ruled by Odysseus and his father Laertes.

Archeologists have long and often times looked for evidence of Odysseus on modern Ithaca, but never found anything significant from the Bronze Age. This led many scholars to dismiss Homer’s version of Ionian island geography as strictly a literary creation.

But two pieces of fairly recent evidence suggest archeologists were looking in the wrong place. In 1991, a tomb of the type used to bury ancient Greek royalty was found near the hamlet of Tzannata in the hills outside Poros. It is the largest such tomb in northeastern Greece, with remains of at least 72 persons found in its stone niches.

One find there is particularly telling. In Book XIX of the “Odyssey,” the just-returned and still disguised Odysseus tells his wife (who may or may not realize who she’s talking to; Homer is deliberately ambivalent) that he encountered Odysseus many years earlier on the island of Crete. He describes in detail a gold brooch the king wore on that occasion.

Title: Re: Date Set For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War (& Homer's Tale)
Post by: Bianca on October 06, 2008, 08:33:06 pm

A gold brooch meeting that precise description lies now in the archeological museum at Argostoli, the main city on Kefalonia, 30 miles across the island from Poros. Other gold jewelry and seals carved in precious stones excavated from the tomb offer further proof the grave outside Poros was used to bury kings.

Greek archeologists also found sections of ancient city walls extending for miles through the hills around and well beyond Poros. These surround both the village and a steep adjacent hill which bears evidence it once served as an acropolis, what the Greeks called hilltop forts in most of their major cities. The stones of the walls date to about 1300 B.C., the approximate time of events described in the “Iliad” and “Odyssey.”

Most likely, the royal capital at Ithaca was a much larger city than Poros or any other town on either modern Ithaca or Kefalonia. It would have needed a major source of water. There is none on modern Ithaca, but streams abound near Poros, where there is also a small man-made lake. This area had the necessary water. The island now called Ithaca likely did not.

Several other ancient settlements found elsewhere on Kefalonia also suggest the island was a major population center at the time of Odysseus.

And Homer described two major landmarks near ancient Ithaca: He says it sat beneath an impressive mountain, the “tree-clad Mt. Neriton,” which dominated views from the “wine-dark sea” for many miles around. That description fits Mt. Aenos, just above Poros, the highest peak in the Ionian islands. Homer also describes the legendary Cave of the Nymphs as within a day or two walk from the city of Ithaca. A spacious, dark cave with large stalactites and deep blue water matching Homer’s description is currently a tourist attraction about 15 miles northwest of Poros.

Why hasn’t all this been reported before? Because of local politics and economics. The most active promoter of the Poros area as Homeric Ithaca is the current mayor, who at one time was governor of the prefecture (county or small state) including both Ithaca and Kefalonia.

Gerasimos Metaxas, an author and amateur archeologist who gladly shows visitors remains of the ancient city call and innards of the tomb, was defeated for reelection as governor when he began promoting the Poros-as-Ithaca idea in Greek publications. Why? If Poros is Ithaca, who would ever go to the barren island now using the name? And if tiny Poros ever gets a huge tourist and cruise ship influx, what happens to Argostoli, now the center for those trades on Kefalonia?

As a result, the entire find has never been reported in the non-Greek press. And so far, major world media show little or no interest in the tale. But for lovers of Homer’s sagas, there’s now no place more appealing than Kefalonia.

Title: Re: Date Set For Odysseus' Return From Trojan War (& Homer's Tale)
Post by: Bianca on October 06, 2008, 09:02:49 pm


                THE ISLE OF KEFALONIA

                                 Homer's Ithaca Possibly Found Thanks To New Geologic Research

by Staff Writers
Alexandria VA (SPX)
Jan 12, 2007

Results of geologic tests released on January 9, 2007, by British businessman Robert Bittlestone, Cambridge
classicist James Diggle, and University of Edinburgh geologist John Underhill suggest further evidence to support
the hypothesis that Homer's Ithaca can be found on western Kefalonia as reported in the January 2007 issue of Geotimes magazine, published by the American Geological Institute.

This hypothesis, fully explained in Geotimes, suggests that the western peninsula of the modern-day Greek island Kefalonia, called Paliki, was a separate island 3,000 years ago. Landslides and rockfalls from earthquakes filled in
the valley between Kefalonia and Paliki, thus disguising the ancient landscape that was described by Homer in the Odyssey.

Underhill and colleagues have conducted extensive geological and geophysical studies on the southern end of the isthmus between Kefalonia and Paliki where the team drilled a 122-meter borehole.

The team never encountered bedrock but instead bored through unconsolidated rockfall and landside material even below sea level. The absence of bedrock and presence of very young marine fossils in the reworked borehole sediments confirm that rockfalls and landslides could have filled in the ancient sea channel to create the isthmus between the once separate islands.

If this hypothesis holds true, Paliki likely matches Homer's description of Ithaca.

Title: Re: Odysseus/Ulysses
Post by: Bianca on March 11, 2009, 07:12:22 pm

                                    Celestial Clues Hint At Eclipse In Homer's Odyssey

(June 24, 2008) —

Among countless other debates about Homer's Odyssey -- not the least of which is whether the
entire poem can be attributed to Homer himself -- is whether Odysseus returns home to experience
a total solar eclipse. But a Rockefeller University scientist and a colleague from Argentina believe
they have found astronomical references in the Odyssey that provide corroborating evidence of this celestial event.

Total eclipses, when the moon briefly but completely blocks the sun, happen pretty rarely. In fact, they're so rare that if what Homer describes is truly an eclipse, it could potentially help historians
date the fall of Troy, which was purported to occur around the time of the events described in the
Iliad and the Odyssey. But after arguing about the point for hundreds of years, historians, astro-
nomers and classicists finally agreed that there was no corroborating evidence and tabled the dis-

Now, Marcelo O. Magnasco, head of the Laboratory of Mathematical Physics at Rockefeller, and Constantino Baikouzis of the Proyecto Observatorio at the Observatorio Astronómico in La Plata, Argentina, believe they have found some overlooked passages that, taken together, may shed new
light on the timing of an epic journey.

The researchers combed through the Odyssey to find specific astronomical references that could be precisely identified as occurring on specific days throughout Odysseus's journey. Then, they aligned each of those dates with the date of Odysseus's return, the same day he murders the suitors who
had taken advantage of his long absence to court his wife.

Magnasco and Baikouzis identified four celestial events. The day of the slaughter is, as Homer writes more than once, also a new moon (something that's also a prerequisite for a total eclipse). Six days before the slaughter, Venus is visible and high in the sky. Twenty-nine days before, two constellations -- the Pleiades and Boötes -- are simultaneously visible at sunset. And 33 days before, Homer may be suggesting that Mercury is high at dawn and near the western end of its trajectory. (Homer actually writes that Hermes -- known to the Romans as Mercury -- traveled far west only to deliver a message and fly all the way back east again; Magnasco and Baikouzis interpret this as a reference to the planet.)

Astronomically, these four phenomena recur at different intervals of time, so together they never recur in exactly the same pattern. Therefore Baikouzis and Magnasco looked to see whether there was any date within 100 years of the fall of Troy that would fit the pattern of the astronomical timeline. There was only one: April 16, 1178 BCE, the same day that astronomers had calculated the occurrence of a total solar eclipse. "Not only is this corroborative evidence that this date might be something important," Magnasco says, "but if we take it as a given that the death of the suitors happened on this particular eclipse date, then everything else described in The Odyssey happens exactly as is described."

Magnasco acknowledges that their findings rely on a large assumption: Although the association of planets with gods was a Babylonian invention that dates back to around 1000 BCE, there's no evi-
dence that those ideas had reached Greece by the time Homer was writing, several hundred years later. "This is a risky step in our analysis," he says. "One may say that our interpretation of the phenomena is stretching it, but when you go back to the text you have to wonder."

Ultimately, whether they're right or wrong, the researchers are interested in reopening the debate. "Even though there are historical arguments that say this is a ridiculous thing to think about,
if we can get a few people to read The Odyssey differently, to look at it and ponder whether there
was an actual date inscribed in it, we will be happy," Magnasco says.

"Poor men, what terror is this that overwhelms you so? Night shrouds your heads, your faces, down
to your knees -- cries of mourning are bursting into fire -- cheeks rivering tears -- the walls and the handsome crossbeams dripping dank with blood! Ghosts, look, thronging the entrance, thronging the court, go trooping down to the realm of death and darkness! The sun is blotted out of the sky -- look there -- a lethal mist spreads all across the earth!" -- Homer (translation by Robert Fagles)

The finding was recently reported in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences.


Adapted from materials provided by Rockefeller University.
Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats:

 MLA Rockefeller University (2008, June 24). Celestial Clues Hint At Eclipse In Homer's Odyssey. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 8, 2008, from­ 

Title: Re: Odysseus/Ulysses
Post by: Bianca on March 17, 2009, 05:13:03 pm


             Amateur scholar Robert Bittlestone says that the valley forming an isthmus on Cephalonia was once a sea channel dividing the island in two. "Across that valley," he says, "lay the ancient island of Ithaca," home to Odysseus.

Jeffrey Aaronson
/Network Aspen

                                            Odyssey's End?: The Search for Ancient Ithaca

A British researcher believes he has at last pinpointed the island to which Homer's wanderer returned and a new wealth of data supports his thesis

By Fergus M. Bordewich
Photographs by Jeffrey Aaronson
Smithsonian magazine, April 2006

Editor's Note, Sept. 3, 2008:

For more than 2,000 years, scholars have been mystified—and intrigued—by a question central to our understanding of the ancient world: where is the Ithaca described in Homer’s Odyssey? The descriptions in the epic poem do not coincide with the geography of the modern island of Ithaca, one of the Ionian islands off the western coast of Greece.

Since 2003, an interdisciplinary team of geologists, classicists and archaeologists has proposed a paradigm-shifting answer to that longstanding mystery. Their breakthrough thesis—that the peninsula of Paliki on the Ionian island of Cephalonia is the site of ancient Ithaca—was revealed in Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Ancient Ithaca, published to acclaim by Cambridge University Press in 2006.

Today, in the journal Geoscientist, the team of pioneering scholars releases detailed results and photographs from research conducted during the first year of sponsorship by FUGRO, the global geotechnical, survey and geoscientific service company. The wealth of new data provides dramatic support for the thesis that Paliki is indeed the site of ancient Ithaca.

According to the Odysseus Unbound project, “The new research shows that [Paliki], this 6 kilometre-long and up to 2 kilometre-wide isthmus contains no solid limestone down to at least 90 metres below today’s surface. The fill is loose material, some of which originated through catastrophic rockfall from the earthquake-prone mountain range to the east.”

The newly released data provide significant support for the theory that the peninsula of Paliki, today connected to the island of Cephalonia by an isthmus, was once separate, low-lying island of Homer’s Ithaca. As scholar Gregory Nagy of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., told Smithsonian Magazine in 2006: “We’ll never read the Odyssey in the same way again."

Title: Re: Odysseus/Ulysses
Post by: Bianca on March 17, 2009, 05:20:31 pm

Robert Bittlestone is standing above the village of Petrikata, looking over red-tile roofs down upon a narrow isthmus that connects the two parts of the island of Cephalonia, off Greece’s western coast. In the valley below, farmers in overalls are harvesting olives. A light breeze carries the scent of oregano and thyme. “This looks like solid ground that we’re standing on,” Bittlestone says. “But everything under us is rockfall. Across that valley was the ancient island of Ithaca.”

Bittlestone, a management consultant by profession, believes he has solved a mystery that has bedeviled scholars for more than 2,000 years. In Odysseus Unbound, published this past October by Cambridge University Press, he argues that a peninsula on the island of Cephalonia was once a separate island—Ithaca, the kingdom of Homer’s Odysseus some 3,000 years ago. He believes that the sea channel dividing the two islands was filled in by successive earthquakes and landslides, creating the peninsula of Paliki, as it is known today.

Like Heinrich Schliemann, the businessman who discovered the site of ancient Troy in the 1870s, and Michael Ventris, the architect who deciphered the written language of Minoan Crete in the 1950s, the 54-year-old Bittlestone is part of an honorable tradition of inspired amateurs who have made extraordinary discoveries outside the confines of conventional scholarship. “Bittlestone’s insight is brilliant,” says Gregory Nagy, director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, in Washington, D.C. “He has done something very important. This is a real breakthrough convergence of oral poetry and geology, and the most plausible explanation I’ve seen of what Ithaca was in the second millennium B.C. We’ll never read the Odyssey in the same way again.”

Title: Re: Odysseus/Ulysses
Post by: Bianca on March 17, 2009, 05:21:37 pm

Even more provocatively, Bittlestone, who was able to draw upon sophisticated technological tools unavailable to scholars before him, believes that events like those described in the Odyssey may well have taken place, and that telltale landmarks from the hero’s adventures on Ithaca can be found on Cephalonia’s Paliki peninsula. “I find most events that are described on the island perfectly credible,” he says, adding that the chapters recounting Odysseus’ fantastical adventures among magical figures—the sea monster Scylla and man-eating whirlpool Charybdis, or the enchantress Circe—obviously owe a great deal to the poetic imagination.

“By far the most important part of this is the argument that modern Paliki was ancient Ithaca,” says James Diggle, a professor of Greek and Latin at Cambridge University. “Of this, I haven’t the slightest doubt. It’s irresistible, and supported by geology. The other part is more speculative. But once you go over the terrain, there is an extraordinary match.”

Since ancient times, the location of Homer’s Ithaca has been one of literature’s great conundrums. The third-century B.C. geographer Eratosthenes sighed, “You will find the scene of the wanderings of Odysseus when you find the cobbler who sewed up the bag of the winds.” Some dismissed Homer’s geography as a poet’s clueless guesswork. As the renowned classicist Bernard Knox once put it, “When Homer’s characters move to mainland Greece and its western offshore islands, confusion reigns.”

Modern scholars have proposed numerous locations, some as far afield as Scotland or the Baltic. The most obvious candidate was the present-day island of Ithaca, which lies east of Cephalonia. But it doesn’t fit Homer’s description:

Around her a ring of islands circle side-by-side,
Doulichion, Same, wooded Zachynthos too, but mine
lies low and away, the farthest out to sea,
rearing into the western dusk
while the others face the east and breaking day.

Scholars have long agreed that ancient and modern Zachynthos are one and the same. Similarly, ancient Same was certainly the main body of modern Cephalonia, where a large town named Sami still exists. But modern Ithaca—a few miles east of Cephalonia—was hardly “the farthest out to sea,” and its mountainous topography doesn’t fit Homer’s “lying low” description. (Bittlestone believes ancient Doulichion became modern Ithaca after refugees came there following an earthquake or other disaster and changed its name.) “The old explanations just felt unsatisfactory,” says Bittlestone. “I kept wondering, was there possibly a radical new solution to this?” Back home near London, he pored over maps and satellite images. If Paliki had once been a separate island, he mused, it would indeed have been the one “farthest out to sea.”

Then Bittlestone struck gold. Perusing the section on Cephalonia in the ancient author Strabo’s Geography, the most important source of its kind for ancient geographical knowledge, Bittlestone came across the following passage: “Where the island is narrowest it forms a low isthmus, so that it is often submerged from sea to sea.” According to Strabo’s second-century B.C. sources, Cephalonia had been, at times, two islands. Strabo’s description suggested that the channel that separated Cephalonia from its present-day peninsula had gradually become filled in. Much remains to be proved, of course. “Bittlestone is claiming too much on the geological side, I think,” says George L. Huxley, professor emeritus of Greek at Queen’s University, in Belfast. “If the ‘channel’ really was a fissure, I don’t believe that it could have been created in the way he suggests.”

Bittlestone, however, has been convinced from the start that he was on the right track. In 2003, he traveled to Cephalonia, rented a jeep and began crisscrossing the isthmus, a narrow, rugged neck of land connecting the larger landmass to the Paliki peninsula. He was looking, he says, “for traces of a former channel” when he noted zigzagging ravines running the length of the five-mile-long isthmus. The chasms, up to 300 feet deep in some places, suggested the possible route of an ancient watercourse.

Title: Re: Odysseus/Ulysses
Post by: Bianca on March 17, 2009, 05:22:47 pm

Bittlestone had already learned that Cephalonia lay on one of the most unstable geologic fault lines in the world. For eons, the African and Eurasian tectonic plates have been colliding a few miles off the coast of Paliki, creating a steady upthrust that periodically explodes in violent earthquakes. The worst in modern times, in 1953, leveled almost every building on the island, causing 90 percent of its residents to flee. Perhaps, Bittlestone speculated, a giant earthquake had thrust “Strabo’s channel” (as he came to call it) up above sea level, leaving it literally high and dry.

In 2003, Bittlestone contacted John Underhill, a professor of stratigraphy at the University of Edinburgh. Underhill, who has studied the geology of Cephalonia for more than 20 years, told him that geological uplift on such a large scale was impossible. But he was sufficiently intrigued to meet Bittlestone on Cephalonia for a firsthand look.

Underhill immediately noted that the half-mile-wide isthmus was a geologic “mess” of rocks of different ages—evidence of avalanches from the steep mountains on either side. As landslide followed landslide over the centuries, the debris could have extended farther across the isthmus, layer upon layer, to create the rugged hills. “I thought it would be easy to disprove Bittlestone’s thesis,” he says, “but it wasn’t. Suddenly I thought, crikey, there might really be a channel down there.”

Pending final tests, Underhill concluded that there was indeed geological evidence for a channel across the isthmus. “The only credible explanation for this geological formation is that some of it slid down from the mountain above.”

Bittlestone has no doubts. “A landslip with massive kinetic energy inundated everything,” he says. “Huge chunks of mountain broke loose and thundered down. The scale of it is mind-blowing.”

There is a deep seductiveness to the second, yet untested, part of Bittlestone’s theory, that the Odyssey’s landscape can still be found on Cephalonia, like a palimpsest beneath a medieval manuscript. But attempting to identify actual places that fit a nearly 3,000-year-old narrative does present problems. For one, it is by no means certain that individuals in the poem—Odysseus; his wife, Penelope; son, Telemachus; the suitors—even existed. Gregory Nagy is cautious. “I’m completely convinced that Paliki was Ithaca in the second millennium B.C.,” he says. “But the poem is not reportage. We should not force it to be a road map for a set of real events.”

Bittlestone has an answer for that. “Because the landscape is real, does it mean that Odysseus was a real person? Not necessarily. But it is plausible that there was a Bronze Age chieftain around whom these stories grew. I also don’t think Homer invented an imaginary landscape. There was a real Troy, a real Mycenae, a real Sparta, all of which have been rediscovered by archaeologists.”

Most scholars agree that the Odyssey was first put into writing in the 8th or 7th century B.C. But some believe, and Bittlestone concurs, that its core narrative dates as far back as the 12th century B.C., just after the Trojan War. “I am convinced,” Bittlestone says, “that in Ithaca, Homer describes a real place, and I think that he talked about locales that people knew and could recognize. His audience could say, ‘Oh, yeah, I know that cave, that mountain, that bay.’”

Title: Re: Odysseus/Ulysses
Post by: Bianca on March 17, 2009, 05:24:01 pm

Cambridge University’s James Diggle is cautiously supportive. “We cannot dismiss the possibility of Bittlestone’s approach being valid,” he says. “Every place that he locates in the book can easily be located in northern Paliki—they all work. If you accept that the channel exists, and that Ithaca is Paliki—the external geography, so to speak—then you cannot dismiss the possibility that the other passages may reflect the internal geography of Ithaca.”

On a crisp day in october, Bittlestone leads me along the route that he thinks Odysseus may have followed upon his return to Ithaca. We begin at Atheras Bay, a crescent of beach enfolded by terraced groves of olive trees. Bittlestone believes this could have inspired the description of Phorcys Bay, where Odysseus—or his prototype—was put ashore by friendly Phaeacian mariners. Pointing to the mouth of the harbor, Bittlestone says it fits Homer’s description perfectly, “with two jutting headlands, sheared off at the seaward side.”

It was here that Athene appeared to Odysseus in the guise of a handsome young shepherd and commanded him to find the hut of the loyal swineherd Eumaeus:

You’ll find him posted beside his swine, grubbing round
by Raven’s Rock and the spring called Arethusa,
rooting for feed that makes pigs sleek and fat,
the nuts they love, the dark pools they drink.

“So,” says Bittlestone to me now, “let’s go see the pig farm.” We turn our backs on the bay and, bouncing in a jeep, follow “a rough track leading through the woods and up to the hills,” as Homer puts it. A herd of goats stares at us with yellow, inexpressive eyes, then explodes in panic, bounding away down the hillside. Soon we pass through the village of Atheras, its stucco houses painted white and yellow, its gardens lush with bougainvillea, morning glories and lemon trees. The similarity between the ancient place name Arethusa and the modern Atheras tells Bittlestone he’s on the right track. “If Arethusa spring was in the vicinity of the village of Atheras,” he says, “then Eumaeus’ pig farm and Raven’s Rock should not be far away.”

According to Homer, the swineherd’s hut was on ground “exposed to view all round,” with room for some 600 sows and 360 boars behind walls made of “quarried stones” and topped with tangles of wild pear, a technique that some Greek herdsmen still use today. In the epic, Odysseus—disguised in “squalid rags, ripped and filthy”—spends a day or two at the pig farm, then tells Eumaeus that he’s going to the palace to beg for food. Since Odysseus then asked Eumaeus to guide him there, the palace must not have been in sight of the pig farm—though it had to be near enough that Eumaeus could go there and back twice in a single day.

We turn onto a stony track and stop at an old well on a small, circular terrace. “Everywhere along here, you find springs and wells,” says Bittlestone. “Whether or not this one is the actual Bronze Age spring of Arethusa is less important than the fact that a water-bearing fault line runs just below the surface in exactly the right place for a spring with Homer’s ‘dark water’ to emerge here.”

Next we follow an old sunken path through an eerie forest of stunted wild oak trees, emerging into daylight to find an animal enclosure fenced with piled-up stones. “Clearly this area has been used for keeping animals for a long, long time,” Bittlestone tells me. “If you have hundreds of pigs, as Eumaeus did, you need a lot of water, and this is where you would find it.” Just past the pig farm, a crag that Bittlestone designates as Raven’s Rock looms over the trail. We catch sight, far below us, of the deep Gulf of Argostoli, and the now silted-up harbor from which Odysseus and his 12 warships could have departed for the Trojan War. From here, too, we can see where his palace might have stood, on the slopes of the conical hill of Kastelli, our destination.

Title: Re: Odysseus/Ulysses
Post by: Bianca on March 17, 2009, 05:25:17 pm

Half an hour after leaving the pig farm, we park in an olive grove and begin climbing Kastelli’s steep 830-foot-high slopes, through a dense carpet of prickly underbrush. The bells of unseen goats ring in our ears. We scramble over lichen-crusted terraces that might once have supported houses, and then, near the hillcrest, clamber over traces of a defensive wall and heaps of jagged stones.

Somewhere beneath our feet, perhaps, lie ruins of the “high-walled courtyard” where the suitors gathered and the great hall with its pillars of cypress, couches, chairs and raucous banquets. Somewhere here, perhaps, the despairing Penelope worked at her loom, spinning funeral cloth for Laertes, Odysseus’ aged father. (She then secretly unraveled the cloth every night, having promised the suitors that she would wed one of them as soon as the cloth was completed.) Here, perhaps, with “a shield of fourfold hide” and a plumed helmet on his “heroic head,” Odysseus set to his bloody work. As Homer puts it, “Ghastly screams rose up as men’s heads were smashed in, and the whole floor ran with blood.” In the end, corpses lay heaped in the dust “like fishes the fishermen have dragged out of the grey surf in the meshes of their net onto a curving beach, to lie in masses on the sand longing for the salt water till the bright sun ends their lives.”

Bittlestone prowls the windswept summit, pointing out shards of ancient pottery—fragments of pots, wine jugs and oil jars, compacted amid generations of goat droppings and dust, the last traces of an ancient town and perhaps a palace.

Of course, the odds of finding artifacts that proclaim “Odysseus was here” are slim. But geological tests can confirm the existence and age of a channel beneath the isthmus. Core samples can reveal the geological substructure beneath the rockfall. Radiocarbon analysis can measure the age of organic matter that may be submerged beneath the landfill, and geologists may attempt to analyze the debris from different landslides. Says John Underhill, “We’re going to throw as much science at this as we possibly can.”

Clearly, based on preliminary archaeological examinations, both the surviving walls and some of the pottery dates back to the Bronze Age (c. 2000-1100 B.C.). Bittlestone gazes across the craggy landscape of Cephalonia, his blue eyes gleaming with excitement. “We don’t know what lies under these tumbled stones,” he says, as much to himself as to me, “but something was surely going on here.”