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Map of Homeric Greece

The location of Homer's Ithaca, i.e. Ithaca as featured in Homer's Odyssey, is a matter for debate. There have been various theories about its location, although Modern Ithaca is generally accepted to be Homer's island by most scholars.

The central characters of the epic such as Odysseus, Achilles, Agamemnon and Hector are generally believed to be fictional characters. Yet there are many claims that some Homeric hero long ago had inhabited a particular contemporary region or village. This, and the extremely detailed geographic descriptions in the epic itself, have invited investigation of the possibility that Homer's heroes might have existed and that the location of the sites described therein might be found.

Heinrich Schliemann believed he tracked down several of the more famous traditions surrounding these heroes. Many locations around the Mediterranean were claimed to have been the heroes' "homes", such as the ruins at Mycenae and the little hill near the western Turkish town of Hissarlik. Schliemann's work and excavations proposed, to a very sceptical world, that Homer's Agamemnon had lived at Mycenae, and that "Troy" itself indeed had existed at Hissarlik. Much work has been done to identify other Homeric sites such as the palace of Nestor at Pylos. These attempts have been the subject of much scholarly research, archaeological work, and controversy.

Theories on the location of "Homer's 'Ithaca'" were formulated as early as the 2nd century BC to as recently as AD 2003. 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 Odysseus and the possible facts of his life. Some of the latest "Homer's 'Ithaca'" approaches resemble some of the earliest.

Leading precursors

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

  • Demetrius of Scepsis (near Troy) -- writing mid-2nd century BC (near Troy) -- source used by Strabo (below).
    • 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).
    • 244, F 154-207.
    • pp. 249–51. See Bittlestone/Diggle/Underhill (below): James Diggle at p. 508.
  • Strabo (63/4 BC – c. 24 AD).
  • 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.
  • William M. Leake—writing in 1835—he thought "Ithaca" was on the northwestern coast of Ithaki island, near Polis Bay.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Lord Rennell of Rodd—writing in 1927—believed "Ithaca" was on Ithaki island.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • J.V. Luce -- (1920-2011) -- writing in 1998—he believed "Ithaca" was on Ithaki island.
  • 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".
  • Christos Tzakos—writing 1999 - 2002—he believed "Ithaca" was on Ithaki island.
  • 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.
    • Odysseus Unbound website
  • Felice Vinci - suggests that many Homeric places can be identified in the geographic landscape of the Baltic.

Other ideas

Theories about the location of Odyssean wanderings have included:

See also


  • Bittlestone, Diggle & Underhill (2005), cited above, Chapter 9 generally.
  • Several of the floruit dates above are taken from WorldHeritage articles about the writers.
  1. ^ Bittlestone, Diggle & Underhill (2005), cited above, page 39, note 2.

External links

  • Odysseus Unbound website; Odysseus Unbound discussion forum
  • Collection of Homer-related links
  • Homer's Odyssey resources on the Web, by Jorn Barger
  • The Perseus Digital Library, Tufts University
    • Perseus at Tufts, Greek & Roman materials
    • Perseus at Tufts, a search on "homer*", which currently reaches 77 results, including "homeric": Art objects (1), Images (8), Reference articles (6), Text sections (19), Source citations (30), Texts (13)

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