Universally held to be the home of Odysseus
Ithaca is an island located in the Ionian Sea, in Greece, with an area of 45 square miles (120 km2) and a little more than three thousand inhabitants. It lies off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and to the west and within sight of continental Greece. The municipality of Ithaca includes some islets as well. The capital, Vathy or Ithaki, has one of the world’s largest natural harbours. Modern Ithaca is generally identified with Homer’s Ithaca, the home of Odysseus, whose delayed return to the island is one of the elements of the Odyssey’s plot.
Since antiquity, Ithaca has been identified as the home of the mythological hero Odysseus. In the Odyssey of Homer, Ithaca is described thus (13.21-27)
” dwell in shining Ithaca. There is a mountain there,
high Neriton, covered in forests. Many islandslie around it, very close to each other,
Doulichion, Same, and wooded Zacynthos–but low-lying Ithaca is farthest out to sea,
towards the sunset, and the others are apart, towards the dawn and sun.
It is rough, but it raises good men.”
Despite any difficulties with Homer’s description of the island, in classical and Roman times the island now called “Ithaca” was universally held to be the home of Odysseus; the Hellenistic identifications of Homeric sites, such as the identifications of Lipari as the island of Aeolus, are usually taken with a grain of salt, and attributed to the ancient tourist trade.
The island has been known as Ithaca from an early date, as coins and inscriptions show. Coins from Ithaca frequently portray Odysseus, and an inscription from the 3rd century BC refers to a local hero-shrine of Odysseus and games called the Odysseia. The Archaeological site of “School of Homer” on modern Ithaca is the only place between Lefkas-Kefalonia-Ithaca Triangle where Linear B has been found, near royal remains. Modern scholars generally accept the identification of modern Ithaca with Homeric Ithaca.
To See & Do
- Ithaca is the legendary home of the Greek poet Homer’s heroic Odysseus. There are various sites that are associated with this legendary figure including a cave said to honor this mythical hero at Polis Bay.
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The Odyssey • Locations & Activities