|Odysseus Statue in Vathy Harbour, Ithaca|
I have seen Knossos where King Minos built the underground labyrinth for the dreaded Minotaur, I’ve been to Thermopylae where the 300 Spartans made their last stand, walked within the Cyclopean walls of Tiryns, stood at the Lion’s Gate of Mycenae and combined my love of Greek history with motorcycling around this great country.
My most recent trip to Greece was to rent a motorcycle and ride solo for two weeks… as I’ve done several times. The Greek weather and the history of Greece keep bringing me back. But my last trip in May of this year was for an added reason…to find Odysseus. I mean to literally find the island of his home. The real Ithaca.
My trip to Ithaca in May of this year was going to be different because I was seeking Odysseus’ home on a different island. I would be traveling to Kefalonia. It is another of the Ionian Islands which lies closest to Ithaca, less than an hour away by ferry.
Robert Bittlestone, an English writer had authored a book called Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca which shook my world. Using Homer as his guide, he proposed something which amounted to a revelation to me. Kefalonia was the real home of Odysseus! My search for Odysseus’ kingdom had been on the wrong island in my past journeys.
Homer was a blind poet who lived 3,000 years ago or so and wrote the greatest tales of our time, The IIiad and The Odyssey. These stories were full of names of people and places from a mysterious lost age and the gods who lived and walked among them. He named kings and ancient legendary cities that had been lost to the mists of time. Mycenae, Tiryns, Troy…these were mythological places that no more existed than Tolkien’s fictional cities of Mordor, Gondor, Moria. However, archaeologists rediscovered these lost cities and they did so by using Homer’s descriptions. It shocked people that these legendary places actually existed.
Odysseus’ return home from the Trojan War took ten years. In Homer’s The Odyssey, he describes his home in this way:
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.
As Bittlestone noted, present day Ithaca lies to the east of this little grouping of islands so it is not farthest out to sea. Kefalonia is furthest west. He studied the terrain of Kefalonia and saw that it was basically in two parts which were joined by an ithsmus. This western section of Kefalonia, called Paliki, was the original Ithaca according to Dr. Bittlestone. The convincing facts as he lays them out show that this is the only location for Ithaca that makes any sense when you consider Homer’s description of the island. Robert Bittlestone had become my hero and Odysseus Unbound my roadmap.
|Paliki in background|
|Petani Beach, Paliki|
The weather was excellent during my stay on Kefalonia and the ocean was crystal clear and calm. I savoured the feeling of floating in the salty water under that startlingly blue sky, knowing I’d finally done it. I had found Odysseus. It was almost like the gods welcomed me there, that this third trip to the real Ithaca was the charm.
As I write this it is with great sadness as I have learned that Robert Bittlestone passed away earlier this year. I would have loved to have met him.
I know he now walks with Odysseus.
The Odysseus Unbound Project continues and memorium can be found at: