What does Ithaca look like

Travel stories - Ithaca - where is Odysseus ‘true home?

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The islanders of Ithaca and Kefalonia argue vigorously about where Odysseus ‘home is. Both islands would like to adorn themselves with the myth of Odysseus. But the “real” Ithaca has not yet been clearly identified.

At first glance it seems simple: Ithaca is one of the few places that Homer mentions by name in the Odyssey and that can still be found on an atlas today. Odysseus ’home is off the west coast of Greece and his kingdom comprised all of the Ionian Islands, nobody denies that.

And yet the adventurer's hometown cannot be clearly determined. The inhabitants of Ithaca and those of the neighboring island of Kefalonia are convinced that their island is Odysseus ‘home. Their heated debates are not only about a literary-geographical question, but also an existential question of identity. Not only do they want to prove that their island inspired Homer, they also want to prove that Odysseus really lived - and that of course on their island.

Odysseus' coin discovered on Ithaca

The 3,000 or so residents of Ithaca are convinced of this. The current name of the island and the naming of many of its inhabitants are evidence that their island is the Ithaca from Homer's epic, they find. For generations there has been a noticeably large number of inhabitants with the first names Penelope, Telemachos and Odysseus on the island. The names here have always been popular, the Ithacians say, in contrast to the rest of Greece, where the names of the Odyssey have only recently been gaining popularity again.

An archaeological find supports her theory: an ancient coin with the image of Odysseus was found on Ithaca. In the north of the island, prehistoric buildings, including an acropolis, have also been discovered. The Vice Mayor Loukas Anagnostatos is therefore certain: “I am not an archaeologist. But my feeling, my theory and my heart tell me that Odysseus is from this island. "

Royal tomb excavated on Kefalonia

30 kilometers further on, on the neighboring island of Kefalonia, people have a completely different opinion. Around 40,000 people live there today and they know various Odysseus theories, one for almost every bay. The derivations are different, but all come to the conclusion that Odysseus arrived in the respective bay after his ten-year odyssey. Their most important argument is the topography: an outstanding mountain, as described by Homer, can only be found on Kefalonia. Kefalonia's highest mountain, Enos, is 1628 meters high.

I live on the widely visible Ithaca; a mountain rises impressively there, ...
Author: Homer - The Odyssey 9. Singing, 21-22

In the south-east of the island, near the village of Poros, a royal tomb was also discovered in the 1990s, which dates from the Mycenaean period. From the time that is now attributed to Odysseus. One of the most passionate advocates of the Poros theory is former regional politician Maxis Metaxas. For two decades, he and his wife have been looking for evidence to support the theory that this is the tomb of Odysseus.

Maxis Metaxas is convinced that the Odyssey was not a myth: “It was reality. We don't do all this research to prove something to ourselves, but because we now know that something important has happened around here. " He therefore sees it as his responsibility to enlighten mankind and is writing a book that explains his evidence.

Lack of support from Athens

This makes the selection of books on the various Ithaca theories even more extensive. Both islands complain that they lack the money and, above all, the support of the national ministry of culture for further excavations and evidence - not least because of the Greek economic crisis. As a consolation, one can say: Fortunately, the question of where the real Ithaca lies remains open, and both islands benefit, because tourism with Odysseus' home is a good life.

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