The Homeric Zeus-born Kingdom of Ithaca
(Summary) The creation of the kingdom of Ithaca can be found in the period immediately following the victorious for the Myceaneans war against the Taphians and the establishment of a new regime amongst the cluster of Islands in the central Ionian Sea. The choice of Ithaca as the seat of the kingdom
has to do with its strategic position and not with its size.
The kingdom of Ithaca under the “Zeus-born” king Odysseus was established and flourished around 1230-1210 BC to be overthrown by the Dorians around 1125 BC (Datings are indicative as assesements differ).
In Odysseus’ era, the kingdom of Ithaca described below, bordered three other insular and coastal kingdoms, that of the Taphians, which included the islands of Kalamos, Kastos and Meganisi under king Mentes (Od. α 105, 180), the kingdom of Epeians who inhabited Elis under kings Amphimachus, Thalpius and Diores (Od. ν 275), and that of Dulichium (position unknown with main candidate the Paliki peninsula) and the Echinades islands, under King Meges (Il. Β 627). With channels and ports either side, especially the ports of Poli and Vathi, Ithaca clearly demonstrates the importance of its position in this cluster of Ionian Islands.
The size, the seat of the kingdom, and the kings.
The island of Ithaca held the seat of the insular and coastal kingdom of Odysseus, which, according to Homer (Il. Β 631-636), included Crocylea, Aegilips (islets near, or an area on, Ithaca), Zacynthus, Same (Cephalonia), Epirus (mainland-Leucas (*) and or part of Acarnania) and Antiperaia (most probably the facing shore of Cephalonia).
(*) The peninsula of Leucas was cut away from the mainland by the Corinthian Tyrants and became an island around 657-628 BC.
Ithaca, as seat of the kingdom, cannot be compared to a present day Cephalonia (as is deliberately implied in some theories), but must be compared to a Cephalonia of Pre-Historic and Achaean times, divided by the natural lay of the island into four autonomous states. These were city states, each with their own coins, and with different alliances. On the other hand Ithaca, has all the advantages of an autonomous central island, neighbouring vital places on both sides such as Epirus (Leucas or Acarnania) and Antiperaia (Cephalonia).
The decreed ‘‘Great Mycenaean center’’ of Pronnoi-Tzanata Poros, proclaimed allegedly as the seat of the Odyssean kingdom of Ithaca, concerns exclusively the area and the historic evolution of Pronnoi and Eleios-Kateleios and not the rest of Cephalonia and certainly not that of Ithaca. The minting of the coins in the 4th century and all that they symbolize, is a decisive historical milestone for the islands and the city states themselves (Pale-Pali, Same, Pronnoi and Crane, Ithaca, Zacynthus and Leukas) reflecting a past which touches upon their deepest origins and their remarkable, mythical lore.
The Ionian Islands and the Acarnania mainland were inhabited during Odyssean times by the Hellenic race of Cephallenians or Cephallanes. The inhabitants of Ithaca quite early, though, became autonomous, and separated nominally from the neighbouring islanders calling themselves Ithacesians.
Ithacan and godlike was Arkeisios, characterized as such by Homer (The Odyssey, Book XIV line 182).
Ithacans, of course, were their king Odysseus (Od. α 246, χ 45), the Zeus-born (Od. β 352, χ 164), sometimes referred to as “king of the kings” of the kingdom (“Than yours is no other house in the land of Ithaca more kingly”, Od. ο 533-534), and his son Telemachus, heir to the throne, son of Odysseus according to his own words: “Of Ithaca I am by birth, and my father is Odysseus” (Od. ο 267).
The Zeus-born royal house of Ithaca was comprised of two lines of only sons (Od. π 117-120), that of Arkeisios and Laertes and that of Odysseus with one son Telemachus, and one daughter Ctimene who was married in Same (Cephalonia). (Od. ο 363-367).
Homer called Laertes ‘‘son of Arkeisios” (Od. δ 755, ω 270) and Odysseus ‘‘Laertiádēs” (Od. χ 164) or son of Laertes (Od. δ 555).
The Family-tree of Odysseus, son of Laertes, king of Ithaca.
The royal family of the Laertides was Zeus-born (Diogenis), and began with Arkeisios, son of Zeus and Euryodeia (see family tree) (Note that another less prevailing version wants Cephalus, instead of Zeus, as head of the house of the Laertides – see family tree notes) (*). The house of the Laertides had, if nothing else, family ties to the royal houses of Parnassus, the Lacedaemonians (Sparta), the Mycenaeans and later, through Telemachus, to the houses of Scheria (Phaeacians). Ithaca of the Laertides was not without connections.
Zeus and Euryodeia gave birth to Arkeisios.
Arkeisios and Chalcomedusa to Laertes.
Laertes and Anticlea (Od. λ 85), daughter of Autolycus (Od. τ 394) king of Parnassus, had Odysseus.
Odysseus and Penelope gave birth to Telemachus and Ctimene (Od. ο 362).
Telemachus and Nausicaa (Od. ζ 17), daughter of Alcinous (Od. ζ 12) and Arete (Od. η 54), king and queen of the Phaeacians of Scheria (or Epicaste?), had Persepolis.
Ctimene, Odysseus and Penelope’s daughter, married in Same (Od. ο 362-367).
Penelope – Pēnelópeia (Od. α 329), daughter of Icarius and Periboea, was, from her father’s side, first cousin to Clytemnestra (Od. γ 264) and (from Zeus and Leda) to (Argive) Helen of Troy (Od. δ 184 and Il. Β 161), Castor and Polydeuces (Od. λ 298-9). (Lede joined with Tyndareus, Icarius’ brother, and gave birth to Clytemnestra and with Zeus who seduced her in the guise of a swan, had Helen, Castor and Polydeuces.)
Icarius, Penelope’s father (Od. α 329) was Tyndareus’ brother, a Spartan king, who, for a while, seeked refuge in Acarnania-Aitolia and, according to others, in Same (Cephalonia).
Clytemnestra was Tyndareus and Leda’s daughter, and wife of Agamemnon, king of the Mycenaeans and leader of the Trojan forces.
Menelaus (Od. δ 82, Il. Η 470), king of Mycenaean Sparta, was the son of Atreus, brother of Agamemnon and the husband of Helen of Troy.
(*) Cephalus, whom certain Cephalonian theories adduce as the father of Odysseus, is not mentioned at all in the Odyssey. The allegation derives from an unconfirmed version of post-homeric times (Aristotle- The State of the Ithacians), which is not consistent with the “Zeus-born” element of the kingdom of Laertides. More precisely, Cephalus, as a mythical person, was a hero of the municipality of Cephalus, Attica, descendant of the family of Cephalides, who came from Thorikos and settled in Athens. The so-called ‘‘exile from Athens’’ (Strabo), after his conviction from the Aeropagus in Athens for the unintentional murder of his wife Procris, daughter of the king of Athens Erechtheus, became allied to Amphitryon of Mycenae and together with Eleios took part in the victorious war against the Taphians and Teleboeans of Pterelaus. With his fourth wife Lyssipe, according to unconfirmed information, he had four sons, namely Palis, Same, Cranii and Pronesos, who gave their names to the four city-states of Cephallenia. According to another version Cephalus allegedly gave his name to the island of Cephallenia, but the most prevailing view is that of the late Cephalonian archaeologist Marinatos, that Cephalonia acquired its name at about the 5th century BC from the race of Cephallenians who inhabited the islands and the opposite coast as appears on the relative map.
Royal power in Ithaca. General.
According to convictions of that time, royal power emanated and was given by the god Zeus to kings, who were considered to have descended from a divine race, such as Odysseus and this is why he was called Δίος= of Dias, Zeus, διογενής= Zeus-born, άριστος= best born, διοτρεφής= nourished by Zeus, and θεουδής= fearful of God (Od. β 352, ο 485, χ 164, ζ 121, ι 176; and Ιl. Α 145). This supreme and sole sovereign, the king, was not only the ruler and governor, but also general and soldier who led the army to war. He was the magistrate who received the scepter, symbol of judicial power, from Zeus himself, and was also, of course, the high priest who presided over ceremonies and sacrifices. Odysseus of Zeus was a model of the gradually perfected man, who, in a decisive phase of his completion, denied himself the immortal and ever youthful offered by Calypso, preferring to return to home and parents.
“and for myself no other thing can I see sweeter than one’s own land” (Od. ι 27-28).