Historical and traditional facts
(Summary) Historical and traditional elements that clearly portray a collective consciousness of both Ithacans and foreigners, regarding Odyssean awareness and symbols of Ithaca, which appeared within the course of almost 3000 years (1000 BC – 2012 AD)
1.000 BC. The early existence of a sanctuary of Apollo, in the area of the city of Aetos, unique in the Ionian Islands, which at a later stage became the famous temple of Apollo, with direct reference in the Odyssey (“ἄλσος ὕπο σκιερὸν ἑκατηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος”, = “a shady grove of Apollo, the archer-god”, Od. υ 277-278).
900 BC. The votive-offering of the first tripod to the sacred cave in Polis, offered either in memory of the return of Odysseus and of the presents offered to him by Alcinous or, as a victory offering dedicated there after attending ‘‘Odyssean games’’.
600 BC. The renaming of the city of Aetos to Alalkomenai, which was the name of the alleged common birth place of Athena and Odysseus.
550 BC. The engraved inscription on a grave of an obviously eminent Ithacan found in the cave in Polis, honouring the goddesses Athena and Hera, protectors of the royal house of Ithaca and both foes of Troy.
400-350 BC. Minting of the ‘‘Odyssean’’ coins of Ithaca, which occurred in the same period with minting on other Ionian Islands or city-states. The reference to the Epic on the Ithacan coins is considered as direct and unique.
300-200 BC. The other inscriptions or objects of Homeric or Odyssean physiognomy as referred in the 6th pillar.
200 BC. The resolution of the Ithacan “Odysseion” parliament as it appears in the stele sent to Magnesia.
Byzantine Era. The references to Homer’s Ithaca by a plethora of Byzantine historiographers and historians (Stephanus Byzantinus, Anna Komnene, Michael Psellos, Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, and others)
1204 AD. The Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo ‘honoured’ the island by selfishly holding it for himself, after the Venetians conquered the kingdom of Ithaca together with the rest of the Ionian Islands.
1600 AD. Following the well-known maps of 1600 with Homeric place-names marked around Ithaca, the following historical events are noted:
1700 AD. Tradition wanted the ‘‘Castle of Odysseus’’ to be in Aetos (visitors to the island were even shown where the carved stone holding the king’s flag mast stood), or the ‘‘House of Odysseus’’ to be in Pelicata, the place where the great king resided.
1758 AD. The first recorded episode of pillaging in Homeric Ithaca. The provveditor of Venice Giacomo Nani removed an inscription, originating from the sanctuary of Artemis, from a church wall, and took it to Venice. This inscription is now kept in the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels.
1791 AD. Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford, the first foreign “admirer of the Odyssey”, arrives in Ithaca. Guilford was later a fervent advocate of establishing the first Greek University in Ithaca, home of the great Epic of the Odyssey.
1791 AD. Captain Androutsos* baptized in Ithaca the son of captain Lambros Katsonis*, naming him Lycourgos, and Lambros Katsonis the son of Androutsos, naming him Odysseus after the Ithacan hero. (*Both captains were heroes of the Greek Revolution which commenced officially a few years later.)
1797 AD. French Citizen Arnaut, representing Napoleon’s French Empire, raised the French flag in the ruins of the then alleged Odyssean palace of Aetos, after the conquest of Ithaca by French troops.
1797 AD. The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, in honour of Homeric Ithaca, named the island as seat of one of the three Departments of the Ionian, which included Leucas, Meganisi, Kastos, Kalamos, Cephalonia and the areas of Preveza and Vonitsa. This was the ‘‘Département d’Ithaque’’.
1799 AD. The first honorary Medal of Ithaca portraying Odysseus is awarded, honouring the Russian major Tiesenhausen, representative of the Russian-Ottoman regime.
1801 AD. Gifted Βritish archaeologist William Gell visits Ithaca and rediscovers the “Homeland of Odysseus” believing that the so called ‘‘castle of Odysseus’’ in Aetos is the center and palace of Odysseus. The Odyssean coins of Ithaca, as testimony of historical value, for the first time attract great European interest.
1806 AD. British engineer with experience in archaeology, William Martin Leake, discredited the Homeric geography of William Gell and considered North Ithaca and namely the area between Pelicata and Polis as the Odyssey’s Ithaca. In his book “Travels in Northern Greece” (Volume 3, page 26) he writes “Every peasant is acquainted with the name of Odhyssefs, though few know much of his story, and probably not six persons in the island have ever read Homer.”
1806 AD. A great dispute arose between the citizens of Exoghi and Conte Vrettos regarding the destruction of the alleged ‘‘cave of the nymphs’’ in Perivoli (a place by the sea, below the fountain of Kalamos) (W. Martin Leake).
1807 AD. Ithaca offered a war ship for the defense of Leucas against the threat of Ali Pasha of Yannina, named ‘‘Penelope’’.
1809 AD. Ithaca offered a second war ship for the defence of Leucas against the threat of Ali Pasha of Yannina, named ‘‘Odysseus’’.
1811 AD. Under the British occupation and by the Corsican Captain A. Guittera himself, military Governor of the Ithaca at the time, the greatest archaeological plunder ever of Homeric Ithaca took place on the island.
1815 AD. The ancient Odyssean coins of Ithaca are officially presented in an essay compiled as a first such work by the fervent collector and Governor of Cephalonia and Ithaca, Swiss engineer and colonel in the employ of the British army, Charles-Philippe de Bosset.
1816 AD. “Everything in this island is referred to Odysseps.” British Hugh William Williams, “Travels in Italy, Greece and the Ionian Islands”, p. 192-3.
1819 AD. The British William Goοdison travelled to the coast of Ithaca in a reconstructed copy of Calypso’s raft, built by one-eyed “Captain Odysseus’’, who related stories to the stranger and discussed the epics and its heroes. Goodison used as an approach to the identification of Ithaca with the Homeric, the places visited by Telemachus on his return to the island (p. 126-127 see bellow), while in page 104 (ibid) he writes: Indeed every object and every circumstance connected with the latter (Thiaki), clearly indicate that the modern Thiaki is the island described by Homer as the residence of Odysseus (“A historical and topographical essay upon the islands of Corfù, Leucadia, Cephalonia, Ithaca, and Zante.”, London. 1822.
1821 AD. Ithaca was honourably chosen as seat of the first Greek University, but later rejected for political reasons in favour of Corfu, the then seat of the Ionian Government.
1823 AD. Lord Byron, who visited and stayed in Ithaca during his grand tour of Greece, declared that if this island belonged to me I would bury all my books here and never go away.
1850 AD. “There is perhaps no spot in the world where the influence of classical associations is so lively and as pure as in the island of Ithaca.” and ‘‘Every peasant is well acquainted with the name of Odysseus, and looks on him as the hero of his country.” George Ferguson Bowen, President of the Ionian University (pages 1 and 18 of his book “Ithaca in 1850”, London, 1851).
1868 AD. Heinrich Schliemann’s Odyssean characters. He discovered during his visit that there were 5–6 “versions” of the Odyssey circulating on the island as well as prevailing Odyssean awareness, following the incidents of: (a) The learned miller Asprogerakas who really surprised Schliemann when he recited for hours by heart, traditional paraphrases of the Odyssey’s verses created by himself and his ancestors. (b) The farmer of Marathias with his four watch-dogs which he kept to commemorate his ancestors Odysseus and Penelope. He was the man who for the first time in his life attended an astonishing recitation of the Odyssey, after which he followed Schliemann to Vathi and only left him when late at night the Grand Stranger retired. (c) Finally, the villagers of Lefki, who burst into tears when they listened to a recital of verses of an essentially incomprehensible to them Odyssey.
End of 19th- beginning of 20th century AD. Pterelaus’ sons, Ithacus, Polyctor and Neritus, gave their names to the three, at that time, municipalities of Ithaca, the Municipality of Ithacesians (Vathi, Perachori), Polyctorians (Lefki, Stavros, Exoghi, Platreithias), and Neritians (Kioni, Anoghi).
At about the same period and until much later, the large Ithacan mercantile fleet, registered at the Ithacan port of Vathi, proudly bore on bows and sterns of its vessels, and on voyages all over the world, manifesting a new Odyssean adventure, the names of Ithaca’s mythical past such as: Odyssey, Odysseus, Penelope, Telemachus, Forkynas, Mentor, Arethousa, Ithaki, Ithacus, Neritus, Polyctor (barges, tugs and mainly ships).
Moreover, wherever in the world one may find oneself, when referring to ‘‘Ithaca’’, the word will most certainly be followed by an ecstatic or admiring smile and the name Odysseus or Ulysses will instantly be mentioned. The two names are inextricably connected within a world wide collective consciousness, a fact continuously rediscovered by all world travellers.