Finding Ithaca

posted: 3966 days ago, on Thursday, 2007 Jan 11 at 10:16
tags: psychology, history, poetry.

British researchers may have solved a centuries-old mystery by locating Homer's Ithaca, the birthplace of the hero Odysseus.

Called Ulysses by the Romans, he lent his name to Homer's second great tale, The Odyssey, which tells of the hero's return to his kingdom of Ithaca after his wooden-horse ploy led to the fall of Troy (recounted in Homer's The Iliad).

Troy, once believed to be a fable, was subsequently discovered, and Ithaca may turn out to be a real place, too. Geotimes has the details.

Constantine Cavafy, contemporary Greek poet, wrote an oft-quoted poem Ithaca, which I've posted below:

Ithaca
Constantine Cavafy (1911)

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.

Links

  1. A slightly different translation hosted by Kyriacos Zygourakis.
  2. More poems by Cavafy including an MP3 of a reading of Ithaca in the original Greek, hosted by George Barbanis.

nothing more to see. please move along.