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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Proof for Homer's Stories?

An 8th BC century palace which Greek archaeologists claim was the home
of Odysseus has been discovered in Ithaca, fuelling theories that the
hero of Homer's epic poem was real.

Odysseus – known to the ancient Romans as Ulysses – famously took 10
years to return home to Ithaca after the fall of Troy.

On his journey, he was twice shipwrecked and encountered a cyclops,
the spirit of his mother and tempting Sirens before returning to
Ithaca, where he found his wife, Penelope, under pressure to remarry
from a host of suitors who had invaded the royal palace.

With the help of his father, Laertes, and his son, Telemachus, he
slaughtered his rivals and re-established his rule.

But despite the fantastical details in the Greek epic, a team of
archaeologists has claimed the tale is anchored in truth - and that
they have discovered his home on the island of Ithaca, in the Ionian
sea off the north-west coast of Greece.

Nearly 3,000 years after Odysseus returned from his journey, the team
from the University of Ioannina said they found the remains of an
extensive three-storey building, with steps carved out of rock and
fragments of pottery. The complex also features and a well from the
8th century BC, roughly the period in which Odysseus is believed to
have been king of Ithaca.

The location "fits like a glove" with Homer's description of the view
from the fabled palace, the archaeologists claim.

The layout of the complex, where Professor Thanassis Papadopoulos and
his team have been digging for 16 years, is very similar to palaces
discovered at Mycenae, Pylos and other ancient sites.

The claim will be greeted with scepticism by the many scholars who
believe that Odysseus, along with other key characters from the
Homer's epic such as Hector and Achilles, were purely fictional.

"Whether this find has a connection with Ulysses or not is interesting
up to a certain point, but more important is the discovery of the
royal palace," said Adriano La Regina, an Italian archaeologist.

Further complicating the identification of the site is the doubt over
whether the ancient kingdom of Ithaca was located on its modern day
namesake, Ithaki.

A British researcher, Robert Bittlestone, has said Homer's
descriptions bear little resemblance to the island and that ancient
Ithaca was in fact located on the Paliki peninsula, on the island of

He believes that Paliki was once an island, separated from the rest of
Cephalonia by a marine channel that has since been filled in by rock
falls triggered by earthquakes.

Enlisting the help of geologists and ancient historians, he documented
the controversial theory in a 2005 book, Odysseus Unbound – The Search
for Homer's Ithaca.


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