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Friday, March 07, 2008

Finding Odysseus' Home

The question of where in the modern world Odysseus' Ithaca lies calls to us as strongly as ancient Ithaca called to that wandering hero, but we've never been certain of its location. Now we have more evidence to consider: an ancient tomb has been found on the island of Lefkada. Mycenaean era tombs are very rare in the western Ionian Sea islands, and until now were unknown on Lefkada. This discovery could revive debate over the location of ancient Ithaca: is it modern Ithaki, Lefkada, neighboring Kefallonia, or elsewhere?

If this discovery inspires you to pick up a copy of The Odyssey, my favorite English translation is Richmond Lattimore's.


Jarrett said...

do you know this one? a poem by C.P. Cavafy:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Heather said...

I hadn't ever read that before--thanks so much for posting it, jarrett--it's beautiful.