Text & Copyright: Hettie Putman Cramer & Makis Metaxas
There is a rocky island in the middle of the sea,
[midway between Ithaca and rugged Samos,]*
called Asteris. It is of no great size, but it has safe harbours, one on each side;
and there the Achaians set their ambush [for Telemachos] and lay in wait. (Od. 4.844-847)
ἔστι δέ τις νῆσος μέσσῃ ἁλὶ πετρήεσσα,
[μεσσηγὺς Ἰθάκης τε Σάμοιό τε παιπαλοέσσης,]*
Ἀστερίς, οὐ μεγάλη· λιμένες δ᾽ ἔνι ναύλοχοι αὐτῇ
ἀμφίδυμοι· τῇ τόν γε μένον λοχόωντες Ἀχαιοί. (Od. 4.844-847)
Between Ithaca and Kephallenia is the small island of Asteria (the poet calls it Asteris). The Skepsian says it is no longer as the poet describes it:
‘It has harbours providing safe anchorage, one on either side.’
Apollodoros, however, says that it remains so to this day and mentions a small town called Alalkomenai on the island, situated on the isthmus. (Strabo C 457.16)
μεταξὺ δὲ τῆς Ἰθάκης καὶ τῆς Κεφαλληνίας ἡ Ἀστερία νησίον (Ἀστερὶς δ' ὑπὸ τοῦ ποιητοῦ λέγεται) ἣν ὁ μὲν Σκήψιος μὴ μένειν τοιαύτην οἵαν φησὶν ὁ ποιητής
λιμένες δ' ἔνι ναύλοχοι αὐτῇ ἀμφίδυμοι.
ὁ δὲ Ἀπολλόδωρος μένειν καὶ νῦν, καὶ πολίχνιον λέγει ἐν αὐτῇ Ἀλαλκομενὰς τὸ ἐπ' αὐτῷ τῷ ἰσθμῷ κείμενον. (Strabo C 457.16)
And one of the Echinades Islands, too, which used to be called Artemita, is now part of the mainland; and they say that the same has happened to some of the other islets near the mouth of the Acheloös owing to the silting up of the sea by that river; and the rest of them too, as Herodotus says, are in process of fusion with the mainland. Again, there are certain Aitolian promontories which were formerly islands; and Asteria, which the poet calls Asteris, is no longer what it was:
There is a rocky island in the middle of the sea,
called Asteris. It is of no great size,
but it has safe harbours, one on each side;
There is not even a good anchorage there now. Furthermore, in Ithaca there is neither the cave nor the shrine of the Nymphs described by Homer; but it seems more correct to attribute this to physical change rather than to Homer's ignorance or to his romancing to suit the fabulous element in his poetry. However, the matter is unclear and I leave it for every man to judge for himself. (Strabo C 59-60)
Καὶ ἡ πρότερον δὲ Ἀρτεμίτα λεγομένη μία τῶν Ἐχινάδων νήσων ἤπειρος γέγονε· καὶ ἄλλας δὲ τῶν περὶ τὸν Ἀχελῶον νησίδων τὸ αὐτὸ πάθος φασὶ παθεῖν ἐκ τῆς ὑπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ προχώσεως τοῦ πελάγους, συγχοῦνται δὲ καὶ αἱ λοιπαί, ὡς Ἡρόδοτός φησι. Καὶ Αἰτωλικαὶ δέ τινες ἄκραι εἰσὶ νησίζουσαι πρότερον· καὶ ἡ Ἀστερία ἤλλακται, ἣν Ἀστερίδα φησὶν ὁ ποιητής·
Ἔστι δέ τις νῆσος μέσσῃ ἁλὶ πετρήεσσα,
Ἀστερίς, οὐ μεγάλη, λιμένες δ' ἐνὶ ναύλοχοι
Νυνὶ δὲ οὐδ' ἀγκυροβόλιον εὐφυὲς ἔχει. Ἔν τε τῇ Ἰθάκῃ οὐδέν ἐστιν ἄντρον τοιοῦτον οὐδὲ νυμφαῖον, οἷόν φησιν Ὅμηρος· βέλτιον δὲ αἰτιᾶσθαι μεταβολὴν ἢ ἄγνοιαν ἢ κατάψευσιν τῶν τόπων κατὰ τὸ μυθῶδες. τοῦτο μὲν δὴ ἀσαφὲς ὃν [ ἐῶ] ἐν κοινῷ σκοπεῖν. (Strabo C 59-60)
Aerial view of the rocky islet of Daskalio.
Its very small size, the absence of any trace of two safe harbours on opposite sides or of high, windswept peaks has led most historians and researchers to consign Asteris to the world of Homeric myth or to look for it in other, larger islands or reefs presumed to be submerged islands in the Ionian Sea.
Photo: Panagis Kavallieratos.
(Niketas Choniates, Histoire de Manuel Comnène, Livre II, Paris )
(It is interesting to note that the island known as Asteris both in the Homeric age and in the Byzantine period is mentioned as a place well suited to naval ambushes. Is this mere coincidence, or was there really an island called Asteris in the Sound of Kephallenia which pirates through the ages used for their own purposes? It is a point worth thinking about.)
François Ollive, 1662, Πορτολάνος Ανατολικής Μεσογείου Θαλάσσης.
According to the study of Archaeologist Odysseas Metaxas, there are reasons to believe that the passage μεσσηγὺς Ἰθάκης τε Σάμοιό τε παιπαλοέσσης, that refers to Asteris is one of those that became part of the text later. It seems that the passage was invented to rephrase the original Homeric verse μεσσηγὺς δὲ Σάμου τε καὶ Ἴμβρου παιπαλοέσσης paraphrasing the relevant line of Homer that we find in the epic of the Iliad. (IL 24.78)
Similar ships were used by the Greeks in the campaign against Troy. The suitors’ vessel would almost certainly have been of similar design.
- Do the accounts of Telemachos’ voyages to and from Pylos conform to the standard guidelines for navigation in that period?
- What results do we get if we compare the place-names with the courses, sailing times and wind directions given by Homer?
- What were the normal speeds of ships at that time?
- Messenian Pylos is at least 85-90 nautical miles from the southern tip of Kephallenia, giving in fact a sailing time of at least 15 hours, as the text mentions.
- The respective distance to arrive in Ithaca would be 105-110 nautical miles (at least 18 hours sailing voyage), which means that it barely corresponds to Homer's description.
- The voyage to Lefkada, 120-125 nautical miles, does not realistically correspond to the text, considering that the voyage would last approximatelly 21 hours. The text describes that the ship embarked at noon and arrived before dawn.
and sail on through the night; the immortal deity
who guards and protects you will send you a following wind. (Od. 15.33-35)
ἀλλὰ ἑκὰς νήσων ἀπέχειν εὐεργέα νῆα,
νυκτὶ δ᾽ ὁμῶς πλείειν· πέμψει δέ τοι οὖρον ὄπισθεν
ἀθανάτων ὅς τίς σε φυλάσσει τε ῥύεταί τε. (Od. 15.33-35)
- So which were those islands that Athena advised Telemachos to stay away from?
- Could Asteris have been one of them?
- And, if so, what connection could there have been between them and the Thoai (‘Pointed Islands’) that Homer mentions (Od. 15.299) as being the last place he would pass – by now quaking with the fear of death – before landing at the nearest point on the coast of Ithaca?
From there he steered for the Thoai (Pointed) Islands,
ἔνθεν δ᾽ αὖ νήσοισιν ἐπιπροέηκε θοῇσιν,
ὁρμαίνων ἤ κεν θάνατον φύγοι ἦ κεν ἁλώῃ (Od. 15.299)
It is worth inquiring to see whether the islands (in the plural) that Telemachos was warned to steer clear of on his return voyage (ἑκὰς νήσων ἀπέχειν εὐεργέα νῆα) [Od. 15.33]) and the islands (again in the plural) called the Thoai or ‘Pointed Islands’ (ἔνθεν δ᾽ αὖ νήσοισιν ἐπιπροέηκε θοῇσιν) [Od. 15.299]), the sight of which caused Telemachos to wonder whether he would come through alive or be caught (ὁρμαίνων ἤ κεν θάνατον φύγοι ἦ κεν ἁλώῃ) [Od. 15.300]), are the same group of islands in both cases, or whether there was some connection between them, and whether one of them was in fact Asteris.
The mouth of the River Acheloös can be seen at the far left. Behind Oxia is what used to be the island of Artemita, which has been joined to the mainland by silt from the Acheloös and is now called Kotsilaris.
East of Kephallenia and Ithaca is the island marked as Oxiae. Note the position of Oxiae (the ancient Thoai) at the meeting-point of the channels leading out to the Ionian Sea and close to the mouth of the River Acheloös, known in early antiquity as the Thoas. Collection of Fotis Kremmydas.
The time has now come for us to ask ourselves how likely it is that the island called Oxia or Oxiés (the plural form of its name indicating that there used to be more than one island here) is to be identified with Homer’s Asteris, and whether Oxia/Oxiés was one of the islands (also referred to in the plural: ἑκὰς νήσων) that Athena warned Telemachos to avoid.
Homer’s references to Asteris are so numerous and so specific that one simply has to take note of its various distinguishing features as he describes them:
5. It is a poinded island
6. It must be in such a position that Telemachos would be expected to sail past it on his way to Ithaca or to Homeric Ephyra, in Thesprotia, where the suitors thought he might be going to obtain poisoned arrows (ἠὲ καὶ εἰς Ἐφύρην ἐθέλει, πίειραν ἄρουραν, ἐλθεῖν, ὄφρ᾽ ἔνθεν θυμοφθόρα φάρμακ᾽ ἐνείκῃ [Od. 2.328-329]).
7. It is ‘in the channel between Ithaca and rugged Samos’ (ἐν πορθμῷ Ἰθάκης τε Σάμοιό τε παιπαλοέσσης) (Od. 4.671);
And whith the controversial line in the Odyssey (4.845)
If we assume that Oxia/Oxiés was Asteris, then it has to fit Homer’s description, that is to say:
- Is Oxia rocky( πετρήεσσα) ?
- Is it an island ‘of no great size’ (οὐ μεγάλη) ?
- Has it got safe harbours on opposite sides of the island (λιμένες ναύλοχοι [καὶ] ἀμφίδυμοι) ?
- Has it got sharp-pointed, windswept peaks (ἄκριας ἠνεμοέσσας)?
- Is it in such a position that Telemachos would be expected to sail past it on his way to Ithaca or to Homeric Ephyra, in Thesprotia, where the suitors thought he might be going to obtain poisoned arrows? (ἠὲ καὶ εἰς Ἐφύρην ἐθέλει, πίειραν ἄρουραν, ἐλθεῖν, ὄφρ᾽ ἔνθεν θυμοφθόρα φάρμακ᾽ ἐνείκῃ [Od. 2.328-329]).
- Is it in the middle of the sea’ (μέσσῃ ἁλὶ) in the channel used by ships sailing to Kephallenia and Ithaki (ἐν πορθμῷ Ἰθάκης τε Σάμοιό τε παιπαλοέσσης) ?
- Is it one of a group of islands end especially of the group of Thoai (Echinades) (ἔνθεν δ᾽ αὖ νήσοισιν ἐπιπροέηκε θοῇσιν) [Od. 15.299]) ?
- Is it an island capable of hosting day and night for over 28 days the suitors? Would the suitors have been able to stay there for four weeks? (Od. 16.363-370)
(’Antonios Miliarakis, Γεωγραφία Πολιτική Νέα και Αρχαία του Νομού Κεφαλληνίας [Modern and Ancient Political Geography of the Prefecture of Kephallenia], Athens 1890, 166)
Antonios Miliarakis, Γεωγραφία Πολιτική Νέα και Αρχαία του Νομού Κεφαλληνίας [Modern and Ancient Political Geography of the Prefecture of Kephallenia], Athens 1890, 166.
and there the Achaians set their ambush [for Telemachos] and lay in wait.
|‘One picture is worth a thousand words’!!!|
It seems to us that no comment is necessary. Here we have Antonios Miliarakis, writing 130 years ago, unwittingly describing Oxia in the very words used by Homer to describe Asteris 3,000 years ago: one of a group of islands, with a sharp-pointed peak and rocky terrain and, most significant of all, the distinctive feature of harbours on opposite sides of the island.! There could hardly be more convincing evidence that Homer and Miliarakis, each knowing every detail of the actual appearance of this island, were both using the same words (allowing for the chronological difference) in the same standard terminology to describe the very same landscape, the very same island.
The island completely controls all the routes taken by ships entering or leaving the Gulf of Patras on their way from or to Zakynthos, Kephallenia, Ithaki, Lefkada, Thesprotia and Corfu.
τυτθὸν ἀπὸ Φρυγίης πολυληίου ἠπείροιο
εἰς ἅλα κεκλιμένη, ὅσσον τ᾽ ἐπιμύρεται ἰσθμός
χέρσῳ ἔπι πρηνὴς καταειμένος· ἐν δέ οἱ ἀκταί
ἀμφίδυμοι, κεῖται δ᾽ ὑπὲρ ὕδατος Αἰσήποιο.·
Ναύλοχος: ‘A harbour in which ships lie at rest …’ [translated from the Mega Etymologikon Lexikon (Etymologicum Magnum)]
The ‘safety’ of the harbours in the Echinades Islands, which included the Oxiés, is mentioned by Kallimachos in his Hymn To Delos (line 155):
- Why did Athena warn Telemachos to steer well clear of those islands, and in particular why did she promise to send him the favourable south wind that he needed in order to avoid them?
- Would Telemachos have been able to steer clear of those islands, sailing from south to north, if he had not had the south wind in his favour?
- Would that really have been the natural course to steer in a vessel of that period sailing northwards for Kephallenia, Ithaki or Lefkada?
- Why does Homer choose that island for the suitors’ murderous ambush? What was so special about it?
‘… who had left the isles of the Echinades, where sailors cannot land’
(Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, 287-288)
«τὰς Ἐχίνας λιπὼν νήσους ναυβάταις ἀπροσφόρους.»
(Ευρυπίδης, Ιφιγένεια η εν Αυλίδι στιχ.287-288)
Collection of Fotis Kremmydas
- Why was it that in earliest antiquity Oxia was called Asteris, a name it shared with the islands of Delos, Crete and Rhodes?
Fragrant Asteria, around you the islands
formed a circle and surrounded you like a group of dancers. Kallimachos, Hymn To Delos, 300-301
Ἀστερίη θυόεσσα, σὲ μὲν περί τ᾽ ἀμφί τε νῆσοι
κύκλον ἐποιήσαντο καὶ ὡς χορὸν ἀμφεβάλοντο: Kallimachos, Hymn To Delos, 300-301
O Delos, you who are the centre of the islands and have a fine position,
hail to yourself! and hail also to Apollo, and to her whom Leto bore!
ἱστίη ὦ νήσων εὐέστιε χαῖρε μὲν αὐτή,
χαίροι δ᾽ Ἀπόλλων τε καὶ ἣν ἐλοχεύσατο Λητώ. Kallimachos, Hymn To Delos, 325-326
Strabo (C 486.4) makes his own opinion on the matter quite clear: Delos, he says, ‘is strategically placed for those sailing from Italy and Greece to Asia’ (ἐν καλῷ γὰρ κεῖται τοῖς ἐκ τῆς Ἰταλίας καὶ τῆς Ἑλλάδος εἰς τὴν Ἀσίαν πλέουσιν)
Our original paper on the position of Asteris was written in 1990, long before the discovery of the large Mycenaean settlement at Riza -Tzannata, where excavations were put in hand in 2011 by Dr. Antonis Vasilakis three hundred metres north of the Mycenaean royal tholos tomb, (the royal tholos tomb which we discovered in 1991 and has been excavated in 1992-1994 by Dr. Lazaros Kolonas).
We deliberately decided – very wisely, as it turned out (see the unpublished paper by Odysseas Metaxas, which includes a summary of the arguments relating to the controversial line 845 in the fourth book of the Odyssey) – not to try to determine the positions of Homeric Ithaca and Samos when writing this paper about Asteris in the past. We had two main reasons for not committing ourselves on this point: one was that at that time we wanted to concentrate exclusively on Asteris, leaving the question of the positions of Ithaca and Samos to be dealt with in a later study; the other was that the Mycenaean city at Riza -Tzannata had not yet been discovered, so we had no way of determining its exact position in relation to Odysseus’ Megaron and the nearby harbour from which the suitors set sail for Asteris (Od. 4.778-786, 16.342-362).
Consequently, in the original paper we don't mention anything concerning the position of the port of Homeric Ithaca, which, according to Homer’s descriptions, was very near the city and Odysseus’ Megaron and was the suitors’ point of departure and return, even though we had by then firmly identified the harbour of Rheithron as being the ancient port of Pronnoi in the mouth of the River Vohynas at the bottom of the impressive Poros Gorge. (see:http://homericithaca.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-unique-harbour-of-rheithron-in.html.) The fact was, however, that we had yet to find incontrovertible archaeological evidence of the position of the Mycenaean settlement, and our views on the matter were strongly opposed by our son Odysseas, an archaeologist, who was convinced that the city must have been very near the monumental Mycenaean tholos tomb, on and around the low hills inland from the gorge. At that time we were still looking for the settlement on the higher hills directly above Poros, largely because from there anyone in the Megaron would have had a clear view of the sea and have been able to follow the course of a ship sailing to or from Oxia (Asteris), as described by Homer (Od. 16.342-362).
Exactly twenty more years were to go by before Dr.Antonis Vasilakis arrived in Kephallenia to dig at the site, and the exciting results of his excavations proved that our son Odysseas had been absolutely right. These results also show that Homer’s descriptions fit the picture visible from the one and only place in the Iraklio valley that would have given the Mycenaean city that splendid view of the sea and Asteris (Oxia), as Homer says it did.
It is appropiate to use the saying ‘One picture is worth a thousand words’ with reference to the commanding view from the Asty of Homeric Ithaca over the harbour of Rheithron and right across the sea to the isle of Asteris (Oxia).
Now the wooers were troubled and downcast in spirit, and forth they went from the hall past the great wall of the court, and there in front of the gates they held their session. And Eurymachus son of Polybus first spake among them saying:'Verily, friends, a proud deed hath Telemachus accomplished with a high hand, even this journey, and we said that he should never bring it to pass. But come, launch we a black ship, the best there is, and let us get together oarsmen of the sea, who shall straightway bear word to our friends to return home with speed.'The word was yet on his lips, when Amphinomus turned in his place and saw the ship within the deep harbour, and the men lowering the sails and with the oars in their hands. Then sweetly he laughed out and spake among his fellows:'Nay, let us now send no message any more, for lo, they are come home. Either some god has told them all or they themselves have seen the ship of Telemachus go by, and have not been able to catch her.' Thus he spake, and they arose and went to the sea-banks. Swiftly the men drew up the black ship on the shore, and squires, haughty of heart, bare away their weapons. And the wooers all together went to the assembly-place, and suffered none other to sit with them, either of the young men or of the elders. (Od. 16.342-362).
μνηστῆρες δ᾽ ἀκάχοντο κατήφησάν τ᾽ ἐνὶ θυμῷ,
ἐκ δ᾽ ἦλθον μεγάροιο παρὲκ μέγα τειχίον αὐλῆς,
αὐτοῦ δὲ προπάροιθε θυράων ἑδριόωντο.
τοῖσιν δ᾽ Εὐρύμαχος, Πολύβου πάϊς, ἦρχ᾽ ἀγορεύειν· 345
"ὦ φίλοι, ἦ μέγα ἔργον ὑπερφιάλως τετέλεσται
Τηλεμάχῳ ὁδὸς ἥδε· φάμεν δέ οἱ οὐ τελέεσθαι.
ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε νῆα μέλαιναν ἐρύσσομεν ἥ τις ἀρίστη,
ἐς δ᾽ ἐρέτας ἁλιῆας ἀγείρομεν, οἵ κε τάχιστα
κείνοις ἀγγείλωσι θοῶς οἶκόνδε νέεσθαι." 350
οὔ πω πᾶν εἴρηθ᾽, ὅτ᾽ ἄρ᾽ Ἀμφίνομος ἴδε νῆα,
στρεφθεὶς ἐκ χώρης, λιμένος πολυβενθέος ἐντός,
ἱστία τε στέλλοντας ἐρετμά τε χερσὶν ἔχοντας.
ἡδὺ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἐκγελάσας μετεφώνεεν οἷς ἑτάροισι·
"μή τιν᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἀγγελίην ὀτρύνομεν· οἵδε γὰρ ἔνδον. 355
ἤ τίς σφιν τόδ᾽ ἔειπε θεῶν, ἢ εἴσιδον αὐτοὶ
νῆα παρερχομένην, τὴν δ᾽ οὐκ ἐδύναντο κιχῆναι."
ὣς ἔφαθ᾽, οἱ δ᾽ ἀνστάντες ἔβαν ἐπὶ θῖνα θαλάσσης,
αἶψα δὲ νῆα μέλαιναν ἐπ᾽ ἠπείροιο ἔρυσσαν,
τεύχεα δέ σφ᾽ ἀπένεικαν ὑπέρθυμοι θεράποντες. 360
αὐτοὶ δ᾽ εἰς ἀγορὴν κίον ἀθρόοι, οὐδέ τιν᾽ ἄλλον
εἴων οὔτε νέων μεταΐζειν οὔτε γερόντων. (Od. 16.342-362).
[It is important to mention here one specific detail of Homer’s topography (Od. 1.178-186) which provides us with a valuable confirmation of the position of the palace in relation to the port. When a vessel was approaching its moorings and was actually in the gorge, it was no longer visible from the palace. That was why, when ‘Mentes’ arrived at the palace and told Telemachos who he was and where he had come from, he felt it necessary to explain exactly how he had moored his ship in the harbour of Rheithron near the city.]
Once this item of information has been confirmed, one inevitably finds a number of similar items scattered here and there in Homer’s text that need to be collated and checked, relating to the position, form and appearance of the city, harbour and palace, as well as topographical and architectural references to the position, fortification, typology and design of Odysseus’ palace. Many of these could be very useful to excavators.
In the present phase of this study we can briefly conclude the following: The confirmation of the position of Asteris, combined with Homer’s descriptions of the positions of the harbour, Odysseus’ palace, the Asty and the so-called agora, are of crucial importance towards understanding Homeric topography as a whole. We are now in a position to validate or disprove the overall topography of Homeric Ithaca with greater certainty.
We shall be publishing a paper on this topic when the archaeologists have made sufficient progress with identifying the excavated sites and the protection and enhancement of the controversial area is assured.
Society for the Study of Prehistoric Kephallenia:
Information: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
V. Katsaros, Βυζαντινά [Byzantina], vol. 13, pp. 1527-1528; Hélène Yannakopoulou, ‘Quelques repaires de pirates en Grèce de l’Ouest, lieux de commerce illégal (du XVIe au XVIIIe siècles)’, in Économies méditerranéennes, équilibres et intercommunications XIIIe-XIXe siècles, Actes du IIe Colloque international d’Histoire, II, Athens 1985, 526.
Georgios Souris, «Η σημασία της Κεφαλλωνιάς για τα Ελληνιστικά κράτη και τη Ρώμη», Kefalliniaka Chronika, vol.1 p. 113; Joseph Partsch, Kephallenia and Ithaka, 112.
Thucydides, i.5: ‘For in early times the Hellenes and the barbarians of the coast and islands, as communication by sea became more common, were tempted to turn pirates, under the conduct of their most powerful men; the motives being to serve their own cupidity and to support the needy. They would fall upon a town unprotected by walls, and consisting of a mere collection of villages, and would plunder it; indeed, this came to be the main source of their livelihood, no disgrace being yet attached to such an achievement, but even some glory. An illustration of this is furnished by the honour with which some of the inhabitants of the continent still regard a successful marauder, and by the question we find the old poets everywhere representing the people as asking of voyagers – “Are they pirates?” – as if those who are asked the question would have no idea of disclaiming the imputation, or their interrogators of reproaching them for it. The same rapine prevailed also by land. And even at the present day many parts of Hellas still follow the old fashion, the Ozolian Locrians, for instance, the Aetolians, the Acarnanians, and that region of the continent; and the custom of carrying arms is still kept up among these continentals, from the old piratical habits.’
Euripides, Iphigeneia at Aulis, 283-288: ‘Likewise he led the Taphian warriors with the white oar-blades, the subjects of Meges, son of Phyleus, who had left the isles of the Echinades, where sailors cannot land.’
Livy, xxxvii.13.11-12: ‘Then the praetor sent two triremes of the allies from Italy and two from Rhodes, with Epicrates the Rhodian in command, to defend the strait of Cephallania. The Spartan Hybristas with the young men of the Cephallanians was making this dangerous with his piracy, and the sea was already closed to supplies from Italy.’
Homer, Il. 2.735.
Following Homer’s narrative
In memory of Yannis Valsamis & Yannis Zouganelis
ὄφρα μιν αὐτὸν ἰόντα λοχήσομαι ἠδὲ φυλάξω and I will set an ambush to catch him
ἐν πορθμῷ Ἰθάκης τε Σάμοιό τε παιπαλοέσσης, as he sails home through the channel between Ithaca and rugged Samos.
ὡς ἂν ἐπισμυγερῶς ναυτίλλεται εἵνεκα πατρός.» Then all his voyaging in search of his father will come to a grim end.’
( Οδ. δ 669-672) (Od. 4.669-672)
|Frescoes from Thera depicting Bronze Age ships|
ὣς εἰπὼν ἐκρίνατ᾽ ἐείκοσι φῶτας ἀρίστους, Thereupon he picked the twenty bravest men
βὰν δ᾽ ἰέναι ἐπὶ νῆα θοὴν καὶ θῖνα θαλάσσης. and they went off to the swift ship on the seashore.
νῆα μὲν οὖν πάμπρωτον ἁλὸς βένθοσδε ἔρυσσαν, First of all they ran the ship down into deep water,
ἐν δ᾽ ἱστόν τ᾽ ἐτίθεντο καὶ ἱστία νηὶ μελαίνῃ, stepped the mast and rigged the sails in the black ship,
ἠρτύναντο δ᾽ ἐρετμὰ τροποῖς ἐν δερματίνοισιν, f xed the oars in the leather thole-straps,
πάντα κατὰ μοῖραν, ἀνά θ᾽ ἱστία λευκὰ πέτασσαν· all shipshape, and spread the white sails.
τεύχεα δέ σφ᾽ ἤνεικαν ὑπέρθυμοι θεράποντες. Meanwhile their willing menservants brought them their weapons.
ὑψοῦ δ᾽ ἐν νοτίῳ τήν γ᾽ ὥρμισαν, ἐκ δ᾽ ἔβαν αὐτοί· They moored the ship well out in the harbour, went back ashore
ἔνθα δὲ δόρπον ἕλοντο, μένον δ᾽ ἐπὶ ἕσπερον ἐλθεῖν. and there had their supper, waiting for nightfall.
(Οδ. δ, 778-786) (Od. 4.778-786)
μνηστῆρες δ᾽ ἀναβάντες ἐπέπλεον ὑγρὰ κέλευθα Meanwhile the suitors had embarked and were sailing the seas,
Τηλεμάχῳ φόνον αἰπὺν ἐνὶ φρεσὶν ὁρμαίνοντες. lotting foul murder against Telemachos.
ἔστι δέ τις νῆσος μέσσῃ ἁλὶ πετρήεσσα, There is a rocky island in the middle of the sea,
μεσσηγὺς Ἰθάκης τε Σάμοιό τε παιπαλοέσσης, midway between Ithaca and rugged Samos,
Ἀστερίς, οὐ μεγάλη· λιμένες δ᾽ ἔνι ναύλοχοι αὐτῇ called Asteris. It is of no great size, but it has safe harbours,
ἀμφίδυμοι· τῇ τόν γε μένον λοχόωντες Ἀχαιοί. one on each side; and there the Achaians set their ambush for Telemachos.
(Οδ. δ 842-847) (Od. 4.842-847)
«ἄλλο δέ τοί τι ἔπος ἐρέω, σὺ δὲ σύνθεο θυμῷ. And I will tell you something else: take heed of what I say.
μνηστήρων σ᾽ ἐπιτηδὲς ἀριστῆες λοχόωσιν The bravest of the suitors are lying in wait for you
ἐν πορθμῷ Ἰθάκης τε Σάμοιό τε παιπαλοέσσης. in the channel between Ithaca and rugged Samos,
ἱέμενοι κτεῖναι, πρὶν πατρίδα γαῖαν ἱκέσθαι. intent on murdering you before you reach your native land.
ἀλλὰ τά γ᾽ οὐκ ὀΐω· πρὶν καί τινα γαῖα καθέξει But I do not think they will succeed: sooner than that, several of the suitors
ἀνδρῶν μνηστήρων, οἵ τοι βίοτον κατέδουσιν. who are devouring your substance will themselves be laid in the earth.
ἀλλὰ ἑκὰς νήσων ἀπέχειν εὐεργέα νῆα, However, keep your good ship well clear of the islands
νυκτὶ δ᾽ ὁμῶς πλείειν· πέμψει δέ τοι οὖρον ὄπισθεν and sail on through the night, and the immortal deity
ἀθανάτων ὅς τίς σε φυλάσσει τε ῥύεταί τε. who guards and protects you will send you a following breeze.
αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν πρώτην ἀκτὴν Ἰθάκης ἀφίκηαι, When you reach the first point on the coast of Ithaca,
νῆα μὲν ἐς πόλιν ὀτρῦναι καὶ πάντας ἑταίρους, send the ship and all your companions on to the city;
αὐτὸς δὲ πρώτιστα συβώτην εἰσαφικέσθαι, you yourself must go first of all to the swineherd
ὅς τοι ὑῶν ἐπίουρος, ὁμῶς δέ τοι ἤπια οἶδεν. who keeps your pigs and is fond of you.
ἔνθα δὲ νύκτ᾽ ἀέσαι· τὸν δ᾽ ὀτρῦναι πόλιν εἴσω Spend the night there and then send him to the city
ἀγγελίην ἐρέοντα περίφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ, to tell wise Penelope
οὕνεκά οἱ σῶς ἐσσὶ καὶ ἐκ Πύλου εἰλήλουθας.» that you are safely back from Pylos.’
(Οδ. ο 27-42) (Od. 15.27-42)
Τηλέμαχος δ᾽ ἑτάροισιν ἐποτρύνας ἐκέλευσεν Telemachos called to his men and told them
ὅπλων ἅπτεσθαι· τοὶ δ᾽ ἐσσυμένως ἐπίθοντο. to lay hold of the tackle. They obeyed at once,
ἱστὸν δ᾽ εἰλάτινον κοίλης ἔντοσθε μεσόδμης hauled up the fir mast, stepped it in its hollow box,
στῆσαν ἀείραντες, κατὰ δὲ προτόνοισιν ἔδησαν, made it fast with forestays
ἕλκον δ᾽ ἱστία λευκὰ ἐϋστρέπτοισι βοεῦσι. and hoisted the white sail with plaited thongs of oxhide.
τοῖσιν δ᾽ ἴκμενον οὖρον ἵει γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη, And flashing-eyed Athena sent them a boisterous wind
λάβρον ἐπαιγίζοντα δι᾽ αἰθέρος, ὄφρα τάχιστα blowing strongly from astern through the clear air,
νηῦς ἀνύσειε θέουσα θαλάσσης ἁλμυρὸν ὕδωρ. to send the ship racing across the briny sea.
βὰν δὲ παρὰ Κρουνοὺς καὶ Χαλκίδα καλλιρέεθρον. So they sailed past Krounoi and Chalkis with its beautiful streams.
δύσετό τ᾽ ἠέλιος σκιόωντό τε πᾶσαι ἀγυιαί· Now the sun set and all the ways grew dark.
ἡ δὲ Φεὰς ἐπέβαλλεν ἐπειγομένη Διὸς οὔρῳ And the ship drew near to Pheai, sped by the favourable wind of Zeus,
ἠδὲ παρ᾽ Ἤλιδα δῖαν, ὅθι κρατέουσιν Ἐπειοί. and on past goodly Elis, where the Epeians rule.
ἔνθεν δ᾽ αὖ νήσοισιν ἐπιπροέηκε θοῇσιν, From there he steered for the Pointed Islands,
ὁρμαίνων ἤ κεν θάνατον φύγοι ἦ κεν ἁλώῃ. wondering whether he would come through alive or be caught.
(Οδ. ο, 287-300) (Od. 15.287-300)
Merchant vessel of the Homeric age similar to the one Telemachos borrowed to go to Pylos
αἶψα γὰρ Ἠὼς ἦλθεν ἐΰθρονος. οἱ δ᾽ ἐπὶ χέρσου Soon Dawn was on her golden throne and the ship was nearing the shore.
Τηλεμάχου ἕταροι λύον ἱστία, κὰδ δ᾽ ἕλον ἱστὸν elemachos’ comrades struck sail, lowered the mast quickly
καρπαλίμως, τὴν δ᾽ εἰς ὅρμον προέρυσσαν ἐρετμοῖς· and rowed the ship into the harbour with their oars.
ἐκ δ᾽ εὐνὰς ἔβαλον, κατὰ δὲ πρυμνήσι᾽ ἔδησαν· Then they dropped anchor, made the stern cables fast,
ἐκ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ βαῖνον ἐπὶ ῥηγμῖνι θαλάσσης, jumped ashore and prepared their meal
δεῖπνόν τ᾽ ἐντύνοντο κερῶντό τε αἴθοπα οἶνον. and mixed the fiery wine.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο, When they had eaten and drunk their fill,
τοῖσι δὲ Τηλέμαχος πεπνυμένος ἤρχετο μύθων· wise Telemachos broke the silence:
«ὑμεῖς μὲν νῦν ἄστυδ᾽ ἐλαύνετε νῆα μέλαιναν, Row the black ship round to the city,’ he said,
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ἀγροὺς ἐπιείσομαι ἠδὲ βοτῆρας· ‘while I pay a visit to the fields and the herdsmen.
ἑσπέριος δ᾽ εἰς ἄστυ ἰδὼν ἐμὰ ἔργα κάτειμι.» I will come to the city this evening, when I have looked over my lands.’
( Οδ. ο, 495-505) (Od. 15.495-505)
τοῖσιν δ᾽ Ἀντίνοος μετέφη, Εὐπείθεος υἱός· Then spoke Antinoös, Eupeithes’ son:
«ὢ πόποι, ὡς τόνδ᾽ ἄνδρα θεοὶ κακότητος ἔλυσαν. Damn it all, the gods have delivered this man from destruction!
ἤματα μὲν σκοποὶ ἷζον ἐπ᾽ ἄκριας ἠνεμοέσσας Day after day watchmen have sat upon the windy heights,
αἰὲν ἐπασσύτεροι· ἅμα δ᾽ ἠελίῳ καταδύντι one shift following another, and after sunset
οὔ ποτ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἠπείρου νύκτ᾽ ἄσαμεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐνὶ πόντῳ we have never spent a night ashore but have waited for the bright Dawn
νηῒ θοῇ πλείοντες ἐμίμνομεν Ἠῶ δῖαν, sailing the sea in our swift ship,
Τηλέμαχον λοχόωντες, ἵνα φθίσωμεν ἑλόντες lying in wait for Telemachos to catch him and finish him off;
αὐτόν· τὸν δ᾽ ἄρα τῆος ἀπήγαγεν οἴκαδε δαίμων.» but meanwhile some god has brought him home.’
(Οδ. π.363-370) (Od. 16.363-370)