The Basic Guide to the Odyssey

The Basic Guide to the Odyssey
 08/10/2017 02:31 AM

Dafnoudi Bay in Erissos on  Kefalonia is Phorcys Bay (13.96) where Odysseus finally sets foot on  home soil after his long absence. Phorcys, the Old Man of the Sea, is  the Mediterranean Monk Seal, a species now sadly endangered. In the  Naiads’ cave at Dafnoudi, pastel shades of saffron, blue, purple and  green still emanate from the rock, colouring the translucent webs of  spiders (the 'Naiads') as they ply their rocky looms. There are still  two entrances to what is now a very truncated cave. One entrance is  under water, the sea levels having risen considerably in this area since  ancient times. Earthquakes have taken their toll and one cannot be sure  that the accretions of rock within the cave represent Homer's  mixing-bowls and amphorae. There is little sign of bees or a significant  olive tree but a well, now derelict, testifies to the presence of a  spring. The two headlands that once framed the bay have eroded to the  extent that the only trace of the easternmost one is a green patch under  water visible from the air. From the beach a path heads west to the road and the old  German battery. Here flocks of tended goats may still be seen,  indicating that Athene’s disguise as a shepherd was a naturalistic one  (13.221). From the bay, the path also strikes out in the opposite  direction, along the north coast of Erissos to a small gorge which can  be followed up through a tangled forest of holly oak to the site of  Eumaios’ farmstead. In Book 14 Odysseus sets off on an elevated path to where Athene had  pointed out the godly swineherd (‘ οἱ Ἀθήνη / πέφραδε δῖον ὑφορβόν’:  14.2-3). We are to understand that Athene could see Eumaios and that  therefore so too could Odysseus. Eumaios could see both of them.  Eumaios' hill-top farmstead had been cleared of trees in order to give a  view down over the lower perimeter defences. Having seen Odysseus  arrive, the swineherd has the advantage over the consummate  story-teller.

Despite  reaching Dafnoudi as the Morning Star was rising, Odysseus arrives in  broad daylight. To explain this, we refer to Odysseus’ departure from  Scheria, which we consider to be modern Naxos. Sunset there can be timed at around 19.37 UTC on 27th May 1189 BCE (Odyssey 13.50-80). Odysseus had been able to stare at the  Sun repeatedly that late afternoon, because it was undergoing a  protracted eclipse (13. 29: ‘πολλὰ πρὸς ἠέλιον κεφαλὴν τρέπε παμφανόωντα’). In context, the word ‘πολλὰ’ means ‘[he kept turning his head] for long periods’, whilst according to Hesychius 'παμφανόωντα’ means ‘shining all around’ . The flares around the Sun's perimeter are thrown into relief during eclipses.

We witnessed the sun set from high on Stelida, Naxos on August 14th 2017.  The hills of northern Paros render the sun's oceanic setting invisible  from Stelida on that date. However in late May the Sun will set much  further north. The website provides the direction of sunset from Stelida on May 27th. The sun's  rays appear to cross Xiphara on Paros. There are hills beyond but  Stelida may be high enough to have allowed Odysseus to see over these  hills to the far horizon. Meanwhile, we do not know the height of  Alcinoos' 'high-roofed' palace.

With  the sun finally below the horizon, Odysseus takes matters into his own  hands and cuts short the final libation. Everything comes easily to the  Phaeacians except saying 'Goobye'. Meanwhile, the ship that is to take  Odysseus to Ithaca is moored in a roadstead ‘out to sea in the south’ (‘ὑψοῦ δ᾽ἐν νοτίῳ τήνγ᾽ὥρμισαν’: 8.55). Nothing prevents ‘ἐννοτίῳ’  constituting a prepositional phrase with an adjectival substantive  referring to ‘the south’ (as in ‘νοτιωτερος’ = ‘further south’). We  suggest that the cove to which Homer refers is the wide angular bay on  the south-west side of the hill of Stelida on Naxos. It lies just below  the palace which stands on top of the hill. By 19.42 hours Odysseus is  on his way.

The distance  from Naxos to Dafnoudi is 590.8 kilometres. How quickly that distance  was covered can be calculated. King Alcinoos, tells Odysseus that a  Phaeacian ship had once completed a return voyage to Euboea in a single  day (7.321f). His pride suggests it was a close-run thing. That is, the  crew must have beached (mooring would have taken too long) in the  southernmost cove on Euboea. The only candidate is the isolated bay of  Avlaki. The return trip covers 244.17 kilometres. This gives a speed of  10.17375 km/hour. This means the journey to Dafnoudi will have taken 58  hours 4.25 minutes. If the ship left at 19.42 it will have arrived at  Dafnoudi on the third morning at 05.46. That is the time, according to  Stellarium, when Venus rises over Dafnoudi. It is well past dawn on 30th  May 1189 BCE.

Another quite different Homeric cove also lies ‘in the south out to sea’ (ὑψοῦ δ᾽ἐν νοτίῳ’:  4.785). This is where the suitors stop off on their short voyage to  Asteria. We suggest this cove lies just around the corner to the south  of Myrtos Bay in Kefalonia. This will mean that the slopes below  Divarata provide the site of ancient Ithaca. The Ithacans had a view  down over the Ionian Sea. When, in Book 4, we find Eurymachos and  Antinoos watching the athletics from the side of Odysseus’ sports field,  we should be in no doubt that their real concern is to monitor Myrtos  Bay beyond. They expect Telamachos to set out from there by ship. Little  do they know that he had sailed from Roboli a long time earlier. Roboli is a cove situated at the other end of the Pylaros valley, behind the backs of the deluded suitors. It lies on the northern 'edge of the wider bay' of Rheithron (2.391: στῆσε δ᾽ἐπ᾽ἐσχατιῇ λιμένος')  and here Noemon had been keeping his new ship ready and visible to  anyone heading south towards Rheithron. As she journeyed along  Kefalonia's eastern shore, Athene disguised as Mentes had noticed it just  before tying up at Rheithron. She coyly asks Noemon to get her a new or  old ship. She knows full well that there is a new one available in just  the right place. The suitors are unaware that the south-east harbours  of Pylaros are the 'working' harbours with good access to Elis. The  suitors train their sights on the irrelevant but showy Myrtos Bay.

The  mountain range of Kalon Oros is the ancient Neion (1.186), whilst  Hyponeion ('Below Neion') is the term for the small cove of Roboli  (3.81). Agia Efimia is Rheithron (1.186) the harbour where Athene  disguised as Mentes, a guest-friend of Odysseus, puts in with her cargo  of iron from the Taphian islands (1.102f; 1.179f). The word 'rheithron'  means a ‘stream’ and alludes to the main effect of a perfect storm over  Pylaros. The dry bed of the Xeropotamos is converted into a raging  torrent sweeping down into Agia Efimia. On such occasions Erissos  effectively becomes a peninsula with the only means of pedestrian access  being the gorge that stretches south from the Polykentro Pylarou  towards Dilinata. When Telemachos and Eumaios ask strangers to Ithaca  about their sea-borne mode of arrival, they add the rider ‘for I assume  you did not come here on foot’.

Od. 1:173: οὐ μὲν γάρ τί σε πεζὸν ὀΐομαι ἐνθάδ’ ἱκέσθαι (Telemachos to Athene / Mentes)
Od. 14:190: οὐ μὲν γάρ τί σε πεζὸν ὀΐομαι ἐνθάδ’ ἱκέσθαι (Eumaios to Odysseus)
Od. 16:59: οὐ μὲν γάρ τί σε πεζὸν ὀΐομαι ἐνθάδ’ ἱκέσθαι (Telemachos to Odysseus)
Od. 16:224: οὐ μὲν γάρ τί σε πεζὸν ὀΐομαι ἐνθάδ’ ἱκέσθαι (Telemachos to Odysseus, tongue in cheek)

To  reach Ithaca (Erissos) on foot is to arrive via the Dilinata road over the lunar  heights of the Dynati range in Cephallenia. Only a madman it is implied  would do this. However the phrase is in reality a form of legalese that  ensures that all possible modes of arrival are covered. It is analogous  to the use of the phrase ‘spinster of this parish’ in describing the  bride in a UK church wedding ceremony. The bride, if she is committing  bigamy, cannot protest later that she was never ‘asked’ if she was  married. Once termed ‘spinster’, she is committed to acting in full  knowledge of her wrongdoing. In fact Telemachos and Eumaios are Ithaca’s  Border Patrol Officers who are effectively saying ‘passports please’  when they ask by what ship a stranger had arrived. When Telemachos asks  his father such verificatory questions, the first time he is being  serious. The second time he is parodying his role in order to ‘lighten’  the mood of the tearful reunion that has just taken place. One imagines  their sentimental tears turning to tears of laughter.

Roboli  Bay is the cove from which Telemachus leaves for Pylos at the end of  Book 2. As we have seen, at 2.391 its location is defined as being 'at  the edge of the bay (of Rheithron)'. It is the twin of Dafnoudi but is  currently almost unvisited and maintains a secretive air. Initially  Telemachos' ship proceeds under oars only for Athene (Mentor) to conjure  up a katabatic wind from the north-west just as the ship falls into  alignment with the Pylaros valley. The old windmill at Potamaniata in  Pylaros testifies to the regularity of winds within this valley’s  microclimate.

To  illustrate the characteristic windiness of Pylaros we turn to the  passage in Odyssey 20 in which a young female miller provides Odysseus  with an omen. There are 12 mills operated by the maidservants (20.105ff)  all of which must be miniature windmills. The woman who hears Zeus’  thunderbolt can see the ‘starry sky’ as she stands at her mill. She can  also see that there are no clouds. The only cloud hangs over Olympus.  This suggests the mill and its operator are exposed to the elements. The  building from which the woman speaks is a house (105: ‘ἐξ οἴκοιο’) where she no doubt lives. Her location is very close to the palace, if it is not on the palace roof itself. Certainly ‘ἐξοἴκοιο’  means ‘from the direction of the house’ not ‘from within the house’  since Odysseus will not hear the woman’s words if she is inside the  house. The other millers are asleep perhaps on the roof beside their  mills (109). Odysseus' palace is 'high-roofed' and the millls need to be  positioned as far above ground as possible to catch the breezes. We do  not see any reason to suggest that the milling is not carried out on  Odysseus' own roof. If the woman still milling is on the roof this would  suggest that vertical axis windmills were being used since these can be  roof-mounted. These windmills may be of any size and do not depend on  the wind blowing from one direction. Most tellingly the maid has to stop  the mill before addressing the heavens. As Moritz says (1958) ‘there is  no mill-rotary or non-rotary-worked by human power, which, with  grain between the stones, would require a positive effort to bring to a  halt’. Now the fact that this windmill is brought to a halt may suggest that its  noise was disturbing. The halting of the windmill also indicates that the maid  was in control of machinery that, if left running, would continue to  grind out flour whilst she spoke. One cannot stop a water-mill. The  river will not stop flowing whilst one does something else. The windmill only differs from the watermill in being able to be halted at will. Were this not so, with ground meal continuing to be  produced, the bag receiving the meal risks overflowing. On this reading,  line 20.110 may have a double meaning (‘δὲ μί᾽οὔπω παύετ᾽, ἀφαυροτάτηδ᾽ἐτέτυκτο’).  It will continue to refer to the maid who is still working but who is  not, we suggest, 'the feeblest' but rather the ‘least agile’ (‘ἀφαυροτάτη’  > ‘ἀ privative + ‘φαυρος’ = ‘agile, light’). Nothing prevents the  feminine article however relating to the ‘mill’. Thus an alternative  translation would run as follows: ‘one mill alone was still running; it  was of the least robust construction [that is, ‘the least productive of  power’].

The maid has  fallen behind her colleagues in milling her portion of the grain but  this has nothing to do with an innate lack of strength on her part. Her  progress is compromised by the antiquated design of the mill and the  cumulative wear and tear caused to her knees by toiling up and down the  stairs to and from the windmill with sacks of grain and flour. The  crucial information comes in line 118 (‘γούνατ᾽ἔλυσαν’)  where the woman complains that the suitors have loosened her knees  through the work she has been made to carry out. This phrase ‘γούνατ᾽ἔλυσαν’  tends to be formulaic in the Iliad where it articulates the killing or  at least disabling of one warrior by another. The knees are loosened in  the sense that the strength in the stricken warrior’s legs gives way.  The first sign of death is the buckling of the knees (Iliad 5.176; Iliad 11.579: ‘ὑπὸγούνατ᾽ἔλυσεν’).  The problem with the same generic phrase being used in the Odyssey is  that the reader will interpret it as a florid way of saying ‘I have been  brought to my knees’. In fact however, the woman is not hyperbolising  her condition as if she had been stricken on the plain of Troy. Instead  her knees have literally been loosened over time in the sense that the  ligaments are no longer taut enough to allow the muscles to lever the  bones.

It is the pain in  her knees and her rickety mill that delay her for, in any case, the  corn and barley do not require manual grinding. Meanwhile the verb ‘ἐπερρώοντο’  means (107) ‘they would flow along one beside another’ (‘ἐπι’ G.1.4  LSJ), like Zeus’ hair when he nods (Iliad 1.529). This evokes the stream  of women lithely tripping down stairs and returning in constant  parallel streams. Our maid cannot keep pace with the others. It is  because she is handicapped by her knees that she has been assigned to  the least efficient apparatus. No sensible overseer will waste the most  efficient tools on the least efficient worker.

The  woman must be suffering from Chrondro Malacia Patellae as the following  notes prove. See  ‘C[hrondro] M[alacia] P[atellae] is most common in adolescent females … CMP is the result of the normal ageing process, overuse, injury, or uneven pressures exerted on the knee  joint. In teens, CMP may be caused by uneven growth or uneven strength  in the thigh muscles. Growth spurts, common in teens, may result in a  mildly abnormal alignment of the patella, which increases the angle formed by the thigh and the patellar tendon (Q-angle). This condition adds to the damage. Symptoms include pain,  normally around the kneecap, and a grinding sensation felt when  extending the leg. The pain may radiate to the back of the knee, or it  may be intermittent and brought on by squatting, kneeling, going up or down stairs, especially down, or by repeated bending of the joint’.

We  return to the seas off Roboli. Once the katabatic wind strikes,  Telemachos' comrades reconfigure the ship for sail-borne progress. Then  with only an hour to go before dawn, they begin catching up for lost  time in vinously celebrating Athene’s ‘pannychia’ or all-night festival.  The annual Lesser Panathenaic festival held in Athene's honour may have  taken place over the Spring Equinox (Himerius 3rd oration;  Ciris 21f). Many will suppose that the date of the Roman equivalent, the  Quinquatria, will have encouraged an anachronistic situating of the  Panathenaic in Spring. Yet given that the whole of that part of Greece  seems to be ‘en fete’ in Odyssey 3 with Poseidon’s sacrifice taking  place simultaneously at Elis, it seems unlikely that we are not  witnessing one of the major moments in the astronomical calendar.

Now  when Homer observes that ‘the sun has sprung up having left the  beauteous mere’ (Od.3.1) he is not treating us to an Alexandrian  treatment of ‘Dawn’. He means that from the perspective of a ship that  is approaching near to Kotychi from the north-west, the sun (rising due  east) will have appeared to shoot up into the sky, 'having quitted' the  lagoon [of Kotychi]. The days on which the Sun moves at its fastest pace  are the two Equinoxes. Curiously the 12-hour equinoctial night in 1189  BCE falls on 31st March-1st April. If Odysseus arrives in Ithaca on 30th May, this will extend Telemachos’ suspected protracted sojourn in Sparta even further. If one bases the Ithacan timeline of Book 13 on  Athene’s chronology from meeting Odysseus in disguise to leaving for the  mainland to recall Telemachos, then Telemachos will have been away from Ithaca for two months exactly. On this reading Telemachos arrives two days later than Odysseus', namely June 1st 1189 BCE.

Emblissi  Beach is where Telemachus returns to Ithaca after his trip to Pylos.  Around dawn, his ship pulls in to lie along the edge of the bleached and  rocky headland of Xeropunta. Athene had insisted that ‘πρώτην ἀκτὴν Ἰθάκης’  should be the scene of Telemachos’ arrival. On all levels Xeropunta  qualifies as the ‘first headland of Ithaca’ seen by Telemachos as he  rounds the north of modern Ithaca. Indeed Telemachos' arrival at  Xeropunta provides the firmest indication of the route he took after  leaving Kotychi. Telemachos parks the ship initially ‘ἐπὶ χέρσου’ (‘off the ‘dry land’ and ‘desiccated land’) ‘along the front of this headland (πρώτην ἀκτὴν’)'. Given Athene's intervention, the headland may even be considered the ‘destined headland’ (‘πρώτην ἀκτὴν’).

Odyssey 9.25ff:

No  guide to the Odyssey can avoid discussing this passage. Odysseus tells  us (9.25-26), not that Ithaca is the ‘furthest towards the darkness’ but  that it is the ‘highest towards darkness’. The word ‘πανυπέρτατος’  is derived from ‘παν’ (‘all’) and ‘υπέρτατος’ (‘highest’). The latter  is used twice in the Iliad, once of Idomeneus who is seated ‘highest’ of  all the spectators of a chariot race. From his look-out point, he is  the first to see the oncoming steeds and bids his colleagues lower down  to stand up to confirm his report[1]. Thus the phrase ‘πανυπερτάτηεἰν ἁλὶ κεῖται’,  as it stands, must mean 'Ithaca the furthest North of all the Ionian  islands'. This reading will come as no surprise to Strabo (10.10.2: ‘οὔτεγὰρ δέχονταιπανυπερτάτην ὑψηλοτά την ἀλλὰ πανυπερτάτηνπρὸςζόφον, οἷονὑπὲρπάσαςἐσχάτην τετραμμένην πρὸς ἄρκτον’: ‘[commentators on Homer] understand ‘πανυπερτάτην’ to mean not the ‘loftiest of all’ but the ‘highest towards the darkness’, that is, placed furthest of all towards the North’).

Strabo insists on this northerly position of Ithaca again when he mistakenly decides that Ithaca is near to the mainland (‘τῆςἠπείρου, τῆςδ᾽Ἰθάκης ἐγγύθεν πρὸς ἄρκτον’: 10.2.13). Strabo also errs at 10.10.2 in claiming that the ‘πανυπερτάτην πρὸς ζόφον’  (‘highest towards the darkness’) means the ‘most northerly’. In fact  Strabo's fundamental error resides in his failure to realise that the  adjective ‘πανυπέρτατος’ (‘the highest’) means ‘most northerly’ on its own[2]. 


Now  clearly the promontory of Marmakis on Ithaki protrudes further north  than the top of Kefalonia. But Odysseus has juxtaposed his words so that they qualify each other in a particular way. As Strabo  points out, Ithaca is simultaneously ‘the highest’ and ‘towards the  darkness’. Our job is to work out how. Odysseus imagines he is standing  in the middle of Cephallenia. To get a handle on his perspective, we  should imagine ourselves in Birmingham, UK. From there the towns of  Newtown (Powys) and Shrewsbury will be ‘towards the gloom’ (that is the  ‘sunset’). But Liverpool will also be ‘towards the gloom’ because it  lies westwards from Birmingham. Indeed it is further west than  Shrewsbury, though not as far west as Newtown. However, of these three  places, Liverpool, like Ithaca, is ‘the highest’. That puts it the  ‘highest towards the gloom’, or in the far North-West in modern  parlance. On this logic the furthest place north-west will always be  ‘the highest’ and ‘the furthest towards the darkness’.


However  Homer’s characters also talk about the geography in a contextual way.  We should assume the Greeks were conscious of the movement of the sun  and of the dawn’s migration from north-east in summer to south-east in  winter. For instance, Herodotus uses the phrase ‘πρὸς ἠῶ τε καὶ ἡλίου  ἀνατολὰς’ ('towards the dawn and the rising of the sun’) in order to  define the direction of march of Xerxes’ army along the Chersonese  (4.40). They march through Agora with Helle’s tomb on the right and  Kardia on the left. This is not due east but due north-east. The date is  June 480 BC and the midsummer the sun is rising in the north-east of  Asia Minor. Herodotus’ words are contingent upon the context. He  correctly defines the north-east by reference to the summer sunrise. He  expects his readers to do the same.


In  other words the Greeks, in conversation with each other, were acutely  conscious that ‘dawn’ referred to the south-east in winter and to the  north-east in summer. They kept their mental clocks up to date[3].  Odysseus’ words to his crew on Circe’s island take this perspective a  stage further. His confession that they know the location of neither the  dawn nor the darkness, nor of the sunrise nor sunset, suggests not that  they do not perceive these phenomena, but that they are geographically  lost. They see the sun set, but not being familiar with the landscape  behind which the sun sets, they cannot orient themselves. This is the  same predicament one might encounter with a compass on a mountain. The  compass will help one to go north-east from where one is. But if one  does not know where one is is then the compass will be ineffective in  getting one to where one desires to go. Odysseus and his men realise  that, if they are already further east than Ithaca, then heading east  will be counterproductive and vice versa. They do not know which way to  go. No wonder this prompts tears of anguish. Odysseus has tried to find a  point of repair by climbing a height, but all he sees is that he is on  an island. 


This  helps us to understand Hector’s words at Iliad 12.239-240. He is  berating Polydamas for paying heed to a bird of ill-omen that has flown  past on the left. Hector is facing north towards the Greek wall. He  knows that birds passing on the left will only be spotted (and therefore  accorded importance) between the arc of west and north-north-west. This  is what he defines as the ‘misty gloom’ (‘ποτὶζόφονἠερόεντα’:  12.240). However his description of the gloom is contingent upon the  time of year. As in Herodotus book 7, so here in Iliad 12, it must be  midsummer.

The evidence  is spread across books 11-13. Immediately after Hector’s tirade, Zeus  blows up a dust-storm against the Greek Wall. Moreover, there are  numerous references to warriors sweating profusely in books 11 and 13.  Nestor brings Machaon back from the Trojan Plain as a passenger. So fast  do they sweep past the Greek lines that Achilles does not have  sufficient time to recognise Nestor’s passenger (11.613-615). Yet  despite the cooling air that their speed creates, both have to stand on  the open foreshore to cool their sweat on arrival at Nestor’s hut  (11.621-622). Their thirst is ‘parching’ (11.642). Their horses had been  bathed in sweat before even leaving the fray (11.597-598). Meanwhile  Eurypylus having limped back through the Greek lines, is still pouring  with sweat when Patroclus comes upon him near the sea by Odysseus’ ship  (11. 811-812). The similes of a donkey eating maize (which often ripens  in August) and of the all-night lion hunt (11.558-562) suggest summer as  does the Achaeans ‘cooling themselves’ by the ships (13.83-84).

Thus  the darkness over to Hector’s left can be characterised as ‘murky  gloom’, because that region is marked not just by the slow-darkening and  diffuse summer sunset (west to north-west)[4] but also the hazy morning haar that haunts the north-western fringes of Aegean coasts between May and September[5]. In this latter context, we should note that the word ζόφος is productive of adjectives that convey not just general opaqueness,  but specifically the greyness of an elephant and the wanness of  jaundice. As such the word is perfectly adapted to capture the gloom of a  pea-souper. Meanwhile on Hector’s right, the summer dawn and sun will  characterise the arc between north-north-east and east. The diffuse dawn  governs the more northerly area while the sun (once risen) will take  the viewer’s mind’s eye eastwards[6].  Hector is describing the parts of the summer sky that host ominous  birds. He is not defining the heavens for the benefit of contemporary  researchers into the points of the ancient celestial compass.


Odysseus,  in defining the location of the other islands around Ithaca, uses the  same words as Hector, not because these words are a formula for a  certain part of the sky, but because the same words that define the  celestial arc from north-north-east to east in summer coincidentally  also define the celestial arc from east-south-east to south in winter.  The diffuse dawn spreads from east- south-east in winter while the sun  takes the viewer from the south-east into the southern sky. 


Odysseus’ words (‘αἱδέτ᾽ἄνευθεπρὸςἠῶτ᾽ἠέλιόντε’)  constitute a notorious crux in Homeric studies. It seems to mean ‘and  they [the other islands] lie apart towards the dawn and the sun’  [towards the east-south-east and south]’. Odysseus is referring to the  other Ionian islands of Doulichion, Zacynthos, and Samos. That the  ancient Doulichion is the modern Ithaki, and Zacynthos is the modern  Zante we take as read. We have also argued that that the ancient Samos  is the modern Paliki. That conclusion is incorporated into our  discussion here. As regards the angle of these ‘islands’, Zante slopes  markedly at an angle of 50 degrees towards the east. Its inclination is  therefore further to the east than south-east. The angle of Doulichion  meanwhile takes one beyond the south-east towards the south. Paliki  however faces south or perhaps a shade to the west. If Odysseus’ ‘sun’  means ‘the south’ and his dawn means ‘the east’ then the lie of these  islands seems to be accurately captured by his words.

But  even supposing we are correct about Paliki, the problem has always been  that these ‘islands’ lie in the sea ‘apart’ from Ithaca. They should in  other words, be visibly separate from Ithaca. At this point the  conjunctions ‘τ᾽τ᾽τε’ in line 9.25 (‘πρὸςζόφον, αἱδέτ᾽ἄνευθεπρὸςἠῶτ᾽ἠέλιόν’) - particularly with ‘δέ’  in close attendance - should give us pause. There are too many  such particles. This awkwardness prompts the thought that there may have  been some tampering with the text here, possibly to provide spurious  evidence that Ithaca was the modern Lefkas (from the perspective of  which the islands below it are certainly ‘apart’). Thus the following  emendation is proposed :

If it were allowed to stand, the word ‘ταδήν’ (‘in a stretched out fashion’) would constitute a hapax legomenon not just  in Homer but in Greek Literature as a whole. However this would have  made its excision by grammarians more likely and easier to defend.  Strabo’s text contains ‘αἱδέτ᾽ἄνευθεπρὸςἠῶ’  just as does ours today, but on two occasions he also cites line 15.295  which is found in no MS of the Odyssey that we possess. He often  derides emendations proposed by others such as Zenodotus (‘Ascre’ for  ‘Arne’ 9.2.35) Ephoros (‘Alobe’ for ‘Alope’) and Eudoxos, Herodotus and  Hellanicus (‘Amazones’ or ‘Alazones’ for ‘Halizones’). The overly  polemical Strabo is not necessarily therefore a reliable guide to what  Homer wrote.

The word  ‘ταδήν’ only survives thanks to an entry in the Etymologicum Magnum  under a different adverb, namely ‘βαδήν’, which is itself a Homeric  hapax. Here is the relevant section of the entry: ‘βαδήν, … παρὰ τὸ  βαίνω, βαδήν, ὤσπερ τείνω , ταδήν’ (‘step by step’ … from [the verb] ‘I  step’, ‘step by step’, just like ‘I stretch’ ‘in a strung-out fashion’).  The compiler uses the more familiar or more celebrated example of the  same adverbial formation in order to illustrate the lesser known object  of his analysis. This is common practice amongst grammarians. It  reassures the reader that the unusual word is not unprecedented and that  it is formed on a model that can be illustrated from elsewhere. The use  of ὤσπερ (‘just like’) is standard in these cases though it can also be  used in the sense of ‘as though’ (e.g. ‘βαλε ὤσπερ ἀπὸ του ἀγε’; ‘would  that’ as though on the model of ‘come on!’). In this case again while  ‘ἀγε’ will be very familiar to the reader, ‘βαλε’ will scarcely register  at all.

The extremely  close coincidence between the way ‘βαδήν’ derives from ‘βαίνω’ and the  way ‘ταδήν’ derives from ‘τείνω’ makes the compiler confident of his  ground. It seems likely the comparison also occurred to him because they  were both Homeric hapaxes. It may well have been the fame of the  Odyssean passage 9.25 that will have convinced him his reader will be  more familiar with ‘ταδήν’. If ‘ταδήν’ was well-known, then it should  not have been lost to posterity. Certainly the compiler was expecting it  to survive. His brevity on the matter suggests his reader will not need  overpersuading. The reader knows (or should know) ‘ταδήν’ as well as he  does. The mindset of the compiler argues for a parallel manuscript  tradition in which ‘ταδήν’ was preserved.

Our other change is to introduce ‘πρὸτι’ for ‘πρὸς’. This is for metrical reasons but its hiatus with the following ‘ἠῶ’ can also be easily defended from elsewhere in the Odyssey (e.g. ‘προτὶ ὃν μυθήσατο’: 5.285; ‘προτὶ ἄστυ φέρεν’: 7.2; ‘προτὶ οἶκον ἄγοντα’: 17.55)[7]. In Homer the form ‘προτὶ’  is commonly used instead of ‘πρὸς’  in contexts such as this where motion towards or in the direction of an  object is implied. Above all the line now gives excellent sense.  Odysseus focuses on the ‘elongated’ attitude of all the other islands as  they ‘lie stretching out’ towards the south and east-south-east. No  longer ‘apart’ they pull in more or less in the same direction. Indeed a  common aspect of their shape has also been defined. They have a strong  identifying feature in common and as such constitute a collective  contrast to the condition of Ithaca (‘αὐτὴδὲαἱδέ…’: 9.25-26).

Another  piece of evidence for the geographical location of Ithaca comes from  Odyssey 13. When Athene is standing chatting to Odysseus in Phorcys’  Bay, she mentions Ithaca’s widespread reputation. ‘Those who dwell  towards the dawn and the sun’ she says ‘are aware of Ithaca as well as  those who are behind towards the murky gloom’ (13.240-241). However  Athene can see very little. Due to the mist, the sun will be but a  smear. Her words are not meant to invoke so much what she sees as what  she imagines. She is concerned to echo Odysseus’ words in his speech to  the Phaeacians. He had used the dawn and the sun simply to demarcate  south and east. In her turn Athene borrows the same terms in order,  ruefully, to conjure up the suitors and their overfamiliarity with  Erissos. In lines 13.239-240, her meaning may be extrapolated as  follows: ‘full many are they that are familiar with Ithaca, all who live  in Doulichion, Zacynthos, Cephallenia [all south-east stretching], and  Samos [south-stretching]’.

At  the same time Athene has to convince Odysseus that he knows where he  is. She therefore alludes to those who know Ithaca and who come from  ‘the gloom’ [behind them]. Odysseus will be familiar with the  north-western haar and will be relieved that the north-west of Ithaca is  the home of a close ally in Eumaios. However Athene is also feeding  Odysseus hints as to how he might ‘relate detailed stories’ (‘ἕκαστά τεμυθήσαιτο’:  13.191). We consider the subject of this phrase to be not Athene but  Odysseus. Athene has covered Odyseus not so much in a real haar as in a  mist of obscurity in order to make him not only unrecognised but also  ‘in order that he might be able to relate detailed yarns’ which will  keep all recognition at bay. Once such yarn will relate to his arrival  at Dafnoudi. Athene’s reference to those who know Ithaca from beyond the  gloom relates to the Thesprotians. Odysseus will not be slow to bear  this in mind when he meets Eumaios.

Athene,  we assume, had approached from the fringes of the woods to the east  along the path that crosses the beach and continues to the German  Battery. She will confront the pacing Odysseus who is on the  edge of the water. But the beach at Dafnoudi looks out towards the north-east with the waterline angled north-west to south-east. Thus Athene will be approaching along the waterline heading north-west with Odysseus looking  south-east towards her. Athene adopts her interlocutor's perspective. Thus she can  quite naturally refer to the north-east where the sun has long-since  risen, and to the south, knowing that these are directions that lie  within Odysseus' current purview. This quadrant will be the source of  the light which has now spread. Athene will only have to motion to her right. Odysseus is already facing the right way to absorb this entire quadrant. Meanwhile the haar must  be understood to have spread from the zophos in the north-west[8].  This is because Athene mentions it as being 'behind'. If this does not  mean 'behind' Odysseus then we fail to see what other perspective exists. Athene also refers to  the 'zophos' when she mentions that either rain or dew holds Ithaca in  its grip ‘for the time being’ (‘αἰεὶ’)[9].  It is not raining (Odysseus had seen the morning star after all), but  the haar is depositing a thick film of dew across the entire landscape[10]  The humidity in Kefalonia in May is high and the salt spray from the  ocean acts as a catalyst for the formation of fog at humidity levels  lower than 100%. This is why Homer refers to the ‘heavy waves raised by  the fierce winds outside the harbour’ (13.99). The particles of salt in  the air create the fog.


[1] Iliad 23. 451: ‘ἧστογὰρἐκτὸςἀγῶνοςὑπέρτατοςἐνπεριωπῇ’. See also Iliad 12.381 of a rock which is topmost of those along the battlements: ‘μαρμάρῳὀκριόεντιβαλώνῥαἐντὸςκεῖτομέγαςπαρ᾽ἔπαλξινὑπέρτατος’.

[2] This also demonstrates Strabo’s conviction that ‘ζόφος’ lies to the north.

[3]  In contrast to some of us, the Greeks did not view the weather, or  their location, as though they were on a satellite looking down on  earth. They viewed it from their own perspective. 


[4] The word ‘ζόφοπνοια’ is defined as a wind ‘from the sunset’. Clearly ζόφος can refer to the sunset but that sunset is not fixed at a point due west.  During the summer of Iliad Book 12 it is in the north-west. Furthermore  the Zephyr is a north-westerly wind. Its etymology is considered by LSJ  to derive from ζόφος. This would localise ζόφος in etymological terms as  a north-westerly phenomenon.

[5] See James Beresford The Ancient Sailing Season pp.95-96

[6]  Note that ‘dawn’ is not commensurate with ‘sunrise’. Hesychius makes  this clear s.v. ‘ἐως’ (= ‘the hour or time-period before the sun  rises’). Thus a simultaneous reference to both ‘dawn’ and ‘the sun’ is  not tautologous. 


[7] See also Iliiad 3.538, 657; 15.681; 16.45.


[8]  In April 1980 I witnessed a mid-morning haar in the north-north-west of  Skiathos. While the south-east facing coasts were bathed in strong  sunshine Kastro and adjoining coasts were engulfed in a murky and chilly  fog. The contrast was extreme.


[9] 13.245: ‘αἰεὶδ᾽ὄμβροςἔχειτεθαλυῖάτ᾽ἐέρση

[10] Salt is a unique condensation nuclei in that it will allow fog to form when the humidity is as low as 70%

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