Is Kefalonia Odysseus' Home?

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Posted by on 30 Sep 2005

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Recently a study conducted by Robert Bittlestone, John Underhill and James Diggle has shown evidence that the home of Odysseus could in fact be Paliki, a peninsula located to the west of Kefalonia. In 2005 they published a very interesting book, Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca, which gave evidence and a detailed explanation as to why Paliki is most likely to have been the Ithaca Homer describes.

Ancient Ithaca, described in Homer’s extremely popular Odyssey, has been a constant source of mystery and research among scores of scholars. The present day Ithaca is a peninsula of the island, Kefalonia, and bears little resemblance to the magnificent place described by Homer. With a great number of theories about the location of Ancient Ithaca of the Homeric epic, the land of Odysseus has been known by many names.

Though many believe that the present day island of Ithaca is in fact the Homeric Ithaca as well, many scholars are finding it hard to digest this fact due to the huge mismatch in the geographical details of the two places. Many have tried to use the fact that Homer was composing a poem and could have taken certain liberties about the geographical positioning of Ithaca, as a means to justify the discrepancies in the location of present day Ithaca and Homer’s Ithaca. 

Robert Bittlestone, who is a management consultant, justifies his theory by stating that Paliki, though not an island today, could at the time of Homer have been an island, when sea levels were probably higher. This fact could mean that Paliki was in fact the Ithaca described by Homer, as it then corresponds immensely with the clues given in the Odyssey, by Homer. He used the help of scholars, James Diggle, a Greek and Latin professor at the Cambridge University as well as a Fellow of Queen’s college and James Underhill, a professor of Stratigraphy at the University of Edinburgh, to provide further evidence that his theory was correct.

Professor Diggle used numerous philological clues to come to the conclusion about Paliki, being Homer’s Ithaca. He prepared a chart of 32 clues, after deriving information about the geographical location of places in and around Homer’s Ithaca, which gave a detailed look at how each of these clues fared with the theories of 22 scholars, who had proposed places as Homer’s Ithaca. He also showed how Robert Bittlestone’s theory fell in tandem with all the clues provided and thus was the best suited to be the home of Odysseus. But this was not enough, Robert Bittlestone, had to prove that the narrow stretch of land that connects Paliki with Kefalonia was in fact below sea level at that time.

Professor Underhill came to the rescue at this point and being an authority on structure and stratigraphy of sedimentary basins, his results were very conclusive. But his results were not what had been expected, instead of proving that sea levels had fallen, he found out that the land between the Paliki and Kefalonia had risen, which was due to numerous earthquakes, which caused rock-falls.

Aiding Robert Bittlestone in this research is the Ministry of Culture and the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration, which is based in Athens. When it was discovered that the stretch of land connecting Paliki to Kefalonia, is in fact a submerged marine valley, the theory that the land rose was discarded as it is impossible for tectonic forces to raise such huge amounts of land to such a degree in that period. Instead Professor Underhill proposed that the stretch was actually filled up by rocks which had slipped into the area due to massive earthquakes. So far his results have only strengthened Bittlestone’s theory.

Research is still on at the site, and the people involved seem enthusiastic about their theory. So far all the evidence gathered, indicates that Paliki could well be the home of Odysseus, which has eluded scholars for 3000 years.


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