For centuries, almost everyone who read the Iliad and the Odyssey believed that their beautiful verses described mythical places, mythical persons, mythical states that did not correspond to any reality.
The ancient Greeks, however, and later the Romans, believed that all these heroes existed, although they could not perhaps specify the exact dates of the events.
Besides, the archaeological discoveries from the 19th century until now have shown and keep showing that the kings and the cities mentioned in Homer’s epics have really existed.
However, Odysseus’s course during the 10 years of his wandering has always been a dark matter that has concerned since antiquity and still concerns historians and philologists and geographers and astronomers.
From Plato to Strabo and many people after them have tried to define where Odysseus had travelled and this search continues until today.
I believe, and certainly not only myself, that the ancient Greek Mycenaeans and before them the Minoans had the technical ability to plan and make long journeys based mainly on the observation of the position of the stars. Also on the basis of information about distant places, which they maintained and increased from generation to generation. Information that , for obvious reasons, those who had it did not publish but kept secret for their families or their cities. Such information certainly concerned the people who lived in these foreign lands, the products they produced or needed, the minerals they had in their mines – copper, tin, amber, gold, silver etc.
We must not forget that before the Trojan War, the Argonauts’ expedition to Colchis was also carried out through the Hellespont, in which many ancestors of the heroes who fought against Troy took part. In legend later than Odyssey, it is reported that Laertes was also Argonaut, while the dangerous places of the Odyssey are also found in the Argonauts’ expedition. After all, it is obvious that the two campaigns aimed at ensuring free navigation to the Black Sea.
The relatively recent discoveries of settlements and fortifications and tombs and tools and weapons and wheels and wagons made of copper across Europe, the central and the northern and not just the southern, dating from the second millennium BC prove that there was human communication among those who lived in the continent at that time.
For the first time, this communication emerged in the exhibitions organized by the Council of Europe titled “GODS AND HEROES OF THE BRONZE AGE – Europe at the roots of Odysseus”. In Athens this exhibition was presented at the National Archaeological Museum of Greece during 2000. A really amazing catalogue was then published in both Greek and English.
So we have one more concrete indication if not proof that Odysseus did not travel blindly. He knew where and why he was going.
In the Odyssey, there is enough information to guide us in identifying the places he visited, certainly not with certainty.
Many researchers in the past two centuries have tried to pin these places on maps inside and outside the Mediterranean Sea.
One of them was Gilbert Pillot, who presented his opinion in his book “The Secret World of the Odyssey – Did the Greeks sail in the Atlantic”. The author, a sailor himself, follows the text of the epic and travels along with Odysseus in specific places. Based on this book:
- The Lotus-eaters were located south of Morocco on the Atlantic coast
- The Cyclops lived on Tenerife in the Canary Islands
- The island of Aeolos coincides with Madeira (Portugal)
- The port of the Laestrygonians was in West Ireland
- The island of Circe coincides with the island of Bara, the southernmost of the Hebrides
- The Cimmerians lived on the northern coast of Ireland at the estuary of the River Foyle
- The island of Sirens and also Scylla and Charybdis are located in the island area west of Scotland.
But there are also other relatively modern authors who have drawn other paths. I present here a relative list.
Finally, I have recently discovered another relevant study, completely unique, as it places Odysseus’ wandering within the Black Sea.
The study was written in Russian in 1819 by Basil Kapnistis, a well-known Russian author of Greek origin and translated by the expatriate merchant in Odessa Constantinos Artinos and published in the famous Greek magazine Hermes o Logios (Hermes the Scholar) in 1820 (the magazine had been published in Vienna between 1811 and 1821)
This translation is indeed the first contact of the Greeks with the Russian literature, as mentioned in the collective volume “The Russian Literature in Greece”, which was published in 2006 under the edition of Sonia Ilyinskaya by ELLINIKA GRAMMATA in Athens.