Skip to comments.Archeologists make historic discovery (Tomb of Odysseus)
Posted on 09/23/2005 7:37:53 PM PDT by wagglebee
POROS, Island of Kefalonia, Greece - The tomb of Odysseus has been found, and the location of his legendary capital city of Ithaca discovered here on this large island across a one-mile channel from the bone-dry islet that modern maps call Ithaca.
This could be the most important archeological discovery of the last 40 years, a find that may eventually equal the German archeologist Heinrich Schliemanns 19th Century dig at Troy. But the quirky people and politics involved in this achievement have delayed by several years the process of reporting the find to the world.
Yet visitors to Kefalonia, an octopus-shaped island off the west coast of Greece, can see the evidence for themselves at virtually no cost.
The discovery of what is almost certainly his tomb reveals that crafty Odysseus, known as Ulysses in many English renditions of Homers Iliad and Odyssey, was no mere myth, but a real person. Plus, passages in the Odyssey itself suggest that modern Ithaca and its main town of Vathi probably were not the city and island of which Homer wrote.
Rather, this small village of Poros on the southeast coast of Kefalonia now occupies part of a site that most likely was the much larger city which served as capital of the multi-island kingdom ruled by Odysseus and his father Laertes.
Archeologists have long and often times looked for evidence of Odysseus on modern Ithaca, but never found anything significant from the Bronze Age. This led many scholars to dismiss Homers version of Ionian island geography as strictly a literary creation.
But two pieces of fairly recent evidence suggest archeologists were looking in the wrong place. In 1991, a tomb of the type used to bury ancient Greek royalty was found near the hamlet of Tzannata in the hills outside Poros. It is the largest such tomb in northeastern Greece, with remains of at least 72 persons found in its stone niches.
One find there is particularly telling. In Book XIX of the Odyssey, the just-returned and still disguised Odysseus tells his wife (who may or may not realize who shes talking to; Homer is deliberately ambivalent) that he encountered Odysseus many years earlier on the island of Crete. He describes in detail a gold brooch the king wore on that occasion.
A gold brooch meeting that precise description lies now in the archeological museum at Argostoli, the main city on Kefalonia, 30 miles across the island from Poros. Other gold jewelry and seals carved in precious stones excavated from the tomb offer further proof the grave outside Poros was used to bury kings.
Greek archeologists also found sections of ancient city walls extending for miles through the hills around and well beyond Poros. These surround both the village and a steep adjacent hill which bears evidence it once served as an acropolis, what the Greeks called hilltop forts in most of their major cities. The stones of the walls date to about 1300 B.C., the approximate time of events described in the Iliad and Odyssey.
Most likely, the royal capital at Ithaca was a much larger city than Poros or any other town on either modern Ithaca or Kefalonia. It would have needed a major source of water. There is none on modern Ithaca, but streams abound near Poros, where there is also a small man-made lake. This area had the necessary water. The island now called Ithaca likely did not.
Several other ancient settlements found elsewhere on Kefalonia also suggest the island was a major population center at the time of Odysseus.
And Homer described two major landmarks near ancient Ithaca: He says it sat beneath an impressive mountain, the tree-clad Mt. Neriton, which dominated views from the wine-dark sea for many miles around. That description fits Mt. Aenos, just above Poros, the highest peak in the Ionian islands. Homer also describes the legendary Cave of the Nymphs as within a day or two walk from the city of Ithaca. A spacious, dark cave with large stalactites and deep blue water matching Homers description is currently a tourist attraction about 15 miles northwest of Poros.
Why hasnt all this been reported before? Because of local politics and economics. The most active promoter of the Poros area as Homeric Ithaca is the current mayor, who at one time was governor of the prefecture (county or small state) including both Ithaca and Kefalonia.
Gerasimos Metaxas, an author and amateur archeologist who gladly shows visitors remains of the ancient city call and innards of the tomb, was defeated for reelection as governor when he began promoting the Poros-as-Ithaca idea in Greek publications. Why? If Poros is Ithaca, who would ever go to the barren island now using the name? And if tiny Poros ever gets a huge tourist and cruise ship influx, what happens to Argostoli, now the center for those trades on Kefalonia?
As a result, the entire find has never been reported in the non-Greek press. And so far, major world media show little or no interest in the tale. But for lovers of Homers sagas, theres now no place more appealing than Kefalonia.
I know this is a month old, but I didn't see it posted.
Lost tombs ping.
Schliemanns find was spectacular and means a great deal to those who understand what was found.
Here is another find that makes fools out of those who denied the existence of those found.
You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever,
But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun.
And the colors of the sea blind your eyes with trembling mermaids,
And you touch the distant beaches with tales of brave Ulysses:
How his naked ears were tortured by the sirens sweetly singing,
For the sparkling waves are calling you to kiss their white laced lips.
And you see a girl's brown body dancing through the turquoise,
And her footprints make you follow where the sky loves the sea.
And when your fingers find her, she drowns you in her body,
Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind.
The tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers,
And you want to take her with you to the hard land of the winter.
Her name is Aphrodite and she rides a crimson shell,
And you know you cannot leave her for you touched the distant sands
With tales of brave Ulysses; how his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing.
The tiny purple fishes run lauging through your fingers,
And you want to take her with you to the hard land of the winter.
The Odyssey - One of my all-time favorite stories. This is so cool.
What's this GGG Ping? So far I've seen three or four really interesting threads with it tonight! I love archaeology.
It's a joke; Ithaca NY is the city of evil, due to the perilously high concentration of truly idiotic academic liberals at Cornell and Ithaca College.
BLL regularly posts of the stupidity found thereabouts.
Very interesting, thank you for posting this article.
I hope more comes to light in the near future, would be interesting to see more evidence.
After all the FR reports of the leftist craziness in the American Ithaca, I'm unable to think of that name without adding "the city of Evil"!
GGG is the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" ping list, SunkenCiv pings the list about once a week or so (FReepmail him to get on the list).
Cool find ping!
I thought that was probably what WC was referring to, but I wanted to make sure that there wasn't some tidbit of Greek history that I was totally ignorant to.
"The Odyssey - One of my all-time favorite stories. This is so cool."
One of the coolest things ever. The neat thing is that the evidence is so strong.
Cool, thanks! SunkenCiv, could you sign me up?
Quite interesting; thanks for posting.
Fascinating! Thanks, wagglebee for posting this.
(I am pinging for SunkenCIv for a couple of days)
On the other hand, the owner of the broach could have heard the story of Odysseus, admired him, and had a copy made, or a local monarch could have sought to legitimize his rule by claming kinship to Odysseus and had a copy made.
"And so far, major world media show little or no interest in the tale."
And Mr Elias of the Madera Tribune brings the story to the USA. I wonder if he took a trip to the Greek islands this year.
Great find !!!
Many moons ago when I was contemplating college, archaeology was a strong draw. But then I thought, how could a 17 yr old from Illinois ever become an archaeologist. My regret.
IIRC, Homer's epics were centuries after the Trojan War. It would have been difficult, even in that era, to fake this.
Homer was simply the first person to write them down. They had been passed down through the oral tradition since the Trojan War. Prior to Homer they would have been as familiar in the Greek world via story tellers as Hollywood is to us.
this is NEAT
Yes. Now we have to find the graves of the Cyclops and maybe there are some living sirens for us to find....
Let us just hope Greece is more fortunate than egypt and has no thing similar to a Zahi Hawass.
It sure is! OH WOW!!!!!!!
I would like to see a more thorough, scholarly description of the evidence, but it has long been speculated that if Odysseus (or someone like him) existed, that the Ithaca of Homer was actually modern-day Cephalonia.
PS. And might I add that this is a fascinating report!
Ever heard of ZOEgirl, Jaci Velasquez, Rebecca St. James, Bethany Dillon, Joy Williams ???
I'm still not over it that the tomb in Vergina is not that of Philip of Macedon. And now this.
Thanks for the ping!
But wait! The prophecy concerning Ulysses was that when he finally got home from Troy he would place an oar upon his shoulder, walk inland and when someone asked him why he was carrying a winowing fan on his shoulder, that would be the place he would settle down.
Maybe that was the place.
There are a lot of details in Homer that seem to be authentic Bronze Age features (not only with weapons, armor, the walls and location of Troy, etc. but also details about Odysseus' ship and such) that had changed by the time of Homer, suggesting the stories have at least a Bronze Age core to them. I'm not sure if archaeology will ever answer questions such as wether the Trojan War was really started over Helen and ended with a wooden horse, though.
My thoughts exactly. The existence of this brooch is not proof. Homer's work was so widely performed that most people would have heard it, and anyone who was interested and who had the money could have had such a brooch created for them.
Be pretty cool if this is true, though!
Incidently, this is the first time I've used Google Earth...I see another time sink in my future...
LOL. I just suffered through his audio narration of the L.A. King Tut exhibit. What a drama queen! There was interesting stuff to see but the exhibit was so badly organized and the signing was so bad you had to be very determined to get through it all, especially with Zahi's overripe commentary. I think he's mostly a creation of National Geographic.
Could be an direct ancestor of Mullah Omar.
Man I was there last september. My wife is greek and she has a home not 5 miles from Poros in Valeriano. My father in law always said theat Odyssous was from Kefalonia. I guess he was right all along.
Wine dark sea bump.
This is so cool. FYI: Victor Hanson has written about Greek warfare.