Odysseus Unbound - The Search for Homer’s Ithaca


Dec 5 2006 18.30

Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain - Copthorne Hotel, 122 Huntly Street, Aberdeen AB10 1SU

Where was Odysseus' homeland? The geological, geomorphological and geophysical evidence for relocating Homer’s Ithaca.

Aberdeen Art GalleryOn Tuesday December 5th at 18.30 John Underhill will deliver an Aberdeen Evening Lecture to the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain. The PESGB was established in 1964 and its objective is to promote, for the public benefit, education in the scientific and technical aspects of petroleum exploration. This is achieved via monthly lectures, conferences & seminars, field trips, a monthly newsletter, regional branches and special interest groups.

The lecture is on the same evening as the PESGB Aberdeen Christmas Party that takes place afterwards at the adjacent Aberdeen Art Gallery, and in it John will convey the latest news of the geological researches that he has been supervising on the island of Cephalonia.

The lecture is restricted to members. To join the PESGB, contact the PESGB Office, 5th floor, 9 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8DW (020 7408 2000, pesgb@pesgb.org.uk). Click here for further details of the talk.

The evening was kindly sponsored by Ithaca Energy, whose management team must be congratulated for choosing such an appropriate cause. A late change of venue did nothing to daunt the enthusiasm of a very supportive audience of over 120 PESGB members.

Some comments on John Underhill's address: "The talk last night was very enjoyable… a great piece of science!" "Thank you for an truly excellent talk. It's so very interesting and fresh when fields overlap, and you put the story over in a very comprehensive and scientific way. Everyone I spoke to afterwards was really fascinated."

Nov 1 2006 19.30

Edinburgh Geological Society - Grant Institute of Geology, Edinburgh University

Where was Odysseus' homeland? The geological, geomorphological and geophysical evidence for relocating Homer’s Ithaca.

On Wednesday November 1st John Underhill will deliver a lecture to the Edinburgh Geological Society with the latest news of the geological researches that he has been supervising on the island of Cephalonia. These are aimed at determining whether or not its western peninsula, called Paliki, was separated from the rest of the island by a narrow marine channel during the Bronze Age period (late Holocene, c. 3000 years ago). If this was the case then Paliki would at that time have been a free-standing island that precisely met Homer’s description ‘lies low, furthest to sea and towards dusk’. The talk will summarise the results of the geological, geophysical and geomorphic methods that have been used over the past three years in an attempt to test the validity of 'Strabo’s Channel' as a historical reality. The outcome of this work may provide us with an elegant solution to a 3,000 year old mystery.

The Edinburgh Geological Society was founded in 1834 with the aim of stimulating public interest in geology and the advancement of geological knowledge. It was formed at a time when William IV was on the British throne and Charles Darwin was making his epoch-making voyage in the Beagle.

The lecture is free and is open to the public as well as to members of the Edinburgh Geological Society. It will take place at 19.30 at the Hutton Lecture Theatre, Grant Institute, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JW. Click here for further details.

Around 180 members and guests of the Edinburgh Geological Society attended the seminar and responded very enthusiastically to John Underhill's exposition. Thanks are due to Costas Lambropoulos for taking these photographs of the event.

Oct 7 2006 14:00

Queens' College Academic Saturday, University of Cambridge

Where was Homer’s Ithaca?

"We are sure that the word will spread and that the venture will snowball." Since the first Queens' College Academic Saturday in 1997, this annual day of lectures by Fellows for members and their families has become increasingly popular. On October 7 James Diggle and Robert Bittlestone will present to members and guests the radical proposal of Odysseus Unbound. By that time John Underhill's new paper in Geoscientist will have been published with updated news of the latest year of researches on Cephalonia, and highlights from this will also be included in the presentation.

Click here for further details. A4 double sided leaflet. A3 display poster.

Over 150 Queens' College alumni and their families attended the presentation and Cambridge University Press arranged a stand for signed copies of the book. A 1950 alumnus commented: 'I thought the lecture wholly fascinating, brilliantly conceived and conveyed, and most entertainingly and grippingly delivered … a most sensational piece of historical research.'

Click here for a summary of the presentation in the Queens' College Record.

Sep 23 2006 12:15

Cambridge 16th Alumni Weekend - Sidgwick Avenue Site, Law Faculty, Room LG18

Where was Homer’s Ithaca?

This seminar for the Cambridge Alumni weekend will present the latest news of events from the former island that is believed to be Odysseus’ homeland. The topic will be illustrated throughout with slides, satellite photography and computer animations. The content is aimed at a non-specialist audience as well as those who are studying or lecturing in ancient history, languages, geology, classics or archaeology. The speakers will answer questions at the end and they will be available for further discussions afterwards. Click here for: A4 double-sided leaflet; A3 display poster.

John Underhill, Robert Bittlestone and James Diggle on Queens' College bridgeAbout 130 delegates attended this well-received seminar and Cambridge University Press supported the event with a brisk trade in signed copies of the book.

Sep 15 2006 14:00

Lecture at Stockholm University

On September 15 at 14:00 Robert Bittlestone (Chairman, Metapraxis) will present a seminar at Stockholm University on the classical, geological and archaeological discoveries described in his recent book Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca. The book has been co-authored with Professor James Diggle (Classics, Cambridge) and Professor John Underhill (Geology, Edinburgh) and the presentation is open to the public as well as to students and staff of the University. The content is aimed at a non-specialist audience as well as those who are studying or lecturing in ancient history, languages, geology, classics or archaeology. The speaker will answer questions at the end and he will be available for further discussions afterwards. Click here for further details. A4 double sided leaflet. A3 single sided poster.

About 70 delegates attended the seminar, including the Cultural and Educational Councillors of the Embassy of Greece in Stockholm. Dr Denis Searby commented "Many thanks for a really stimulating presentation… Such investigations and points of view coming from an outsider to the usual academic discussions can stimulate thought and imagination and, especially, excite young students. After all, Michael Ventris was only a young teenager when he heard a lecture about Linear B, and though he studied architecture, he went on to crack the code."

May 22 2006 19:30

John Underhill, Robert Bittlestone and James Diggle: click for larger image

Seminar at the Kingston Readers' Festival, Kingston-upon-Thames

There will be a presentation about Odysseus Unbound at the Kingston Readers' Festival on May 22nd. The topic will be illustrated throughout with slides, satellite photography and computer animations and the content is aimed at a non-specialist audience as well as those who are studying or lecturing in these subjects. There will be an opportunity to meet the authors and to purchase signed copies of the book. Venue: Room 102, Town House, Penrhyn Road campus, Kingston University. Tickets: £8 (£5 under 18s) . Click here for further details and to book.

A lively audience of those who had already read the book and others wishing to do so joined the authors at the Festival to listen to their presentation of these discoveries. The proceedings were launched by James Diggle's oration of the first few lines of the Odyssey in ancient Greek and were then enlivened by animated slides, film footage of the 1953 earthquake and a 'live fly-by' of Cephalonia via NASA's World Wind software. John Underhill was provided with a rare opportunity to explain further intricacies of Cephalonian geology while the laptop computer recovered from a discharged battery, and the evening ended with an enthusiastic response from the audience and the signature by the authors of copies of the book. Our thanks are due to Sandy Williams, the Festival's organiser, both for her invitation and for her formidable organisation of the event.

May 18 2006 18:00

Boylston Street area, Boston

Was Homer’s Ithaca a real place? Lecture/dinner at The Tavern Club, Boston

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are two of the oldest works in Western literature, describing a Bronze Age world over 3,000 years ago. For centuries both of these poems were believed to have been set in an imaginary landscape, but then Schliemann discovered Troy in the 1870s and triggered a major re-evaluation of the Iliad. However, Homer’s Ithaca has remained elusive, with the Ionian island that is today called Ithaki bearing little resemblance to that which is described in the Odyssey.

But in September 2005 a radical new identification for the location of Homer’s Ithaca was proposed by three British researchers: Robert Bittlestone, a management consultant; James Diggle, Professor of Greek at Cambridge; and John Underhill, Professor of Geology at Edinburgh. Their book describing this discovery, Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca has been published by Cambridge University Press and it has already sold out its first printing. Their theory is gaining ground as more evidence emerges from the Ionian islands, and an increasing number of classicists worldwide are beginning to contemplate the possibility that the poet of the Odyssey might have had direct knowledge of Ithaca's landscape.

Robert Bittlestone is our guest at the Tavern Club on May 18. For those who are unfamiliar with the hypothesis of the book he will deliver a slide-based presentation accompanied by satellite photography and computer animation, and then over dinner he looks forward to participating in an informal debate about this intriguing and thought-provoking possibility. The evening will start with a drinks reception. Attendance is by invitation only for members and their guests. Inquiries about the seminar can be addressed to Christopher Smallhorn or Peter Rand and the club is located at 4 Boylston Place.

Around 60 members and their guests attended the seminar in the Tavern Club upstairs theatre and the presentation was warmly received by an audience that included several very eminent classicists. Reactions from the audience included statements such as "I find this evidence most persuasive: it addresses the enigma of Ithaca in an entirely novel way" and "I congratulate the speaker for his emphasis on the importance of the forthcoming geological tests and for not over-stating the case". Towards the end of the subsequent dinner there was an open question and answer session in which issues were debated such as the implications of the discoveries on Paliki for the long-standing question of "Who was Homer and where and when did he live?" The following day an informal lunch was held at the club to enable these conversation to continue.

Mar 29 2006 18:45

Lecture at the Reform Club, London for the Anglo-Hellenic League

The Anglo-Hellenic League, a registered charity, was founded in 1913. Dedicated to promoting Anglo-Greek understanding and friendship, the League has a long history of charitable and cultural work. From its inception it has benefited from royal patronage, while the Greek and British Ambassadors en poste are patrons. The League’s distinguished publication, The Anglo-Hellenic Review, is a bi-annual magazine for all those with an interest in Greek achievements, both past and present, and includes reviews of books of Greek interest published in the English language.

Following the Annual General Meeting of the League there will be a lecture at the Reform Club in Pall Mall to present and discuss the findings of Odysseus Unbound. A reception will follow. The event is open to the public, although priority will be given to League members and their guests. The entry fee is £15.00, which includes admission to the lecture and to the drinks reception afterwards. To book, please contact the administrator of the League, Sophia Economides: anglohellenic.league@virgin.net or 020 7486 9410.

Click here for further details

A4 double sided leaflet / A3 single sided poster

Over 100 members and guests of the League attended the event, including His Excellency Anastase Skopelitis, Greek Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and his colleague Maria Theofili, the Greek Consul-General. League Chairman Sir David Miers writes: "A huge 'Thank you' to you and your colleagues for your splendid and much appreciated performance…Everyone I spoke to afterwards was full of praise for the fascinating content and professional presentation of your lecture. We went away informed, impressed and entertained."

From the Anglo Hellenic Review, Autumn 2006: "A busy spring season commenced on March 30 with the League's Annual General Meeting at the Reform Club in London. As in recent years, this featured a guest lecture, on this occasion given by two distinguished presenters. 'Odysseus Unbound: the Search for Homer’s Ithaca' was the title both of the lecture and of the impressive book (published by Cambridge University Press in October 2005 and reviewed in our last issue) by Robert Bittlestone, a management consultant and archaeology enthusiast. With the assistance of his collaborator James Diggle, Professor of Greek and Latin at Cambridge University, Mr Bittlestone delivered his own oral — and visual — epic. Working with a combination of projected satellite images, maps, computerised 3D topographic sequences, film and audio, he held his audience spellbound with the narrative of his search for the identity of Odysseus' island. Evidence culled from field trips and from computer analysis of literary, geological and archaeological data pointed clearly, he suggested, to a separated Paliki, the western peninsula of the island of Cephalonia, as the location of the authentic Ithaca. Whatever the verdict of members of the audience on the presenters' highly plausible theories, there can be no doubt that this was one of our most fascinating and spectacular lectures. "

Mar 24 2006

Prize draw for a free signed copy of Odysseus Unbound

Apokrisi.net, the website for Greek related events and venues in Britain, is organising a prize draw for a free signed copy of Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca, which has kindly been donated by Cambridge University Press. Applicants simply need to send in an e-mail to Apokrisi by March 24 2006. For further details visit the Apokrisi March Events listing here.

Update: The winner of the prize draw has now been announced: click here for details

Mar 2 2006 16:10

Seminar at King's College School, Wimbledon, London SW19

King's College School Classical Society has arranged two seminars on March 2 2006 to be presented in Collyer Hall by Robert Bittlestone (Chairman, Metapraxis) and Professor James Diggle (Classics, Cambridge) on the subject of their recent book Odysseus Unbound: The Search for Homer’s Ithaca. The book proposes that the location of Odysseus' homeland of Ithaca was not the island that bears that name today but was instead the western peninsula of Cephalonia, which is called Paliki. The presentation will be of relevance to all those who are interested in the origins of Western culture, with particular significance for those studying Greek, Latin, History, Archaeology, Geology, Geoinformatics or Computer Science.

For the convenience of students, parents and other visitors the 16:10 seminar will be repeated at 19:00. The topic will be illustrated throughout with slides, satellite photography and computer animations. Audience participation is welcomed in the question and answer session afterwards, when it is anticipated that there will be a discussion about the relationship between this recent discovery and our understanding of the Odyssey. After both seminars there will be an opportunity to meet the authors and to purchase signed copies of the book, which has also been co-authored by Professor John Underhill (Geology, Edinburgh). At 20.00 there will be an informal reception in the adjacent Cotman Gallery.

There is no attendance charge for the seminar but numbers are limited and early booking is advisable. To book, e-mail the Head of Classics, Chris Jackson: cmj@kcs.org.uk.

Click here for further details

A2 single sided poster / A3 single sided leaflet / A4 double sided leaflet

KCS website announcement / Collyer Hall location map

Nearly 400 pupils, parents, guests and staff attended the two seminars, and King's College Classical Society hosted a reception afterwards. KCS Head of Classics Chris Jackson comments: "The reaction from my students the following day was quite overwhelming - it was not possible to do any work in class, as all they wanted to talk about was your presentation! We already have our dreams of KCS parties coming out to Paliki to help with the project, and gain some hands-on archaeological experience by excavating the palace of Odysseus… It was wonderful to see Collyer Hall filled twice for an event which will do so much to raise the profile of Classics both at KCS and beyond; the response of the two respective audiences made it only too clear how exciting and inspirational they had found your discovery."

Click here for photographs. Click here for KCS Magazine article.

Feb 9 2006 20:00

Seminar at the School of Classics, University College Dublin

A presentation on the findings of Odysseus Unbound will take place on February 9 2006 at 20:00 in Room A109 in the Newman Building at the Belfield campus of University College Dublin, arranged by the UCD Classical Society in conjunction with the School of Classics. UCD School of Classics is the largest centre of Classical studies in Ireland. It has over five hundred undergraduate students, a strong body of postgraduate students and a full-time teaching staff of ten. The UCD Classical Society is a student-run body which organises various social events throughout the course of the year. All students are encouraged to participate in the society’s events, which provide an opportunity to make social contacts outside lectures and tutorial groups. For booking inquiries contact Dr Christina Haywood at the School of Classics: christina.haywood@ucd.ie

Click here for further details

Download A3 single sided poster / A4 double sided leaflet

UCD website announcement / Belfield campus location map

The seminar was delivered to a packed room of about 100 visitors, including His Excellency Stilianos Mallikourtis, Greek Ambassador to Ireland and his wife Anna Mallikourtis, whose family is from Cephalonia. The UCD Classical Society hosted a dinner beforehand and a reception afterwards. Christina Haywood's verdict: "A wonderful presentation, greatly praised and enjoyed by all". Click here for additional feedback.

Jan 21 2006 14:00

Odysseus Unbound seminar for Friends of Classics, London

On January 21 2006 Robert Bittlestone and James Diggle will present a seminar on the findings of Odysseus Unbound, hosted by the 'Friends of Classics' at the Francis Holland School, Clarence Gate, London NW1 6XR. The seminar promises to be controversial: as Friends of Classics co-founder Peter Jones points out on our Reviews page "As a renowned Greek Homeric scholar recently said…'This will lead to war!'." Registrations for attendance are already running high and priority will be given to existing members: others wishing to attend should therefore contact Executive Secretary and co-founder Jeannie Cohen to register as new members beforehand. Click here for further details and to book.

Over 80 members attended this lively event and Peter Jones commented: "Many thanks for the tremendous show you put on for the Friends of Classics: it was hugely enjoyed by all. Members' feedback afterwards included reactions such as 'The best FOC lecture I've heard' ".