Odysseus Unbound - The Search for Homer’s Ithaca


Mar 22 2006

Smithsonian Magazine publishes article and photographs from Paliki in April edition

Odyssey's End? The Search for Ancient Ithaca

A British researcher believes he has at last pinpointed the island to which Homer’s wanderer returned

Kastelli, photographed by Jeffrey Aaranson Celebrated writer Fergus Bordewich and award-winning photographer Jeffrey Aaronson visited Kefalonia with Robert Bittlestone in October 2005. "Half an hour after leaving the pig farm, we park in an olive grove and begin climbing Kastelli’s steep 830-foot-high slopes, through a dense carpet of prickly underbrush. The bells of unseen goats ring in our ears. We scramble over lichen-crusted terraces that might once have supported houses, and then, near the hillcrest, clamber over traces of a defensive wall and heaps of jagged stones…Here, perhaps, with “a shield of fourfold hide” and a plumed helmet on his “heroic head,” Odysseus set to his bloody work. As Homer puts it, “Ghastly screams rose up as men’s heads were smashed in, and the whole floor ran with blood.” In the end, corpses lay heaped in the dust “like fishes the fishermen have dragged out of the grey surf in the meshes of their net onto a curving beach, to lie in masses on the sand longing for the salt water till the bright sun ends their lives.” Bittlestone prowls the windswept summit, pointing out shards of ancient pottery—fragments of pots, wine jugs and oil jars, compacted amid generations of goat droppings and dust, the last traces of an ancient town and perhaps a palace."