Ithaca is one of the smaller Ionian Islands in western Greece. The island is 23 km long, 6 km wide, has an area of 98 km² and approximately 5,000 inhabitants. It is separated from the neighboring island of Kefalonia in the west by a 2 to 4 km wide strait. The rocky island is separated by the bay of Molo, from which two further bays, the bay of Vathy and the bay of Schino, separate into two roughly equal parts, which are connected by the 600 meter wide isthmus of Aetos (eagle). The highest elevation in the southern part is the Merovigli (671 m), in the northern part the Anoi (808 m). The west side of the island is not very structured, only the east side has several deep bays. The main town of Vathy has one of the largest natural harbors in the world.
Since the early Bronze Age, settlements have been located above the Bay of Polis in the northwest of the island and on the Pelikata hill north of the village of Stavros. Ithaca flourished in the Mycenaean period (Late Bronze Age, Late Helladic, 1500 to 1100 BC). This is the time of the kingdom of Odysseus. Homer's epics Iliad and Odyssey are believed to have been in the 9th or 8th century BC. have been written and reflect older mythological and poetic traditions. After the Odyssey, Ithaca was the capital of a powerful empire that stretched over the neighboring islands of Same (Kefallonia), Dulichon and Zakynthos, and across to the Greek mainland opposite. The most important archaeological evidence from this period comes from Stavros and the Louizos cave in the Bay of Polis. The Loisos cave had been there since the 9th century BC. Cult place, where the nymphs and Odysseus were later worshiped. A fragment of a clay woman's mask with the inscription "dedicated to Odysseus" was found in this cave. This mask is the most important find that points to Ithaca as the setting for Homer's stories. It is exhibited in the Stavros Archaeological Museum. Ceramic finds from the 8th and 7th centuries BC. from Crete, Rhodes and Corinth have shown that there were trade relations between Ithaca, mainland Greece and Ionia and probably also to Sicily and Italy. During the excavations, numerous Mycenaean shards of the Kylix type typical of the time of the Trojan War were found. After the decline of the old kingdom, the Dorians came to the island. From 800 to 180 BC Ithaca served as a base for the Corinthians on their trade routes to Sicily and southern Italy. 180 BC Ithaca came under Roman rule and became part of the province of Illyria. After the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD Ithaca and the neighboring island of Kefallonia belonged to the province of Achaia in the Eastern Roman Empire.
Saracen pirates struck the Ionian Sea. The name of the Sarakino Bay ("Saracen Bay") reminds that the Saracens established a base here. The population is entrenched in the mountain villages of Paleochoa, Anoghi and Exoghi. End of the 12th century the Normans took Ithaca, in 1204 the island came to Venice and was first administered by the Orsini family, later by the Tocchi family. Ithaca was under Turkish rule from 1484 to 1499, and from 1503 Ithaca was under the rule of Venice.
In 1571 the sea battle of Lepanto took place between Ithaca and the mainland, in which numerous seamen from the western Greek islands took part on the Venetian side. Under Venetian rule, Ithaca was an important station for the trade with the Levant. The Venetians gave land free of charge to anyone who wanted to cultivate it. Vathy became the capital of the island. Mid 17th century 4,500 people lived in Vathy, by the end of Venetian rule the population had grown to 10,000. The island achieved modest prosperity through the cultivation and export of raisins, olives and oak, and through the establishment of its own trading fleet. From the 17th century the Kathara monastery with the Panagiaa Katharotissa church. After the end of the Republic of Venice, Ithaca was ruled by two elected representatives (demo-voices, people's elders) and achieved extensive independence. In 1799, the first modern Greek state, Heptanisos (state of the seven islands) was created. The government consisted of a democratically elected Senate based in Corfu. The foundation was confirmed by 1800 by the Treaty of Constantinople between Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain. In 1809, Ithaca came under British rule. The "United States of the Ionian Islands" was founded. Lord Byron was in Ithaca in 1825. In 1864, Ithaca joined the Greek state along with the other Ionian Islands. In World War II, Ithaca was first occupied by Italy and then by Germany. In 1953, a strong earthquake destroyed most of the structure on the island.
Ithaca and the Odyssey
After Homer's Odyssey, Ithaca is the home of Odysseus. The Odyssey begins with the counsel of the gods, to end the homesickness of Odysseus, who has been on the wrong track since the end of the Trojan War. Then she describes the home of Odysseus, his steadfast wife Penelope, courted by suitors, and his son Telemachus, whom the aspirants to the throne of Ithaca want to kill. Odysseus is released by the nymph Kalypso and sails against Ithaca. Poseidon's anger has not yet evaporated and Odysseus is shipwrecked off the island of Scheria. The king's daughter Nausikaa finds him and leads him to the king's court, where Odysseus tells of his journey home. Then Odysseus returns to Ithaca. At the advice of Athena, he disguises himself as a beggar and goes to the farm of the swineherd Eumaios near the source of Arethusa. Odysseus comes to the royal court undetected, where he is insulted and insulted. Telemachus brings the bow of Odysseus and promises that anyone who can use it to shoot an arrow through the eyes of twelve axes in a row will be married to Penelope. None of the suitors can draw the bow. Odysseus reveals himself and defeats the suitors. The Odyssey describes Ithaca as an island off the north-west coast of Greece, rough, steep, rich in bays, not suitable for horses, but suitable for goats, without large plains or pastures, dominating two seas, near Doulichion, Sami (on Kefalinia), Zakynthos and not far from the mainland. Homer describes the great palace of Odysseus, a city nearby, a harbor with an island in front of it, Mount Neritos, a Naiad grotto, the pigsty of the shepherd Eumaios, which is a day's walk from the palace, a spring next to it. Since ancient times, Ithaca has been the island of Odysseus. Heinrich Schliemann dug the small Mycenaean acropolis from the 7th century BC on Mount Aetos in 1878. and was of the opinion that he had found the palace of Odysseus here. The German archaeologist Dörpfeld took the view that the island of Lefkas corresponds more to Homer's statements. British excavations in the years after 1930 again support the assumption that today's Ithaca is also Ithaca Homers. The dome tomb excavated in the years after 1992 near Tzannata in the southeast of Kefalonia led to the assumption that the Homeric Ithaca was the Paliki peninsula in Kefalonia, which was then an island of its own and the westernmost island of Greece. Heinz Warnecke has identified Homeric Ithaca with Kefalonia and believes that Mount Neritos, Mount Aenos, Phokys Bay, the port of Argostoli, the port city in the ancient settlement of Cranes and the Palace of Odysseus can be found on the LIvathos hill. The name, which has remained unchanged since antiquity, speaks for the equation of today's with Homeric Ithaca.
- The port of the Mycenaean city, which was probably at Stavros in northeast Ithaca, was probably the Polis Bay on the west bank.
- Odysseus' palace may have been in Pelikata, 1.6 km north of Stavros. An early Hellenic settlement from around 2,200 BC was founded here that existed until the Mycenaean period. According to the most common view, the Palace of Odysseus can be assumed here.
- Vathy Bay could be Homer's Phyrkos harbor.
- The place where the Phaeacians brought the sleeping Odysseus ashore would be the Bay of Dexia.
- The farm of the swineherd Eumaios is seen on the plateau of Marathia southeast of the mountain Stephano in the southeast of the island, as well as the Arethusa source and the Korax cliffs. The Perapigadi spring in the south of the island corresponds to the Arethusa spring.
- The Naiad Cave, where Odysseus prayed and hid his treasure, could be the poetic amalgamation of two caves in the mountains above Dexia and north on Polis Bay. During excavations, one found bronze tripods from a geometric period reminiscent of those hidden by Odysseus, and shards with inscriptions "for the nymphs" and a broken clay mask from the 1st century BC. with the name of Odysseus.
- The nymph grotto (Marmora Spilia) was located near Vathy
- The Neion Mountains are to be found in the Kavallares mountain range on the northwest tip of the island, the Reithron harbour on the northeast coast.
Ithaca is the legendary home of the Greek poet Homer's heroic Odysseus. There are various sites that are associated with this legendary figure including a cave said to honor this mythical hero at Polis Bay.
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