The Odyssey of Ulysses
was the Greek hero who conquered Troy, by hiding himself in the wooden
horse, which was then drawn inside the city walls by the enemy Trojans.
Greek storyteller Homer, wrote of Ulysses’ many adventures of his
navigation around the then unexplored Mediterranean Sea. This purely
fictional epic is called “The Odyssey” and is surely based on the many
awesome and extravagant tales told by the many returning pioneering
sailors who first explored the unchartered Mediterranean.
uses fictional place-names in his story and it has been a favorite
passtime of historians, going right back to ancient Greek and Roman times,
to try and localise the actual places described in the Odyssey. There has
also been a marked rivalry of competing towns in claiming their
authenticity as original stop-over points of Ulysses himself.
there is now a general consensus for placing several of the Odyssey
locations in the Western Mediterranean, that is West of Greece. These are
located in Sicily, on the south-western coast of mainland Italy and in the
north-eastern part of Sardinia. In very ancient times, this area was in
fact for the Greeks, an unexplored part of the Mediterranean Sea and was
therefore a suitable place for the setting of an adventurous yarn.
Incidentally, a recent theory elaborated by the Sardinian writer Sergio Frau, has it that the Columns of Hercules are erronously considered to be at the Gibraltar Straits, but were much closer, between the African coast and Sicily and Atlantis therefore was actually the isle of Sardinia. This theory is based on the fact that the sea level was much lower after that last ice age, so that the strait between Tunisia and Sicily was much narrower and beyond it, for ancient mariners, lay the unknown.
many historians underestimate the sailing capabilities of even the most
ancient mariners, as there is evidence of navigators having reached Malta
by boat 6000 years ago and even aboriginal sailors reaching Australia
40,000 years ago. Consequently it should be accepted that the
Mediterranean Sea was thoroughly navigated soon after man reached its
Homer’s Odyssey, the narrow Straits of
Messina, between Sicily and
Calabria, with their freightening whirlpools (though harmless) are a most
suitable location for the Scilla and Cariddi sea monsters. The nearby Etna
volcano was the natural inspiration for placing the cavernous home of
Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant who ate part of Ulysses’ crew.
of Sicily, the Eolian Islands, including Stromboli and
Vulcano, with their
ever-present wind, are the obvious home, even today, of Eolo, the wind
suggestive rock columns emerging from the sea around Capri, became the
home of the luring sirens, who tempted Ulysses, lashed to his boat’s
mast, with their enchanting singing.
Campi Flegrei close to Naples is an active volcanic area, where the ground
is subsiding and the ancient Roman ruins are disappearing below the waves.
Where else but here could Ulysses descend into Hades and speak with the
south of Rome is the rocky promontory of Circeo, which has revealed human
presence from pre-historic times, with the discovery of neanderthal man
bones in the caves. It was here that Ulysses was charmed by the beautiful
hero mariner must have ventured as far as Sardinia, for our
historian-geographers have identified the bay of Porto Pozzo in the
north-eastern part of the island, in the Bonifacio Straits, as the
location of the Lestrigoni.
along with all the ancient mariners, had no charts, GPS or satellite
weather immages to guide them in their wanderings and they required much
sailing skill, as well as a certain amount of luck, to navigate the many
islands and safely find their way back home. In fact many did not make it
and the Mediterranean floor is scattered with ancient sunken boats and is
littered with their cargoes and broken anfora vases.
the modern sailor can safely and comfortably navigate the Mediterranean
and visit its many wonders, retracing the courses followed by our famous
The Mediterranean Sea