Feature: Odysseus Uncovered

It took 10 long years of fighting before the wily Odysseus devised the stratagem – the Trojan Horse – that finally breached the walls of Troy. The war over, he was free to return to his beloved Ithaki and his queen Penelope. How long could the 910-km voyage home possibly take?

According to Homer, another 10 years. Blown off course while passing Kythira, and buffeted thereafter by winds unleashed by Poseidon the Earth Shaker, Odysseus was subjected to an appalling series of perils and misadventures. En route he was imprisoned by the nymph Calypso on Ogygia, possibly modern-day Gozo; encountered the Lotus-Eaters in North Africa; blinded the Cyclops Polyphemus somewhere near Sicily; resisted the seductive song of the sirens in the Bay of Naples; and braved the straits between Scylla, a man-eating sea monster, and Charybdis the deadly whirlpool. Eventually, the gods allowed him to escape another long period of captivity, in the arms of the enchantress Circe. Shipwrecked on the shores of Scheria, commonly identified as Corfu, he returned at last to Ithaki, and wrought his vengeance on the suitors harrying the long-suffering Penelope.

Many of modern-day Ithaki’s most popular hiking trails lead to sites associated with Homer's epic poem 'Odyssey'. Finding them, though, can be an epic journey of its own, as signposts are few and far between. Targets include the Fountain of Arethousa, an exposed and isolated three-hour round-trip south of Vathy, which is said to be the spot where Odysseus’ swineherd, Eumaeus, brought his pigs to drink.

As for Odysseus’ palace, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who rediscovered Troy itself, thought he’d found it at Alalkomenes, near Piso Aetos. More recent excavations have led modern archaeologists to identify ruins on Pelikata Hill outside Stavros as the scene of the poem's bloody climax.