An 8th BC century palace which Greek archaeologists claim was the home of Odysseus has been discovered in Ithaca, fuelling theories that the hero of Homer’s epic poem was real.
Odysseus – known to the ancient Romans as Ulysses – famously took 10 years to return home to Ithaca after the fall of Troy.
On his journey, he was twice shipwrecked and encountered a cyclops, the spirit of his mother and tempting Sirens before returning to Ithaca, where he found his wife, Penelope, under pressure to remarry from a host of suitors who had invaded the royal palace.
With the help of his father, Laertes, and his son, Telemachus, he slaughtered his rivals and re-established his rule.
But despite the fantastical details in the Greek epic, a team of archaeologists has claimed the tale is anchored in truth – and that they have discovered his home on the island of Ithaca, in the Ionian sea off the north-west coast of Greece.
Nearly 3,000 years after Odysseus returned from his journey, the team from the University of Ioannina said they found the remains of an extensive three-storey building, with steps carved out of rock and fragments of pottery. The complex also features and a well from the 8th century BC, roughly the period in which Odysseus is believed to have been king of Ithaca.
The location “fits like a glove” with Homer’s description of the view from the fabled palace, the archaeologists claim.
The layout of the complex, where Professor Thanassis Papadopoulos and his team have been digging for 16 years, is very similar to palaces discovered at Mycenae, Pylos and other ancient sites.
The claim will be greeted with scepticism by the many scholars who believe that Odysseus, along with other key characters from the Homer’s epic such as Hector and Achilles, were purely fictional.
“Whether this find has a connection with Ulysses or not is interesting up to a certain point, but more important is the discovery of the royal palace,” said Adriano La Regina, an Italian archaeologist.
Further complicating the identification of the site is the doubt over whether the ancient kingdom of Ithaca was located on its modern day namesake, Ithaki.
A British researcher, Robert Bittlestone, has said Homer’s descriptions bear little resemblance to the island and that ancient Ithaca was in fact located on the Paliki peninsula, on the island of Cephalonia.
He believes that Paliki was once an island, separated from the rest of Cephalonia by a marine channel that has since been filled in by rock falls triggered by earthquakes.
Enlisting the help of geologists and ancient historians, he documented the controversial theory in a 2005 book, Odysseus Unbound – The Search for Homer’s Ithaca.