Ithaca or Ithaka (/ˈɪθəkə/; Greek: Ιθάκη, Ithakē
[iˈθaci]) is a
Greek island located in the Ionian Sea, off the
northeast coast of
Kefalonia and to the west of continental Greece.
Ithaca's main island has an area of 96 square kilometres
(37 sq mi) and had a population in 2011 of 3,231. It is the
second-smallest of seven main Ionian Islands, after Paxi.
Ithaca is a
separate regional unit of the
Ionian Islands region, and the only
municipality of the regional unit. The capital is Vathy (or
Ithaca is generally identified with Homer's Ithaca, the home of
Odysseus, whose delayed return to the island is the Odyssey's plot.
2.1 First settlers
2.2 Mycenaean era
2.3 Hellenistic era to Middle ages
2.4 Ottoman and Venetian eras
2.5 French era
2.6 British and modern eras
3 Home of Odysseus
5.1 Communities and villages
6 Notable people
8 See also
8.2 Further reading
8.3 External links
Although the name
Ithaca has remained unchanged since ancient times,
written documents of different periods also refer to the island by
other names, such as:
Val di Compare (Valley of the Bestman), Piccola (Small) Cephallonia,
Middle Ages till the beginning of the Venetian
Ithaki nisos (Greek for island), Thrakoniso, Thakou, Thiakou
Thiaki (Byzantine and before the Venetian period)
Teaki (Venetian period)
Fiaki (Ottoman period)
Olive tree of
Ithaca that is claimed to be at least 1500 years old.
The island has been inhabited since the 2nd millennium BC. It may have
been the capital of
Cephalonia during the
Mycenaean period and the
capital-state of the small kingdom ruled by Odysseus. The Romans
occupied the island in the 2nd century BC, and later it became part of
the Byzantine Empire. The
Ithaca in the 13th century,
and after a short Turkish rule it fell into Venetian hands (Ionian
Islands under Venetian rule).
Ithaca was subsequently occupied by France under the 1797 Treaty of
Campo Formio. It was liberated by a joint Russo-Turkish force
commanded by admirals
Fyodor Ushakov and Kadir Bey in 1798 and
subsequently became a part of the Septinsular Republic, which was
originally established as a protectorate of the
Russian Empire and
Ottoman Empire. It became a French possession again in 1807, until it
was taken over by the United Kingdom in 1809. Under the 1815 Treaty of
Ithaca became a state of the United States of the Ionian
Islands, a protectorate of the British Empire. In 1830 the local
community requested to join with the rest of the newly restored
nation-state of Greece. Under the 1864 Treaty of London, Ithaca, along
with the remaining six Ionian islands, were ceded to
Greece as a
gesture of diplomatic friendship to Greece's new Anglophile king,
George I. The United Kingdom kept its privileged use of the harbour at
The origins of the first people to inhabit the island, which occurred
during the last years of the
Neolithic period (4000–3000 BC), are
not clear. The traces of buildings, walls and a road from this time
period prove that life existed and continued to do so during the Early
Hellenic era (3000–2000 BC). In the years (2000–1500 BC) some of
the population migrated to part of the island. The buildings and walls
that were excavated showed the lifestyle of this period had remained
Further information: Mycenaean Greece
Ithaca is to the upper right of the larger
Kefalonia island in this
picture. The small island in the top-right corner is the uninhabited
Atokos island (
NASA World Wind satellite picture).
Mycenaean period (1600–1100 BC),
Ithaca rose to the
highest level of its ancient history. Mostly based on the Odyssey
and oral traditions, it is believed that the island became the capital
of the Ionian Kingdom-State, which included the surrounding lands, and
was referred to as one of the most powerful states of that time. The
Ithacans were characterized as great navigators and explorers with
daring expeditions reaching further than the Mediterranean Sea.
The epic poems of Homer, the
Iliad and the Odyssey, shed some light on
Bronze-Age Ithaca. Those poems are generally thought to have been
composed sometime in the 9th or 8th centuries BC, but may have made
use of older mythological and poetic traditions; their depiction of
Odysseus and his rule over
Ithaca and the surrounding islands
and mainland preserves some memories of the political geography,
customs, and society of the time. Recent studies concluded that Homer
recorded oral history from elders.
After the end of the
Mycenaean period Ithaca's influence diminished,
and it came under the jurisdiction of the nearest large island.
Hellenistic era to Middle ages
Further information: Hellenistic Greece
During the ancient Hellenic prime (800–180 BC), independent
organized life continued in the northern and southern part of the
island. In the southern part, in the area of Aetos, the town
Alalcomenae was founded. From this period, many objects of important
historical value have been found during excavations. Among these
objects are coins imprinted with the name
Ithaca and the image of
Odysseus which suggest that the island was self-governed.
According to the different periods, conquerors and circumstances, the
population of the island kept changing. Although there is no definite
numerical information until the Venetian period, it is believed that
from the Mycenaean to the Byzantine period, the number of inhabitants
was several thousand, who lived mainly in the northern part of Ithaca.
During the Middle Ages, the population decreased due to the continuous
invasions of pirates, forcing the people to establish settlements and
live in the mountains.
Ottoman and Venetian eras
Further information: Ottoman
Ionian Islands under Venetian
In 1479, Ottoman forces reached the islands and many of the people
fled from the island out of fear of the new Turkish settlers. Those
that remained hid in the mountains to avoid the pirates who controlled
the channel between
Ithaca and the bays of the island.
In the following five years, the Turks, Toques and Venetians laid
claim to the islands diplomatically. Possession of the islands was
finally taken by the
Ottoman Empire from 1484 to 1499. During this
period, the Venetians had strengthened into a major power with an
organized fleet. The Venetians pursued their interest in the Ionian
Islands, and in 1499 a war between the Venetians and the Turks began.
The allied fleets of the Venetians and the Spanish besieged Ithaca,
and the other islands. The fleets prevailed, and from 1500 onwards the
Venetians controlled the islands. According to a treaty of 1503,
Zakynthos would be ruled by the Venetians, and
Lefkada by the Ottoman Empire. By then
Ithaca was almost uninhabited,
and the Venetians had to grant incentives to settlers from
neighbouring islands and the mainland to repopulate it. During the
next centuries, the island remained under Venetian control.
Edward Dodwell (1821).
A few years after the French Revolution, the Ionian area came under
the rule of the
First French Republic
First French Republic (1797–1798), and the island
became the honorary capital of the French département of Ithaque,
comprising Cephalonia, Lefkada, and part of the mainland (the
prefecture was at
Argostoli on Kefalonia).
The population welcomed the French, who took care in the control of
the administrative and judicial systems, but later the heavy taxation
they demanded caused a feeling of indignation among the people. During
this short historical period, the new ideas of system and social
structure greatly influenced the inhabitants of the island. At the end
of 1798, the French were succeeded by Russia and Turkey (1798–1807),
which were allies at that time.
Corfu became the capital of the Ionian
States, and the form of government was democratic, with a
fourteen-member senate in which
Ithaca had one representative.
The Ithacan fleet flourished when it was allowed to carry cargo up to
the ports of the Black Sea. In 1807, according to the Tilsit Treaty
with Turkey, the
Ionian Islands once again came under the French rule
(1807–1809 AD). The French quickly began preparing to face the
British fleet, which had become very powerful, by building a fort in
British and modern eras
Flag of the United States of the
Ionian Islands (1815 to 1864).
In 1809 Great Britain mounted a blockade on the
Ionian Islands as part
of the war against Napoleon, and in September of that year they
hoisted the British flag above the castle of Zakynthos.
Ithaca soon surrendered, and the British installed provisional
governments. The treaty of Paris in 1815 recognised the United States
Ionian Islands and decreed that it become a British
protectorate. Colonel Charles Philippe de Bosset became provisional
governor between 1810 and 1814.
A few years later resistance groups started to form. Although their
energy in the early years was directed to supporting the Greeks in the
revolution against the Turks, it soon started to turn towards the
British. By 1848 the resistance movement was gaining strength and
there were skirmishes with the British Army in
Argostoli and Lixouri
which led to some relaxation in the laws and to freedom of the press.
Greece was now a declared aim, and by 1850 a growing
restlessness resulted in even more skirmishes.
Ithaca along with the
other islands were transferred to
Greece in 1864 as a gesture of
goodwill when the British-backed Prince William of Denmark became King
George the First of the Hellenes.
During the British protectorate period prominent citizens of Ithaki
participated in the secret "Philiki Etairia" which was instrumental in
organizing the Greek Revolution of 1821 against Turkish rule, and
Greek fighters found refuge there. In addition, the participation of
Ithacans during the siege of
Messolongi and the naval battles against
Ottoman ships at the
Black Sea and the
Danube was significant.
Ithaca was annexed to
Greek Kingdom with the rest of the Ionian
islands in 1864.
Home of Odysseus
Main article: Homer's Ithaca
Odysseus at the court of Alcinous by
Francesco Hayez (1813-1815).
Odysseus' statue in Vathy.
Ithaca has been identified as the home of the
mythological hero Odysseus. In the
Odyssey of Homer,
"…dwell in clear-seen Ithaca, wherein is a mountain, Neriton,
covered with waving forests, conspicuous from afar; and round it lie
many isles hard by one another, Dulichium, and Same, and wooded
Ithaca itself lies close in to the mainland the furthest
toward the gloom, but the others lie apart toward the Dawn and the
sun—a rugged isle, but a good nurse of young men…"
It has sometimes been argued that this description does not match the
topography of modern Ithaca. Three features of the description have
been seen as especially problematic. First,
Ithaca is described as
"low-lying" (χθαμαλή), but
Ithaca is mountainous. Second, the
words "farthest out to sea, towards the sunset"
(πανυπερτάτη εἰν ἁλὶ ... πρὸς ζόφον) are
usually interpreted to mean that
Ithaca must be the island furthest to
the west, but
Kefalonia lies to the west of Ithaca. Lastly, it is
unclear which modern islands correspond to Homer's Doulichion and
The Greek geographer Strabo, writing in the 1st century AD, identified
Homer's Ithaca with modern Ithaca. Following earlier commentators, he
interpreted the word translated above as "low-lying" to mean "close to
the mainland", and the phrase translated as "farthest out to sea,
towards the sunset" as meaning "farthest of all towards the north."
Strabo identified Same as modern Kefalonia, and believed that Homer's
Doulichion was one of the islands now known as the Echinades. Ithaca
lies farther north than Kefalonia, Zacynthos, and the island that
Strabo identified as Doulichion, consistent with the interpretation of
Ithaca as being "farthest of all towards the north."
Strabo's explanation has not won universal acceptance. In the last few
centuries, some scholars have argued that
Homer's Ithaca was not
modern Ithaca, but a different island. Perhaps the best known
proposal is that of Wilhelm Dörpfeld, who believed that the nearby
Lefkada was Homer's Ithaca, whereas Same was the present-day
It has also been suggested that Paliki, the western peninsula of
Kefalonia, is Homer's Ithaca. It has been argued that in Homeric times
Paliki was separated from
Kefalonia by a sea channel since closed up
by earthquake-induced rockfalls. However, no scientific review
publications are available in support of this theory.
Despite any difficulties with Homer's description of the island, in
classical and Roman times the island now called "Ithaca" was
universally held to be the home of Odysseus; the Hellenistic
identifications of Homeric sites, such as the identifications of
Lipari as the island of Aeolus, are usually taken with a grain of
salt, and attributed to the ancient tourist trade.
The island has been known as
Ithaca from an early date, as coins and
inscriptions show. Coins from
Ithaca frequently portray Odysseus, and
an inscription from the 3rd century BC refers to a local hero-shrine
Odysseus and games called the Odysseia. The Archaeological site
of "School of Homer" on modern
Ithaca is the only place between
Ithaca Triangle where
Linear B inscriptions have
been found, near royal remains. In 2010, Greek
archaeologists discovered the remains of an 8th-century BC palace in
the area of Agios Athanasios, leading to reports that this might have
been the site of Odysseus's palace. Modern scholars generally
accept the identification of modern
Ithaca with Homeric Ithaca, and
explain discrepancies between the Odyssey's description and the actual
topography as the product of lack of first-hand knowledge of the
island, or as poetic license.
View of northern
Ithaca across the isthmus of Aethos
Beach of Petanoi
Ithaca lies east of the northwest coast of Cephalonia, from which it
is separated by the Strait of Ithaca. The regional unit covers an area
of 117.812 square kilometres (45.5 sq mi) and has
approximately 100 kilometres (62 miles) of coastline. The main island
stretches in the north-south direction, in length of 23 km (14
miles) and maximum width of 6 km (4 miles). It consists of two
parts, of about equal size, connected by the narrow isthmus of Aetos
(Eagle), just 600 metres (1,969 feet) wide. The two parts enclose the
bay of Molos, whose southern branch is the harbor of Vathy, the
capital and largest settlement of the island. The second largest
village is Stavros in the northern part.
Lazaretto Islet (or Island of The Saviour) guards the harbor. The
church of The Saviour and the remains of an old gaol are located on
The capes in the island include Exogi, the westernmost, Melissa to the
north, Mavronos, Agios Ilias, Schinous, Sarakiniko and Agios Ioannis,
to the east, and Agiou Andreou, to the south. Bays include Afales Bay
to the northwest, Frikes and Kioni Bays to the northeast, Molos Gulf
to the east, and Ormos Gulf and Sarakiniko Bay to the southeast. The
tallest mountain is Nirito in the northern part (806 m), followed by
Merovigli (669 m) in the south.
Ithaca is a separate regional unit of the
Ionian Islands region, and
the only municipality of the regional unit. As a part of the 2011
Kallikratis government reform, the regional unit
Ithaca was created
out of part of the former
Ithaca Prefecture. The
municipality, unchanged at the Kallikratis reform, includes islets
Ithaca including two near Cape Melissa,
Arkoudi and Atokos
to the northeast and the numerous islets in the
Echinades Island group
(the larger ones being Drakonera, Makri, Oxeia, Petalas, and Vromonas)
to the east near the mainland of Aetolia-Acarnania. Its largest towns
are Vathy (pop. 1,920 in 2011), Perachori (343), Stavros (366),
Platreithias (201), and Kioni (182). Only
populated islands in the group.
Communities and villages
View of Kioni bay.
Aetos, Afales, Agios Ioannis, Agia Saranta, Anogi, Exogi, Frikes,
Kalivia, Kathara, Kioni, Kolieri, Lachos, Lefki, Marmaka, Perachori,
Piso Aetos, Platrithia, Rachi, Stavros, Vathy.
Odysseus (13th century BC), legendary Greek king of
Ithaca and the
hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey
St. Joachim Papoulakis (1786 - 1868), Athonite monk and an Orthodox
Odysseas Androutsos (1788 – 1825), fighter in the Greek War of
Platon Drakoulis (1858 – 1934), philosopher, writer, politician
Lorentzos Mavilis (1860 – 1912), poet
Ioannis Metaxas (1871 – 1941), general and dictator of Greece. His
family was from Cephalonia
Panagis Lekatsas (1911 – 1970), writer, journalist
^ "Vathi, Ithaca". National Gallery Scotland. Retrieved 25 January
^ "Port Vathi". Ithacan Philanthropic Society. 2015. Retrieved 25
Ionian Islands Archived 2006-05-04 at the Wayback Machine."
(history), Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911 Edition.
^ a b c "Ithaca". Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 25
^ Vella, John.(2016)."Homer’s Ogygia: An Imaginary or a
Historiography?",Athens:ATINER'S Conference Paper
Homer (1919). "9.21-27". The
Odyssey with an English Translation (in
Ancient Greek and English). Translated by Murray, Augustus Taber.
London, UK: William Heinemann, Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-06 – via
Perseus Digital Library.
^ a b Squires, Nick (24 August 2010). "Greeks 'discover Odysseus'
palace in Ithaca, proving Homer's hero was real'". The Telegraph.
Retrieved 25 January 2017.
^ Wilhelm Dörpfeld, Alt-Ithaka (1927).
^ Map of Homer's Ithaka, Same and Asteris according to Wilhelm
Dörpfeld. Digital library of Heidelberg University.
^ Bittlestone, Robert; Diggle, James; Underhill, John (2005), Odysseus
unbound: the search for Homer's Ithaca, Cambridge University Press,
^ Frank H. Stubbings, "Ithaca", in Wace and Stubbings, eds., A
Homer (New York 1962).
^ Squires, Nick (24 August 2010). "Greeks 'discover Odysseus' palace
in Ithaca, proving Homer's hero was real'". Retrieved 27 March 2018
– via www.telegraph.co.uk.
^ "Greek archaelogists discover Odysseus' palace in
GreekReporter.com". greece.greekreporter.com. Retrieved 27 March
^ "Population & housing census 2001 (incl. area and average
elevation)" (PDF) (in Greek). National Statistical Service of Greece.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-21.
^ "Geography of Ithaca". Greeka.com.
^  Archived February 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Kallikratis law
Greece Ministry of Interior (in Greek)
List of traditional Greek place names
Paul Hetherington, The Greek Islands. Guide to the Byzantine and
Medieval Buildings and their Art, Londres, 2001.
(in French) Henry Schliemann, Ithaque, le Péloponnèse, Troie :
recherches archéologiques, Paris, C. Reinwald, 1869.
(in French) Claude Dervenn, Iles de Grèce d'
Ithaque à Samothrace,
Paris, Impr. auxiliaire ; J. de Gigord. (S.M.), 1939.
(in French) Gilles Le Noan, À la recherche d'Ithaque : essai sur
la localisation de la patrie d'Ulysse, Quincy-sous-Sénart, Éd.
Tzakos, Christos I.
Ithaca and Homer: The Truth, The Advocacy of the
Case. Translator: Geoffrey Cox. Archived from the original on
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ithaca.
Official website (Greek)
Administrative division of the
Ionian Islands Region
2,307 km2 (891 sq mi)
207,855 (as of 2011)
7 (since 2011)
Regional unit of Corfu
Regional unit of Cephalonia
Regional unit of Ithaca
Regional unit of Lefkada
Regional unit of Zakynthos
Theodoros Galiatsatos (since 2014)
Greece and the Ionian
Diapontia (Largest islands: Othonoi, Ereikoussa, Mathraki)
Echinades (Largest islands: Petalas, Oxeia, Drakonera)
Oinousses (Largest islands: Schiza, Sapientza)
Former provinces of Greece
Grouped by region and prefecture
East and West Attica
East Macedonia and Thrace
Note: not all prefectures were subdivided into provinces.