ITHACA or ITHAKA (/ˈɪθəkə/ ; Greek : Ιθάκη, Ithakē ) 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
Ionian Islands , after
Ithaca is a separate regional
unit of the
Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the
regional unit. The capital is Vathy (or Vathi).
Ithaca is generally identified with Homer\'s
Ithaca , the home
Odysseus , whose delayed return to the island is the
* 1 Etymology
* 2 History
* 2.1 First settlers
* 2.2 Mycenaean era
* 2.3 Hellenistic era
* 2.4 Ottoman and Venetian era
* 2.5 French era
* 2.6 British era
* 3 Home of
* 4 Geography
* 5 Administration
* 5.1 Communities and villages
* 6 Notable people
* 7 References
* 8 See also
* 8.1 Bibliography
* 8.2 Further reading
* 8.3 External links
The fact that classical Greek authors often used eponymous
explanations to explain away names through folk etymology makes it
more likely that Ithakos derives from
Ithaca rather than vice versa.
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, Anticephallonia (
Middle Ages till the beginning of the
* Ithaki nisos (Greek for island), Thrakoniso, Thakou, Thiakou
* Thiaki (before the Venetian period)
* Teaki (Venetian period)
* Fiaki (Turkish period)
Olive tree of
Ithaca that is claimed to be at least 1500 years
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
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
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
Ithaca is to the upper
right of the larger
Kefalonia island in this picture. The small island
in the top-right corner is the populated
NASA World Wind
Mycenaean period (1600–1100 BC),
Ithaca rose to the
highest level of its ancient history. Mostly based on the
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.
Further information: Hellenistic
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.
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 ERA
Further information: Ottoman
Ionian Islands under Venetian
In 1479, Turkish 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 Turks. By then
Ithaca was almost uninhabited, and the
Venetians had to grant incentives to settlers from neighbouring
islands and the mainland to repopulate it.
Edward Dodwell (1821).
A few years after the
French Revolution , the Ionian area came under
the rule of the
First French Republic (1797–1798), and the island
became the honorary capital of the French département of
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
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 "Filiki 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 with
Turkish ships at the
Black Sea and the
Danube was significant.
HOME OF ODYSSEUS
Main article: Homer\'s
Odysseus at the court of Alcinous
Francesco Hayez (1813-1815). Odysseus' statue in Vathy.
Ithaca has been identified as the home of the
Odysseus . In the
Odyssey of Homer,
described thus "…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 Same
The Greek geographer
Strabo , writing in the 1st century AD,
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
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
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
Vathy, the capital of
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
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
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
Odysseas Androutsos (1788 – 1825), hero of 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
* Panagis Lekatsas (1911 – 1970), writer, journalist
* ^ "Vathi, Ithaca". National Gallery Scotland. Retrieved 25
* ^ "Port Vathi". Ithacan Philantropic Society. 2015. Retrieved 25
* ^ "Ionian Islands" (history), Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911
* ^ A B C "Ithaca". Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 July 2010.
Retrieved 25 January 2017.
* ^ 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, ISBN 978-0-521-85357-6
* ^ Frank H. Stubbings, "Ithaca", in Wace and Stubbings, eds., A
Homer (New York 1962).
* ^ "Population ">(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'
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.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to ITHACA .
* Official website (Greek)