Review of Historic Tour of Northern Ithaka
Auckland, New Zealand.
7 September 2019
Today was a fulfilment of a long-held desire for Kate my partner and I, travellers from New Zealand, as we joined a tour organised and hosted by
George Grivas of Ithaca Travel, featuring the significant sites on Northern Ithaka associated with the Homeric hero, Odysseus.
George enlisted the expert assistance of Spyros Kouvaras, who revealed an encyclopaedic knowledge and great passion for his subject that were matched by his communication skills in both English and Greek languages.
Our air-conditioned mini van also included Theodorus and Maria from Patras, Greece, and Bob and Jane from the outskirts of Seattle, Washington, USA.
We met Spyros at a vantage point overlooking the Bay of Polis, where we disembarked and listened as Spyros unfolded his account of the discovery of the historic Cave of Loizos and the spectacular
artefacts it contained that connect the ancient legends of the Mycenaean late Bronze Age as written of by Homer, with the archaeological record.
Homeric scholars have long wrestled with the question of the historic truth of Homer’s epic accounts of the Trojan War and Odysseus’s decade-long journey home to his wife Penelope and young son Telemachus waiting for him on the island of Ithaka. Spiros makes a convincing case for the great sacredness of the archaeological site uncovered at Polis Bay, as shown by the number of
ceremonial tripods uncovered there, amongst many other fine artefacts that date to the late Bronze Age.
What is apparent is not that Homer’s account is sometimes supported by the archaeological evidence, but that as more an more evidence comes to light, the more Homer is vindicated as an extraordinarily accurate record of people, places and events that took place almost 500 years before Homer himself and 3,200 years before the present. Our tour continued to the town of Stavros, where Spiros used the public displays of the archaeological discoveries at the so-called ‘School of Homer’ at Exogi as a backdrop to his presentation. In 1868, the celebrated German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann conducted excavations at Stavros seeking evidence of the historic truth of Odysseus and Penelope, but failed to find any.
After a 20 minute break, our tour continued on to the Museum of Archaeology, erected at the site where the British School of Athens had dug in the 1930s, also looking for Odysseus’s Palace, to no avail. The museum is impressive and so too is Spiros’s commentary on the objects it contains. Finally, we are taken to the archaeological site itself, where the narrative comes together as we walk among the ancient ruins of the Palace of Odysseus.
Although much compromised by later (though still very old) stone-built additions, the early Cyclopean Walls are still evident, clearly linking the site at Exogi, Ithaka, with the Peloponnesian late Bronze Age sites of Mycenae and Tiryns.
We found the tour very rewarding and were impressed by the very high standard of the presentation.
On behalf of the office I would like to thank Mr Peter for his thruthful review for the History Tour and also the rest of the companions Kate, Jane, Bob, Theodore and Maria.
It was our honour to guide you through this tour!