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Phaeaces

Φαίακες, Φαίηκες). A fabulous people in Homer, to whom Odysseus came in his wanderings ( Od. vi.-viii.). They were as like to the gods as the Giants and Cyclopes, seeing them face to face. Originally settled in Hyperia, they were compelled, by the violence of their neighbours, the Cyclopes, to migrate, under their king Nausithoüs, son of Poseidon and Periboea, daughter of Eurymedon, the last king of the Giants, to the happy island of Scheria, where they built a city. On the arrival of Odysseus, their ruler was Alcinoüs, the son of Nausithoüs; his wife was Areté, his brother's daughter, and besides many sons he was the father of the fair Nausicaa, Odysseus's preserver. Far from the turmoil of the world, the Phaeaces are described as leading a life of undisturbed happiness, in the enjoyment of the goods wherewith they are richly blessed; above all, Alcinoüs, who had the fairest of orchards and a most beautiful palace. Their business was solely with the sea, with shipping, and the provision of all that belongs to it. Their ships were of wondrous sort. Without steersman or rudder, divining of themselves the wishes and thoughts of all men, and knowing all lands, they traversed the sea swift as a bird or a thought, wrapped in mist and darkness, yet never suffered wreck or loss. When the ship, that brought the sleeping Odysseus in one night to Thrace, returned, Poseidon, of whose envious malice a prophecy had long ago bidden them beware, changed it to a rock in sight of harbour, and the Phaeaces were in fear that the rest of the saying would come true, and mountains rise up all round their city. Though it is obvious that the Phaeaces and their abodes, Hyperia and Scheria, are purely mythical, the kingdom of Alcinoüs was early identified as Corcyra (Corfu). He had a shrine there, and the harbour was named after him. Near the island was also shown the petrified ship. Hence the later Argonautic legends made even Iason and Medea touch at Corcyra on their flight from Aeëtes, and, like Odysseus, find protection and help from Alcinoüs. (See Argonautae.) The Phaeacian episode of the Odyssey has been edited separately by Prof. A. C. Merriam in his Phaeacians of Homer (New York, 1880).

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