previous next

Fishing Near Scylla

It is not Homer's manner to indulge in mere mythological
Homer true to nature.
stories founded on no substratum of truth. For there is no surer way of giving an air of verisimilitude to fiction than to mix with it some particles of truth. And this is the case with the tale of the wanderings of Odysseus. . . .

For instance, Aeolus, who taught the way of getting through the straits, where there are currents setting both ways, and the passage is rendered difficult by the indraught of the sea, came to be called and regarded as the dispenser and king of the winds; just as Danaus, again, who discovered the storages of water in Argos, and Atreus, who discovered the fact of the sun's revolution being in the opposite direction to that of the heaven, were called seers and priest-kings. So the priests of the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and the Magi, being superior to the rest of the world in wisdom, obtained rule and honour in former generations. And on this principle, too, each one of the gods is honoured as the inventor of something useful to man. I do not allow therefore that Aeolus is wholly mythical, nor the wanderings of Odysseus generally. Some mythical elements have been undoubtedly added, as they have in the War or Ilium; but the general account of Sicily given by the poet agrees with that of other historians who have given topographical details of Italy and Sicily. I cannot agree therefore with the remark of Eratosthenes that "we shall discover where Odysseus wandered, when we find the cobbler who sewed up the leather bag of the winds." See for instance how Homer's description of Scylla agrees with what really happens at the Scyllaean rock, and the taking of the sword fish:1 “"And there she fishes, roaming round the rock,
For dog-fish and for dolphins, or what else
Of huger she may take that swims the sea."
” For the fact is that tunnies swimming in great shoals along the Italian coast, if they are drifted from their course and are prevented from reaching Sicily, fall a prey to the larger fish, such as dolphins, dog-fish, or other marine monsters; and from hunting these the sword-fish (called also xiphiae, or sometimes sea-dogs) are fattened. The same thing happens at a rise of the Nile, and other rivers, as in the case of a fire or a burning forest; the animals crowd together, and, in their effort to escape the fire or the water, fall a prey to stronger animals.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Theodorus Büttner-Wobst after L. Dindorf, 1893)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: