An island in the Ionian Sea
NE of Kephalonia. Homer speaks of a maritime power
formed by four islands: Ithaca, Dulichio, Same, and
. 9.31). Ithaca, the mythical homeland of
Odysseus and capital of his kingdom, was identified by
Classical authors with the island of the same name
which today is called Ithaki or Thiaki. Test trenches had
been dug at various points on the island in 1868 and
1878, and excavations since 1930 have given ample credence to this identification.
Near the village of Stavros in the N of the island, on
a hillside dominating the Bay of Polis in the locality
called Pelikate, a settlement surrounded by a Cyclopean
wall and an ancient Helladic necropolis have been discovered. The necropolis also contains pottery from the
middle Helladic and Mycenaean phases. Traces of a
rather large building and some Mycenaean pottery were
found in 1937 at Tris Langadas, also in the vicinity of
the Polis valley. A cavern excavated in the Bay of Polis
contained finds from the Bronze Age to the 1st c. A.D.,
the most interesting are from the Geometric period, including bronze votive tripods. This was a grotto sanctuary in which a fragment from the 3d c. B.C. indicates that
the Nymphs were venerated, while a fictile mask from
the 1st c. A.D. significantly bears the name of Odysseus.
The islet Daskalio offshore from Polis could be the
Homeric Asteris, where the Proci awaited the return of
Odysseus. Near Stavros there are also the remains of a
necropolis with tombs from the 5th and 4th c. B.C. above
a Bronze Age settlement.
Farther N, near Exoghi, the chapel of Haghios Athanasios is built on the ruins of a tower with archaic polygonal masonry. It is popularly called the School of
Homer and the original plan, two rooms, is still recognizable. There are remains of a polygonal wall, within
which votive objects have been found NE of the church.
The wall probably enclosed a temple or an archaic sanctuary. Near the village of Exoghi one might locate the
domain of Laertes; and a fountain brings to mind Melanthydros in the Odyssey. On the summit of Mt. Aetos,
on the narrow strip of land that joins the N and S parts
of the island, an archaic polygonal enclosing wall and
other remains may be identified with Alakomenai, mentioned by Strabo.
On the slopes of Mt. Aetos, near a tower of the 5th c.
B.C., a large sanctuary with a massive terracing wall has
been found, and a deposit of local Geometric and imported Corinthian vases. Moreover, there are confused
remains of tumuli of the LH III period, with ceramics
from the 12th c. B.C. After the middle of the 8th c.
W Greek and Cretan influence is evident in the ceramics
from Mt. Aetos. The ceramic votive offerings seem to
cease in the 4th c. B.C., but there are numerous terracottas from later epochs. Vathy, the modern capital of
the island, is identified with the ancient port of Phorkys
where Odysseus embarked. The grotto of Marmarospilia
would be the grotto of the Nymphs, while the plain of
Marathia would be the location of the stalls of Eumelus
. 14.6), and the fountain of Perapighadi may be the
Arethusa. There is a small museum at Vathy.
F. Schuchardt, Schliemanns Ausgrabungen
(1891) 359ff; W. Vollgraff, “Fouilles d'Ithaque,”
29 (1905) 153ffPI
; W. Dörpfeld, Alt Ithaca
; V. Bérard, Ithaque et la Grèce des Achéeens
(1927); W. A. Heurtley, “Excavations in Ithaca, IV,”
40 (1939-40) 1ff; M. Robertson, “Excavations in
Ithaca, V,” BSA
43 (1948) 1ffPI
; id., BSA
; H. Waterhouse, “Excavations at Stavros, Ithaca,
in 1937,” BSA
47 (1952) 227ff; S. Benton, “Further
Excavations at Aetos,” BSA
48 (1953) 255ffPI
; D. Levi,
4 (1961) 249-50; A. Wace-F. Stubbings, A Companion to Homer
M. G. PICOZZI