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The Phaeacians themselves are represented as of divine lineage (“ἀγχίθεοι”), and their name has been etymologically connected with “φαιός”, ‘dark;’ their home being in the wonderland of the West (“ποτὶ ζόφον”). According to others, the name is to be referred to root “φα”, =bright. Their magic ships flit over the sea, “ἠέρι καὶ νεφέλῃ κεκαλυμμέναι” ( Od.8. 562), and Nausicaa describes herself and her countrymen as living “ἀπάνευθε πολυκλύστῳ ἐνὶ πόντῳ” “ἔσχατοι, οὐδέ τις ἄμμι βροτῶν ἐπιμίσγεται ἄλλος” ( Od.6. 205). Welcker (Klein. Schrift. 2. 14) endeavours to identify the account of the Phaeacians with certain forms of northern legend, laying much stress on their being called “πομποὶ ἀπήμονες”, and on their having carried Odysseus in a deep sleep across the sea. He finds in this a representation of the story of the Ferrymen of the Dead: see further on Od. 8.562.
Welcker also supposes that Homer sought in his description of the Phaeacians to portray the habits of his own Ionian countrymen. Mure (Hist. Gk. Lit. vol. 1. Append. E.), commenting on the similarity of the words Phaeacian and Phoenician, thinks that it is ‘some colony of these oriental adventurers in some part of the western Mediterranean which here forms the butt of Homer's playful satire.’ He notices that Homer gives the epithets “ναυσικλυτοί” and “ἀγαυοί” to both peoples, comparing Od.7. 39 with 15. 415, and 13. 272 with 13. 120. According to Mure, ‘Scher’ is a Phoenician word signifying a ‘busy port,’ which suggests a ready etymology for Scheria. But the whole idea seems fanciful. There is a more decided connection between the Elysian plain and the gardens of Alcinous. Both enjoy the constant presence of the genial Zephyr ( Od.4. 567; 7. 118), and Rhadamanthus, the inhabitant of Elysium, is the visitor of the Phaeacians ( Od.4. 564; 7. 323). This connection was remarked by the Schol. on Eurip. Hippol. 742 “ἑτέραν γὰρ ἐμύθευσαν εἶναι γῆν ἐν ᾗ πλεῖστα καὶ θαυμαστὰ φύονται: ἐν τάυτῃ γὰρ τὸ Ἠλύσιον πεδίον καὶ τῶν Φαιήκων τὴν γῆν ἐμύθευσαν εἶναι”. Nitzsch supposes that we have in Phaeacia a trace of Italian scenery idealised, but on the whole we shall not be able to improve upon the decision of Eratosthenes, quoted by Strabo (1. 2. 35), “Ὅμηρον μήτε εἰδέναι ταῦτα μήτε βούλεσθαι ἐν γνωρίμοις τόποις ποιεῖν τὴν πλάνην” (sc. “Ὀδυσσῆος”). ἵκοιτό κε, not “ἵξεται”, because his safe arrival is dependent on many contingencies. Compare the same mood expressing the same conditions in the speech of Teiresias, Od. 11. 104, 111.
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