On an Ionian holiday a few years ago, I walked straight off a modern cruising yacht into an argument about an ancient voyage that has been unresolved for well over 2,000 years. We had moored at Vathi, the main town on Ithaca, where in a first floor room down a side street I came across an exhibition of photographs of Homeric sites on the island. There I fell into conversation with a white-haired, distinguished looking man who described himself as director of the archaeological excavations on Ithaca.
Naturally, we got onto the Odysseus connection, for the exhibition was designed to connect present day sites on the island with the wanderings of Homer’s hero. I had just read in Rod Heikell’s Ionian pilot book that the island of Levkas, a few miles to the north, had been put forward by some as the true Ithaca. What did the director think of that?
It was as if I had insulted his family, his religion and his country all at once. He exploded.