Corfu is a beautiful island in the Ionian Sea, famous for its stunning beaches, lush greenery and rich culture. But did you know that Corfu also has a connection to one of the most famous works of ancient Greek literature, Homer’s Odyssey?
The Odyssey is an epic poem that tells the story of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, who fought in the Trojan War and then spent ten years trying to return home to his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. Along the way, he faced many dangers and adventures, such as the Cyclops, the Sirens, the Lotus-eaters, the witch Circe and the sea god Poseidon.
According to some interpretations of the poem, Corfu is the island of the Phaeacians, a mythical people who were renowned for their hospitality, seafaring skills and love of music and dance. The Phaeacians welcomed Odysseus when he was shipwrecked on their shores and helped him to reach his final destination.
How did Odysseus end up on Corfu?
Odysseus had spent seven years on the island of Ogygia, where he was held captive by the nymph Calypso, who wanted him to be her husband. Eventually, Zeus ordered Calypso to let him go, and she reluctantly gave him the materials to build a raft. Odysseus set sail, hoping to finally see his homeland again.
However, Poseidon was still angry with Odysseus for blinding his son Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant who had eaten some of his men. He sent a terrible storm that destroyed Odysseus’ raft and left him alone in the sea. Odysseus managed to cling to a piece of wood and drifted for two days and two nights until he reached an island.
That island was Corfu, or Scheria as it was called by Homer. Odysseus swam to a river mouth and collapsed on the shore, exhausted and asleep. He was found by Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of the Phaeacians. She was washing her clothes with her maids when she saw him lying naked on the sand.
How did the Phaeacians treat Odysseus?
Nausicaa was startled by Odysseus’ appearance but she was also curious and compassionate. She gave him some clothes and food and told him to follow her to the palace of her parents. She advised him to appeal to her mother first, as she had more influence than her father.
Odysseus did as she said and entered the palace, where he was warmly received by Alcinous and Arete. They offered him a bath, a feast and a bed. They also invited him to join their festivities, where they sang songs, played games and danced. One of their bards, Demodocus, sang about the Trojan War and made Odysseus cry.
The next day, Alcinous asked Odysseus to reveal his identity and his story. Odysseus agreed and told them everything that had happened to him since he left Troy. He narrated his encounters with various monsters, gods and goddesses, his visit to the underworld and his escape from Calypso. The Phaeacians listened with awe and sympathy.
How did Odysseus leave Corfu?
After hearing Odysseus’ tale, Alcinous decided to help him return home. He ordered his men to prepare a ship for him and load it with gifts of gold, silver and fine clothes. He also hosted a farewell banquet for him, where Demodocus sang again about Odysseus’ exploits.
Odysseus thanked Alcinous and Arete for their kindness and generosity. He also asked Demodocus to sing one more song about the wooden horse that he had devised to trick the Trojans into opening their gates. He praised Demodocus’ skill and gave him a cloak as a gift.
The next morning, Odysseus boarded the ship that was ready for him. The Phaeacians rowed him swiftly across the sea until they reached Ithaca. They carried him ashore while he was still asleep and left him on a secluded spot with his gifts. Then they sailed away.
Poseidon saw what they had done and was furious. He asked Zeus to punish them for helping his enemy. Zeus agreed and turned their ship into a stone as it was returning to Corfu. He also threatened to cover their island with a mountain if they ever helped another stranger again.
Where can you see the traces of Odysseus on Corfu?
Although there is no archaeological evidence to prove that Corfu is the island of the Phaeacians, there are some places on the island that are associated with the legend of Odysseus. Here are some of them:
This is a large rock that lies off the coast of Ermones, on the west side of Corfu. According to local tradition, this is the ship that brought Odysseus to Ithaca, which was turned into stone by Poseidon. Some also say that this is where Nausicaa found Odysseus on the beach.
This is a small island near the airport of Corfu, on the east side of the island. It is also known as Mouse Island because of its shape. Some believe that this is also the ship that carried Odysseus, which was moved by Poseidon to the other side of Corfu. The island has a small chapel dedicated to Pantokrator, the Almighty.
This is a picturesque village and beach resort on the northwest coast of Corfu. It is said to be the site of the palace of Alcinous and Arete, where Odysseus stayed as their guest. It is also where he met Demodocus, the bard who sang about his adventures.
Corfu is a fascinating island that combines natural beauty, cultural heritage and mythical charm. Whether you are a fan of Homer’s Odyssey or not, you will surely find something to enjoy and explore on this island.