In The Wake of Odysseus

Localization of the journey of Odysseus

Apollodorus (Epit. 7.1): "Ulysses, as some say, wandered about Libya, or, as some say, about Sicily, or, as others say, about the ocean or about the Tyrrenian Sea." Cf. Strabo (1.2.15) quoting Eratosthenes: "You will find the scene of the wanderings of Odysseus when you find the cobbler who sewed up the bag of the winds."

We do not assume that there was a "real" journey of Odysseus, or even a historical Odysseus. Localization of the wanderings deserves attention because 1) the Homeric journey surely, at some level, responds to Greek exploration and colonization in the western Mediterranean; 2) ancient Greek and Roman authors localized the journey (with much variance and debate); 3) peoples of ancient Sicily and Italy often accepted localization the journey in their lands, motivated by issues of genealogy and cultural authenticity; 4) the recreation of a preceding journey (cf. Aeneid/Odyssey) is a trope of modern travel writing, of which we are fond. The site favors travel books, though it also surveys more academic theories. At this point in time we are not tracking (extremely) 'crackpot' theories involving places outside of the Mediterranean (including Canada's Bay of Fundy!).

Below is a table which, after giving the most prominent and influential ancient localizations of the journey of Odysseus, lists the identifications found in modern travel writing or discussions based on direct experience of the Mediterranean. Links lead to key ancient texts, maps, and images. Further sections indicated at the bottom of this page lead to related topics (the underworld, Ithaca, academic bibliography, relevant internet websites); another section annotates travel writing based on other ancient journeys [e.g., Xenophon and the Ten Thousand, Alexander the Great, Horace's journey to Brundisium].

Research has been carried out, under the direction of J. Burgess, by Hana Carrozza, Maya Chakravorty, Sherwin Chua, Michelle Gabowicz, Sehba Imtiaz, Claudia Ludwig, Laura Mawhinney, Erin McDonald, Michelle Mok, Monali Ray, Chris Thompson-Walsh, Ryan Fontaine, Seth Estrin, Mariapia Pietropaolo, Tim Perry, Vanessa Snyder-Penner, Jennifer Wainberg, and Betel Yibrehu. Thanks are due to Sam Allemang for website design (and drawings!). Support for student research has been provided by the University of Toronto's Mentorship Program, Research Opportunity Program, and Research Excellence Awards, as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Click on titles for brief summaries of books that retrace the Odyssean journey (including more than those on the table); click on episodes for links to the Homeric passage (in Greek or Latin, using the Perseus Project unless otherwise noted), ancient localizations, and maps and images of locations; click on place names for their images and maps. [(?) with no space after the place indicates indecision on the part of the author; with space it signals our uncertainty about what place is indicated]

BOOKS Episodes
Lotus Eaters Polyphemus (and 'Goat Island') Aeolus (Aeolia) Laestrygonians (Telepylus) Circe (Aeaea) Sirens Scylla and Charybdis Thrinacia Calypso (Ogygia) Phaeacians (Scheria)
ancient sources coast of Libya; Djerba Sicily Lipari Islands, north of Sicily Sicily (Lentini); Formia north of Naples Monte Circeo, north of Naples Galli Islands, near Naples; Cape Pelorum strait of Messina Sicily (?) Gozo; Atlantic; an Adriatic island; Capo della Colonne Corfu; Atlantic
Stillman (1888) Djerba(?) Sicily(?); (an Aegadian Island) no i.d. no i.d. Monte Circeo(?) no i.d. Strait of Messina(?) no i.d. island south of Sardinia(?) Corfu
Halliburton (1927) Djerba Sicily; (Favignana) Stromboli, Lipari Islands Cefalu Monte Circeo no i.d. Strait of Messina Taormina Gozo, near Malta Corfu
BĂ©rard (1933) Djerba Posillipo, Bay of Naples; (Nisida) Stromboli Porto Pozzo, Sardinia Monte Circeo Galli Islands Strait of Messina Messina Perejil Island, strait of Gibraltar Corfu
Golding (1958) Djerba Sicily; (no i.d.) Stromboli(?) Sicily Monte Circeo Galli Islands Strait of Messina Sicily Malta or Gozo east Corfu
Bradford (1963) Djerba west Sicily; (Favignana) Ustica Bonifacio, Corsica Monte Circeo Galli Islands Strait of Messina Taormina Malta Corfu
Lessing (1965) Djerba Posillipo; (Favignana) Stromboli Bonifacio Monte Circeo Capri(?); Galli Islands(?) Strait of Messina no i.d. no i.d. Corfu
Obregon (1971) coast of Libya Mallorca; (Cabrera) Isla del Aire, Balearic Islands Sardinia Ischia, near Naples Faraglioni, Capri Strait of Messina east Sicily Malta Cyprus
Severin (1987) Cyrenica, Libya near Paleochora, Crete; (Paximada) Gramvousa island, off Crete Mezapos, SW Peloponnesos Paxos, Ionian Islands Lefkas, Ionian Islands Cape Skilla and Lefkas channel Meganisi, Ionian Islands Saseno (island off Albania) Corfu
Roth (1999) Djerba west Sicily; (Favignana) Marettimo, Aegadian Islands Bonifacio Monte Circeo Galli Islands Strait of Messina no i.d. Gozo Corfu
Huler (2008) Djerba west Sicily; (Favignana) Vulcano, Lipari Islands Bonifacio Monte Circeo Galli Islands Strait of Messina Taormina Malta Corfu
Geisthovel (2010) Djerba Matmata, Tunisia; (Kerkennah Islands) Malta Mozia, west coast of Sicily Ustica Cape Pelorum, NE Sicily Strait of Messina Messina Panarea, Lipari Islands Tiriolo, Calabria, Italy