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(texte français: cliquez ici)   At the Arethuse source


Under the Crows' Rock, halfway up, a source of drinkable water springs out, accessible to sailors landing in the cove "under" Pigadi islet : the Arethuse source ?
Odysseus' nautical world
A cosmological interpretation
Sea routes and the epic text
The routes home
Rounding Cape Malea
6 Toward a New World
7 Mythological figures for stopovers
From the next World to this world
9 In Odysseus'wake. Arrival at Ithaka
10 Ithaka, Ormos Polis
Ithaka, the islet of Daskalio
12 Ithaka, Port Saint Andrew
13 At the Arethuse source
14 The periplus to Ithaka
15 Our friend Odysseus
The Crow Rock.

At Marathia to the south the plateau slopes down gently to the sea, exposed to fierce winds. Only small bushes can survive there. Goats are grazing among them, in search of some rare grass and leaves that their cast-iron stomachs will be able to digest. The possible remote descendents of these "eleven herds of goats grazing on the cape" (Od., XIV, 13-14, J.) according to Eumee's count. From the height of the plateau the view extends, cosmic, up to Zakynthos and the mainland. The lands in the distance get blue in the strong sun and one can hardly distinguish the sea from the sky. A few hundred meters' walking to the east and we arrive at the edge of the plateau leading to the sea. The stone massif dramatically exposes its high sheer jagged cliff to waves and winds. Farther down fallen rocks form two or three successive terraces, then the cliff falls straight to the sea. A sharply festooned big circle arc appears opposite the mainland. Birds cross the sky in all directions exploiting the tumult of the winds beating the cliff : they are crows. A ravine cuts the stone cirque in the middle. It digs a breccia from where one can see from the heights a green valley going down to a small beach formed by the torrent running into the sea, thus indicating that there is a source coming out somewhere halfway down the hill. A wooded islet protects the shore, as if to invite the crews to come there and stock up with water.
All these places are too remarkable to have not been fixed by names to remember them. The first text to do it is the Odyssey in which Odysseus is guided by Athena to this site on his return in Ithaka. The hero must go to Eumene's place ! the goddess says to her protégé. He knows quite well where :
"….there where pigs graze,
Near the Crow Rock, at the Arethuse source,
Eating healthy acorns and drinking black water."
(Od. XIII, 404-409, J.)
From the hilltop one sees the beach beneath, a short shore at the end of a small bay sheltered from north winds by a wooded islet : an ideal place for a ship coming from the south to stock up with water. Tzarambo and her crew have to check these indications, as suggested by the Nautical Instructions :
"1.7 M south from Cape Skotargia (Akra Sarakiniko), Nisi Pera Pigadi is an islet situated at 31° latitude. It is separated from the coast by a stretch of sea 90 m wide in its narowest part where the water depth is 3-4 m. (…). South of the latter lies Ormiskos Pera Pigadi, a cove with great depths. Small ships can anchor there in the southern part of the bras or just south of it on sandy sea beds 5 to 10 m deep and in very clear waters. In a cove situated 300m south one can also cast anchor in depths of 55 to 10 m. This anchorage place is better sheltered from the NW winds and from the gusts coming from land".

Greek sailors landing on Ithaka from the south-east could take cover from there by Para Pigadi (whose name means "facing the upper source"), progress to the far end of the bay of Port Ligia, land on the beach, and climb up the lane to the source step by step. The lane indeed overhangs the bed of the torrent whose waters are abundant only in winter. Under the overhanging cliff the rock is hollowed out in places offering a possible shelter to herds for the night, like in ancient times. Homer mentions them : it is there that Eumenes came to lie down after he had offered Odysseus hospitality.

"…near the white-toothed pigs,
under the hollowed out rock sheltered from the Borea"
(Od., IV, 532-533, B.) next

    Jean Cuisenier, Le Périple d’Ulysse, pp. 71-72
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