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(texte français: cliquez ici)   Mythological figures for stopovers


Any site named after a mythological figure is therefore a marked site, a possible stopover connected with a story that characterizes it and facilitates its remembering.
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
Caves at the Marathonissi islet, Zakynthos.
On closer examination these mythological figures recurrent in homeric poems are to be understood in the precise sense they had for the audience of these poems sung and played by actors, for this audience that knew their content and appreciated the quality of the performances. A nymph like Calypso also meant for a navigator a welcoming figure, an allusion to a possible stopover on a sea route, the name given to a source, information on the way to worship it, on the possible resources in drinking water of a given place. The mention of a cave like that of the Cyclops or the Nymphs at Ithaka was also a precious information for the crew of merchant ships, pirates' boats or warships who found there a propicious place for disembarking a cargo of merchandise, a troup of slaves or a war booty. Any site named after a mythological figure is therefore a marked site connected with a story that characterises it and facilitates its remembering. The name calls the meaning. It prefigures a welcoming or dangerous, quiet or threatening place. It signals a climate of feelings and emotions, pleasures and fears. It is from this general perspective that I propose to interpret passages of Homer's poem on navigation, sea routes and stopovers and to confront them once more with the knowlegde that sailors of today have of these places and with their experience of navigation. next
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