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(texte français: cliquez ici)   Toward a New World


Carried away by the tempest far off Cape Malea Odysseus and his squadron finally reach an unknown land in the country of the Lotus-Eaters.
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, gthe islet of Daskalio
12 Ithaka, Port Saint Andrew
13 At the Arethuse source
14 The periplus to Ithaka
15 Our friend Odysseus
Remote cultural heirs of the Lotus-Eaters on the Tunisian shores : today islamized Berbers.
Simple calculations show that ships like Odysseus' doing 4 knots on average on a long distance in a north-east wind are able to cover more than hundreds miles a day. From a point located near Cythera such ships therefore can reach land on the long strip of coast extending between present-day Lybia and Tunisia, more or less west depending on whether the winds are more in the north or in the east. The Nautical Instructions indicate that this coast stretches over nearly one thousand miles. Nowhere else in the world, according to hydrographic engineers, one can find such a stretch of coast without any remarkable points or unevenness of the ground that could serve as landmarks to navigators. Apart from the surroundings of Tripoli that are fertile and cultivated, the major part of this territory is nothing but a vast unproductive desert : the west coast is low everywhere, except for some hilly parts. From the Odyssey itself, no information can be drawn that would enabble us to locate the place where the epic hero landed.
Homer's text, in reality, sets in action a geographic imagination that mobilizes for these New World's seas a fragmentary empirical knowledge, piloting instructions, travel stories, mythological fictions that indicate the ports of call of a real southern sea route going from Cythera to Creta up to Lybia, Tunisia and Sicily. Seamen who listen to rhapsodes singing the poem learn through fiction what may happen to them if they sail off on these remote seas toward the Setting Sun far beyond the Nile's mouth. Either princes or pirates these seafarers learn from the poem that Odysseus and his companions no longer behave like warriors, like with the Kikones, as soon as they have come ashore in an unnamed western country. These heroes know nothing about the places where they are and the beings who haunt them. And now these warriors so greedy for booty, models of feats, behave quite differently : like discoverers. And the Rhapsode's audience learns that on this Syrtian shore, as it will be called so later, peace-loving populations live without political organization and resources on a plant with dangerously emollient and even narcotic properties. There is nothing to plunder there, nothing to exchange, no gold no ivory, no ore, no precious wood. Under these conditions there is no reason for ships on expedition to stop there, except for stocking up with fresh water. It is better to follow Odysseus' example who get his scouts and herald to re-embark without delay.  next
    Jean Cuisenier, Le PÈriple d’Ulysse, pp.205-212
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