The slow melting of the “Hibernated” Ulysses Giuliana Bendelli
In the Odyssey, Ortygie is introduced in relation to another island in its vicinity called Syrie, swineherd Eumaeus’ homeland: “There is an island called Syrie , you may have heard of it,/ beyond Ortygie where the Sun sets ” (“ hóthi tropaí eelíoio ”). Judging by the text, Ortygie seems to be more familiar than Syrie. However, both of them lie west of Ithaca, more than six days away by ship, even when the winds are favorable. s Neither of them has ever been identi ﬁ ed in the Mediterranean. They are linked with Leto’s two children, Apollo and Artemis; moreover, in a passage where Ortygie is mentioned, the Odyssey refers to Artemis, who killed Orion there with her arrows.
<ul><li>At this point, let us listen to Diodorus Siculus : “There is an island, no </li></ul><ul><li>smaller than Sicily, beyond the country of the Celts. It should be found </li></ul><ul><li>under the Bears and is inhabited by the Hyperboreans (…). People say </li></ul><ul><li>that Leto was born here and this is why Apollo is honored more than </li></ul><ul><li>any other god. </li></ul><ul><li>Its inhabitants in a sense are Apollo’s priests (…). There is </li></ul><ul><li>a grand shrine dedicated to Apollo on this island and a big circular </li></ul><ul><li>temple, adorned with many offerings.” By locating the Mycenaean </li></ul><ul><li>traces found in southern England – to be precise, in the Stonehenge </li></ul><ul><li>area whose marked “solar” traits could call to mind Apollo’s </li></ul><ul><li>“ grand shrine” mentioned by Diodorus – this setting identifies </li></ul><ul><li>Homeric Ortygie with Great Britain , which lies west of Danish Ithaca, </li></ul><ul><li>i.e., in a geographic position that ﬁ ts perfectly with Eumeus’ directions. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library, II, 47 </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>What is more, according to ancient Greek writer Ecateus (quoted by Levalois in his Land of Light ), the Hyperborean island, where Leto was born and her son Apollo had his priests, was called “White” (“ Leuké ”). It seems natural to associate this with Great Britain’s ancient name “ Albion ” – Pliny quotes: “ Albion ipsi nomen fuit ,” “its name was Albion,” that is “White.” This could be linked with “the white cliffs of Dover,” which greet sailors to the island, or with the white hills of Wessex, where the culture that constructed Stonehenge ﬂ ourished between the third and second millennium B.C. We are also reminded of the puzzling similarities between this culture and the Mycenaean, which appeared in Greece some centuries later. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pliny, Natural History, IV, 30 </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Regarding Syrie , the island next to Ortygie , in the light of the above, it could be Ireland, which ﬁts well with the description the swineherd Eumaeus (who was the son of Syrie’s king) gives of his homeland: “It is not densely populated, but good,/ rich in cattle, sheep and grain.” These words reveal a touch of homesickness in a man who had been torn away from his homeland at a young age and had never been back since (he had been abducted by Phoenician pirates, who sold him into slavery in Ithaca). This could be another indication of the relationship between the Homeric “ Danaans ” of the Early Bronze Age – that is, the ancestors of the Mycenaeans who left traces in Wessex before migrating to the Mediterranean – and the mysterious Tuatha Dé Danaan , i.e., “Goddess Dana’s Tribe,” who in the Cath-Maige Tuired ( The Battle of Mag Tuired ) are mentioned as Ireland’s ancient inhabitants, coming from “the islands in the north of the world.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Od. XV, 405-406 </li></ul></ul>
It would also be tempting to associate the name “ Syríe ” to Eire . But, let us note that there is a river in the south of Ireland, called “the Suir;” furthermore, the Irish name of the River Lee, which ﬂ ows through Cork, is the “Laoi,” a typically Greek-sounding name (which is almost homonymous with the River Lao in Southern Italy, the ancient “ Magna Graecia .”) In any case, the extraordinary hospitality that Eumaeus shows a poor beggar who could never have reciprocated, makes him seem the most “Irish” of the Homeric characters. ( Eumaeus’ name itself could recall Emain , the ancient Irish capital.) With regard to his Phoenician abductors, they bring to mind the mythical “Fenians,” i.e., a people of ancient Ireland mentioned in some traditional tales, such as Echtra Fergusa maic Léti ( The Adventures of Fergus, Lete’s son ).
Scholars noted the connection between Homer and the civilizations of Northern Europe. In The Druids , Stuart Piggott claims: “ Celtic literature was orally created and handed down by a barbaric society, just like the original version of the Homeric poems and the Sanskrit Rigveda .” Still on the Celts he states: “It was a barbaric civilization (…). From the archaeological evidence we deduce that it was a model of society going back to barbaric Europe of the second half of the second millennium B.C. at least. This was a heroic age, similar in one way to Homer and the Rigveda , in another to the Beowulf and the Norse sagas.”
As to the Celtic poets, known as “ ﬁ li ,” they entertained the Court’s noblemen, just as the Homeric bards did. Their favorite themes included “adventure” (“ echtra ”) beyond human bounds and “wanderings” (“ immram ”) from island to island over far-off seas. This, of course, reminds us of Ulysses when he was intent on narrating his fabulous adventures and wanderings in Alcinous’ palace. What is more, one of the favorite destinations in Celtic tales are the paradisal islands situated in the middle of the ocean, towards the far west, where divine women refresh and make love with the heroes coming there. They also offer them immortality and everlasting youth, as we see in Immram curaig Máele Dúin ( The Voyage of Máel Dúin’s Ship ) and Immram Brain maic Febail ( The Voyage of Febal’s Son Bran ).
<ul><li>For instance, according to J. Markale, this is how the queen of one of these fabulous islands addresses a hero after he goes ashore there: “If you remain here, the old age will not catch you. You’ll be young as you are now, and will live for ever.” All of this is identical to the island of the goddess Calypso, remote in the ocean towards the west, who had promised to make Ulysses “ immortal and ageless (“ athánaton kaí agéron ”) forever.” Incidentally, one could match the name of Ogygia itself with the Celtic island of everlasting youth, which is called “ Tir-na n’Og .” In a word, “Ogygia” may mean “the Land of Youth.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Od.V, 136; VII, 257 </li></ul></ul>
"Some people believe that Ulysses too, in his long and fabulous wanderings, arrived at this Ocean and visited the lands of Germany" (in hunc Oceanum delatum adisse Germaniae terras) ( Germania 3, 2). We may now read this passage from Tacitus in a new light. Here he uses the common name Germania to indicate all the regions of northern Europe up to the Baltic and Scandinavia. Even if Tacitus belongs to a time halfway between the events Homer narrates and the present day, his reference to a northern Ulysses, which appears to be an ancient recollection rather than merely a literary hypothesis, tallies with what his contemporary Plutarch says regarding the North Atlantic position of the island of Ogygia . In short, it seems that both historians are linked by an uninterrupted tradition that began in the early Bronze Age and spanned millennia. It is likely that these tales reached Rome in the first century A.D., owing to the expeditions the Romans undertook in Great Britain at that time. In fact, Tacitus‚s father-in-law, Iulius Agricola, was governor of Britain for seven years, beginning in 77 A.D. Of course, we can continue to factor in details to support our conclusion of a northern origin for these epics, such as the fact that the Odyssey calls Ulysses fair-haired [ xanthás tríchas ( Odyssey 13.399, 431) and that he is traditionally portrayed with a cone-shaped cap that is identical to the traditional Viking cap.