Giardini Mon Plaisir – Charming B&B in Trapani

On the Trails of Ulysses

A Special Walk in Trapani
On the Trails of Ulysses and the Places of the Odyssey

There is a theory that ODISSEA was written by a woman and was set in Trapani.

In 1897, the English author Samuel Butler shocked English academia with an essay in which he tried to prove that the Odyssey was written in Trapani by a woman.

The theory of the Odyssey‘s Sicilian origin for the ‘topographical’ side fits into the long tradition of the identification of Homeric geography, a cultural ‘sport’ that was already practised in ancient Greece.

Butler had experienced that a writer, in drawing a scenario, is almost always inspired by the reality of the places around him, which are then transfigured.

The evidence stubbornly sought on the ground – although not all of them had the courtesy to be found on time – was somewhat diluted by the assertion that Ulysses’ voyage had in fact only been a circumnavigation of Sicily, with departure and arrival in Trapani; but in short, the substance was that the ancient poem was basically a novel ante litteram, not the timely chronicle of epic deeds.

If such identifications seem somewhat aerovagant to us, it must be remembered that for Butler those were the places that served as models for the descriptions, which is very different from saying that those were the actual places where Ulysses’ adventures would take place. But in the end, what matters is that they still know how to impress us. (Prof. Renato Lo Schiavo)

The more or less ‘safe’ identifications by Butler operated are these:

The petrified Nave Feacia and the Scoglio del Malconsiglio:

Zeus, the gatherer of clouds, replied in reply:

“My dear, this seems best to me:

when all the people from the city see from afar

the incoming ship, you petrify it when it is close to land:

that it remains similar to a fast ship, because all

wonder at it; then bury the city under a great mountain’.

As soon as he heard this Poseidon shaking the earth

moved towards Scheria, where the Phaeacians were based,

and there he stopped. When the long-distance ship, propelled

quickly, he came close, the Earthshaker approached

and turned it into stone; he rooted it to the bottom of the sea,

striking it with the palm of his hand: then he went away. (Book XIII)

The petrified Nave Feacia and the Scoglio del Malconsiglio:

Zeus, the gatherer of clouds, replied in reply:

“My dear, this seems best to me:

when all the people from the city see from afar

the incoming ship, you petrify it when it is close to land:

that it remains similar to a fast ship, because all

wonder at it; then bury the city under a great mountain’.

As soon as he heard this Poseidon shaking the earth

moved towards Scheria, where the Phaeacians were based,

and there he stopped. When the long-distance ship, propelled

quickly, he came close, the Earthshaker approached

and turned it into stone; he rooted it to the bottom of the sea,

striking it with the palm of his hand: then he went away. (Book XIII)

The Cave of Polyphemus and the Cave of Contrada Emiliana (Bonagia)

When we reached the neighbouring land

at the end of it, next to the sea, we saw

a large cave covered with laurel. There they spent the night

entire flocks of sheep and goats; around them was a fence

high, built with buried stones,

with trunks of pine trees and tall oaks.

There slept a gigantic man, who looked after himself

to his flocks, in the background: he did not mix with others;

lived in isolation, outside the law. (Book IX)

The Island of the Goats and the Island of Favignana (Aegades actually means 'Goat Islands')

Near the harbour, a flat, rocky island extends

(it is not far, nor close to the land of the Cyclops):

is covered with forests, there live many goats

wild: the footsteps of men do not scatter them,

hunters do not chase them down

the mountain peaks and face dangers in the forest.

The island has no herds or cultivated fields,

because everything is born without ploughing and sowing;

has no inhabitants, it only feeds bleating goats.

the earth is not bad and could produce:

By the shore of the foam-white sea there are meadows

rich in water, where many vines could grow;

ploughing would be easy, every season they could have

a rich harvest: the land is indeed very fertile.

There is an easy mooring port: no need for ropes,

neither to drop anchor nor to hook the stern of the ship;

after landing, one can wait all the time

that sailors need while waiting for a favourable wind. (Book IX)

The Island of the Goats and the Island of Favignana (Aegades actually means 'Goat Islands')

Near the harbour, a flat, rocky island extends

(it is not far, nor close to the land of the Cyclops):

is covered with forests, there live many goats

wild: the footsteps of men do not scatter them,

hunters do not chase them down

the mountain peaks and face dangers in the forest.

The island has no herds or cultivated fields,

because everything is born without ploughing and sowing;

has no inhabitants, it only feeds bleating goats.

the earth is not bad and could produce:

By the shore of the foam-white sea there are meadows

rich in water, where many vines could grow;

ploughing would be easy, every season they could have

a rich harvest: the land is indeed very fertile.

There is an easy mooring port: no need for ropes,

neither to drop anchor nor to hook the stern of the ship;

after landing, one can wait all the time

that sailors need while waiting for a favourable wind. (Book IX)

The cliff of the Capanna di Eumeo and the Roccazzu dei Corvi, where the Pepoli Tower stands today

Odysseus ascended from the harbour along a stony path;

reached the wooded area between the heights, where

Athena had told him to look for the faithful swineherd,

who defended his property more than all the other servants;

found him sitting in a vast atrium; all around

had built, in an elevated place, a high wall

circular, beautiful and large. (Book XIV)

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