Introduction

Lefkada Island is not only a small paradise. Pleanty of things do do and see, fabulous beaches, accomodation for all budget possibilities. It is also a good starting point to go and discover other beautiful Ionian Islands. Private boats and a public ferry, in fact, link Lefkada to Meganisi, navigating along Skorpios and the Prince’s Arcipelago islands. Corfu, Paxos and Kefalonia can also be reached easily with private cruises. Since last summer you can go there with a  fast ferry transport service.

The island of Ithaka as well is not far away from Lefkada. You can reach it both with the fast ferry from Lefkada Town and with a 1 and half hour ferry boat journey from Nidri.

Ithaka and Homer’s Odyssey

In Greek mythology Ithaka, was the island home and reign of Odysseus, the greek hero known as Ulysses in Roman myths. In the poem Odyssey, the greek author and poet Homer, describes Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan war. Following the fall of Troy, the greek hero spends about 10 years wandering and travelling before he returns home, reaching his kingdom in Ithaka. During his absence, Odysseus wife and son (Penelope and Telemachus) must deal with the so called Proci. These  are men who compete for Penelope hand’s in marriage in order to become kings of Ithaka. However, the poem has an happy ending.

Odysseus in fact finally finds his way back and returns to his kingdom and to his beloved wife.

Where is Ithaka?

Although nowdays modern Ithaca is generally accepted to be the island described by Homer, the specific location of the island, as described in the Odyssey, was for many years, and still is, a matter for debate.

Ithaka
Ithaka

There have been various archeological theories about its exact location. Excavations in Kefalonia , Zakinthos, Ithaki  have been claimed variously as proof, or dismissed out of hand, about the exact location of the homeland of Odyseus. Also the locals of each of the above Ionian Islands have their own theory. And in each of these island there a few who claim the real Ithaka, the homeland to Odysseus, is definetely their own island!

Among the many theories regarding the exact location of Ithaka, one proposes Lefkada as the real Ithaka of the Odyssey. The theory was first proposed by Wilhelm Dorpfeld. It was, and it is still, supported by some of the locals. But who was this man and what was his theory?

Wilhelm  Dörpfeld

Wilhelm  Dörpfeld was born on 26 December 1853. He was an architect and an archaeologist, a pioneer of stratigraphic excavation. His work greatly contributed to the scientific techniques and to a renewed public interest in the culture and the mythology of Ancient Greece.

Wilhelm-Dorpfeld
Wilhelm-Dorpfeld

During his life, Dörpfeld worked on various archeological sites around the Mediterranean, including Tiryns and Hisarlik, the site of the legendary city of Troy. Here he continued the excavations of the famous archeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who was his friend and colleague.  

Wilhelm  Dörpfeld work in Lefkada

Like Schliemann, Dörpfeld believed in the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer. He was able to obtain funding to do escavation work in Lefkada, by suggesting that the island was Homer’s Ithaca. In his theory the palace of Odysseus was located west of Nidri, in the bay of Vliho, on the south coast of Lefkada.

One of the strongest argument to support the theory that Lefkada is the Ithaka of the Odyssey, is that, in Homer’s poem, the homeland of Odysseus is described as an island that people can reach by foot. This is the case for Lefkada, since it is not really an island, but rather a peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway.

Wilhelm  Dörpfeld spent many years in Lefkada trying to find evidence to support his theory. He also had an house in Nidri and some of the old locals still recall when he was on the island.

Dörpfeld died in Lekada in Lefkada in 1940. His grave is close to the church of Agia Kyriaki, opposite the village of Nidri. Somebody says his tomb watches in the direction of the spot where Dörpfeld believed the Palace of Odysseus was located.

The Archeological Museum of Lefkada hosts a room with the findings of Wilhelm Dörpfeld research. Here visitors can see items from the Paleolithic and Neolithic period, including weaponry, vessels and various kind of tools.

The theory proposed by Dörpfeld gives curious travellers another fantastic reason to come and spend some days in the beautiful island of Lefkada!