Ithaca was the home of Odysseus, the Greek hero, and is widely described in Homer’s Odyssey. Over the years, the representation of Ithaca has varied significantly with some authors indicating that the modern Ithaca was different from the medieval one. However, all scholars agree that Ithaca represents home as the last place people will always think about whenever they encounter life-threatening challenges in their eternity. From this observation, the ability of literary scholars to expose readers to a broad perspective on Ithaca not only influences their thought process but also lowers their expectations about the final destination. It should be noted that Homer opened a pandora’s box in his description of Ithaca, allowing other scholars to express their views to either oppose or support the original concept of the homely island. For this reason, exploring the different views expressed by scholars regarding Ithaca exposes readers to a context where they can question certain aspects that have been normalized in both the medieval and modern societies.
Cavafy’s Views on Ithaca
Ithaca is portrayed as a final destination for all types of expeditions, including the human journey. In this regard, the Egyptian poet, Cavafy, advices the reader by offering insights on the types of challenges they will likely encounter on their way home. Even though the character being addressed in the poem could be Odysseus, Cavafy takes a different approach where he exposes the reader to the challenges encountered by Odysseus and the best approach, he or she can use to overcome them (Marin, 2017). Unlike Odysseus who was not aware about the challenges he would encounter on his way home; Cavafy balances the readers’ expectations by highlighting the issues that will slow down their pace on their way to Ithaca. It should be noted that Odysseus’ journey was troublesome because of the unforeseen dangers that tested his resilience and inner strength. Besides, the long period Odysseus spent away from his wife, Penelope, had a significant impact on his life and ability to make informed decisions. However, his resilience and ability to remain focused helped him overcome the hurdles imposed by the Cyclops and the Laistrygonians, characters that Cavafy informs the reader about their impact on their journey to Ithaca.
Unlike the medieval perspectives towards Ithaca, such as those found in Homer’s Odyssey, modern authors express a certain level of optimism, which plays a critical role in documenting the best approach that can be used to accomplish desired goals and objectives in the journey of life. In Homer’s Odyssey, readers and other travelers interested in Ithaca are scared by the nature of challenges and their attitude towards the explorers. However, modern perspectives on the journey to Ithaca set out the reader to an enabling environment where they can accomplish their desired goals by balancing their expectations and views regarding the best approaches that people can use to realize their desired outcomes. From this realization, the distinction between the two approaches sets out the reader to an interesting scenario that influences their overall perspectives towards the journey of life and its impact on their inner strength, which enables them to withstand the unforeseen dangers that are normal in the history of human existence.
Dante’s Inferno, Cantos XXVI
Unlike other scholars, Dante did not interact with Homer’s Odysseus and as such, his views on Ithaca and other characters in the famed Greek literature are unique with the outsider perspective. During his time, Dante, like other Christians, had a limited access to Greek texts, a move that played a critical role in differentiating his version of the Odysseus from the conventional character identity. However, his stand on the unending journey of life brings in a fresh perspective on the Odysseus, allowing readers to explore the overall experience from a different angle (Rivera, 2020). Importantly, Dante views Ulysses as a soul attached to Diomedes in one flame, which helps him understand their relationship. However, given his limited understanding of the outside world, Dante leads his men to their death when their ship sinks before they could reach the big mountain in sight. By reading Dante’s perspectives on Ithaca, one can experience the Christian perspective that takes a different approach from the Greek mythology, which heavily relies on heroism.
Exploring the different views expressed by scholars regarding Ithaca exposes readers to a context where they can question certain aspects that have been normalized in both the medieval and modern societies. In this regard, the distinction between the classical Greek approach and the modern perspectives of the journey of life are influenced by the techniques used by scholars to influence their readers’ perspectives. For instance, Cavafy shares his insights to travelers and his readers about the nature of challenges they should encounter in their journey of life. This way, it becomes easier for them to overcome the underlying issues and emerge victorious by channeling their inner strength to the emerging problems that affect their ability to accomplish their desired goals. Therefore, the scholarly approach between medieval and modern scholars exposes the reader to an environment where they can experience the two worlds and their position on the journey of life.
Marin, M. (2017). An Integrated Approach to Teaching Poetry in a Greek EFL Classroom. A Case Study: Comparing Cavafy and Shakespeare. Research Papers in Language Teaching & Learning, 8(2).
Rivera, A. (2020). The Manipulations of an Epic Poet: Dante’s Use of Vergil & Ulysses in Inferno Canto XXVI (Doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Stony Brook).