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The Homeric Ithaca Identified with the Island of Othoni

Kazmer Ujvarosy, BA, MA, International Relations,

San Francisco State University, California, USA

The mystery of the whereabouts of Odysseus island home described in Homers Odyssey
has baffled researchers for nearly 3,000 years. Now philology provides convincing evidence
that the island of Othoni in the westernmost part of Greece is the homeland of Odysseus.

In Homers epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, the king of Ithaca, Odysseus, plays a key role.
In the Iliad Odysseus ended the 10-year-old Trojan War by the stratagem of the wooden horse,
which victory not even the bravery of Achilles could accomplish.
In the Odyssey Homer describes the travels and adventures of the resourceful and guile
Odysseus. After Troy was captured, Odysseus set sail for the island he called home, but reached
his destination only after 10 eventful years.
For many centuries it has been widely believed that the modern Ionian Island known as Ithiki is
the Homeric Ithaca or Ithaka, the presumed homeland of Odysseus. However Homer describes
the island home of Odysseus with no small variety of detail, and over time it became evident that
no ingenious arguments can reconcile the descriptions given by Homer with the actual
topography of Ithiki.
The identification is complicated by the possibility that many names and terms in the Odyssey
may have roots in languages other than Greek. After all it has been estimated that Homer wrote
the poems some time between 900 and 600 BC, i.e. nearly 3,000 years ago.
For instance according to the French scholar Samuel Bochart (30 May 1599 - 16 May 1667) -who possessed a thorough knowledge of the principal Oriental languages -- Homers Ithaca has
its origin in the Hebrew ithaca, meaning a hard and rugged island, because Homer, Plutarch and
Cicero with common consent describe Ithaca to be such.
If the etymology given by Bochart is correct, then the term Ithaca is applicable to any hard and
rugged island of the Ionian Sea. But, as we shall see, in this case Bochart was mistaken. At any
rate since the Greek geographer Strabo (64/3 BC - c.21 AD) to the present day no less than 22
proposals were made for the location of Homers Ithaca.

Just to mention a couple, in 1900 Professor W. Drpfeld first announced to the German Institute
at Athens that Leukas, instead of Thiaki (as they called Ithiki at that time) was Odysseus
homeland, because Leukas fits much better Homers descriptions of Ithaca. Controversy erupted,
it raged without intermission for many years, but eventually the majority of scholars rejected the
idea that Leukas was Homers Ithaca. So the old theory that Ithiki or Thiaki is Homers Ithaca
prevailed again.
In recent years the peninsula of Paliki has been proposed as Homers Ithaca by Robert
Bittlestone, a management consultant from England. For purposes of exploration Bittlestone
enlisted the help of Professor James Diggle, a classicist at Cambridge University, and Professor
John Underhill, a geologist from the University of Edinburgh.
Because it is plain that Paliki is a peninsula, whereas Homers Ithaca is an island, these explorers
argue that in Odysseus lifetime Paliki was an island. But even if we practice credulity and
accept the speculation that when Odysseus was making his voyages Paliki was an island, Paliki
still fails to fit Homers descriptions.
The details are beyond the scope and limits of the present article, therefore only two points will
be made:
According to Homer Ithaca is one of the Ionian Islands which is farthest west and farthest out to
Ithaca is part of an Ionian island complex consisting of no less than four islands.
These descriptions fail to fit Ithiki, as well as Leukas and Paliki, but provide sufficient
information to make the breakthrough identification:
Othoni in the Ionian Sea fits Homers descriptions best because it is the westernmost island of
Greece, with coordinates 39 50 59.10 Latitude, and 19 24 08.61 Longitude;
Othoni, Erikousa, Mathraki, Corfu, Paxoi and several smaller islands in the Ionian Sea form an
island complex.
Most significantly, the very name Othoni tells us that the island was Odysseus home, because
Othoni means "home."
Here it is:

Magyar Word or Term: Otthoni

English Translation: Home
So Othoni Island is literally Home Island. The spelling is not the same, but there is no difference
in meaning between Othoni and Otthoni, just as there is no difference in meaning between
traveler and traveller.
It may be argued that if Ithaca, Ithaka or Ithaken () is Othoni, why dont we have the
word Othoni in the Odyssey? The answer is, we have otthoni in the Odyssey, but only in the
Magyar translation. For example in Book 10 of the Odyssey the terms (patrs) and
(patrdos), "native," are translated otthoni, "home."
The Greek sentence, " ,
," has the following Magyar translation: "Kilenc napon t jt napp
tve hajztunk, majd tizedik nap flbukkantak az otthoni fldek."
In English the translations of the same sentence run as follows:
"Nine days and nights we sailed, and on the tenth our own land was in sight."
"Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our native land showed on the
"For nine days we sailed, night and day alike, and now on the tenth our native land came in
Thus the Greek (patrs aroura), "native land," in the Magyar translation is otthoni
fldek, "home lands," and in English "own land" or "native land."
The next part of the sentence, " ," means in
Magyar, "s lttuk az rtzeket, mert immr oly kzel rtnk," and in English, "and lo, we were
so near that we saw men tending the beacon fires."
So far scholars failed to realize that this part of the sentence provides the key word to the
interpretation of Homers Ithaca or Ithaka. The term "" (purpolontas) is translated
as "beacon fires" in English, and as "rtzeket" in Magyar. The emphasize is on "fires," Magyar
tzek, because it gives us the Greek term tzki (), "hearth." Thus the Magyar tzek, "fires,"
tells us that Ithaca or Ithaka means tzki, "hearth" or "home." All told, Ithaca or Ithaka is the
tzki, "hearth" or "home" of Odysseus, which home is Othoni Island.

Incidentally the present lighthouse, Othoni Kastri, built in 1872, is on the islands west coast, and
conceivably was the place where in Odysseus time people tended the beacon fires to aid
At this point the name of the Roman fortress, Othona, comes into mind. Othona was Roman
Britains Saxon Shore fort, and its name survived only in the Roman Empires Notitia
Dignitatum (late-4th early-5th centuries). Less than three centuries later Othona appears in the
writings of the first English historian Bede as Ythancaester.
So far no satisfactory etymology has been offered for the name Othona, which state of affairs
gives us the opportunity to fill that gap.
In light of the etymology we have for Othoni Island it seems evident that the fort was named
Othona because it was the otthona, i.e. "home," of the numeri Fortensium or "company of Brave
Men." The fact that the fort bears the name Othona indicates that auxiliary soldiers from
Sarmatia -- more specifically from Greuthungorum (Ammianus xxxi. 3), i.e. from Great Hungary
--, speaking the Magyar language, built and made the fort their home.
In addition to Othona at least one more fort in Roman Britain is likely to have served for Huns as
home, away from their home.
The name of the Halton Chesters fort first appears in the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-4th/early5th centuries as Hunnum. After hinting that the Unnigardae praised in the letters of Synesius (c.
373 c. 414) were a small cavalry corps of Huns serving the defense of Pentapolis in Libya
against the raids of the "barbarians," Otto Maenchen-Helfen in his The World of the Huns (1973)
Another Hunnic formation was possibly stationed in Britain. One of the commanders per lineam
valli, Hadrians wall, was the praefectus alae Sabinianae, Hunno. Could Hunnum be "the fort of
the Huns"?
The likelyhood that Huns were stationed in the forts Othona and Hunnum appears to confirm the
legends, mentioned by Jordanes in his De origine actibusque Getarum (The Origin and Deeds of
the Geta) or Getica, written in 551, that at one time the Hunuguri lived in "subjection to slavery
in Britain or in some other island," who gained their "redemption by a certain man at the cost of
a single horse."
The Magyar term otthon, "home," also seems to provide the correct etymology for the name
Athene. It is inferable that Athene has its origin in otthon, "home," because originally she was
the goddess of the hearth, home or household.

The Magyar language provides not only the above etymologies and the key to Odysseus island
home, but to the meaning of the terms Odyssey and Odysseus as well. However these terms need
correction. In Homers "original" Greek we do not have Odyssey, but Odusseia (), and
we do not have Odysseus, but Oduseus ().
Whatever the spelling, the fact is beyond dispute that essentially Homers Odusseia tells the
story of Oduseus travel from Troy back to his island home, which now we know must be Othoni
in the Ionian Sea.
In the Magyar language t means "way, road, passage," and utazs "journey, travel, voyage."
The person who takes the voyage may have the designations utas, "traveler, passenger;" utaz,
"traveler, voyager, explorer, wanderer;" or utazs, one who travels a lot or takes voyages.
The above designations suggest that Odusseia is cognate with utazs, "journey, travel, voyage,"
and Oduseus is cognate with utaz, "traveler, voyager, explorer, wanderer," or with utazs,
which term also means a person who does a lot of travel, wandering or exploration.
The belief is prevalent among scholars that when Odysseus identifies himself to the Cyclops
Polyphemus, he gives the name Outis, "Nobody." Well, it appears to be a misconception because
most probably Odysseus gave the name Utas, "Traveler," which Magyar term Polyphemus took
for the Greek term Outis, "Nobody." In other words Odysseus, by telling Polyphemus that his
name was Utas, "Traveler," told the truth, but at the same time fooled him, because he knew that
Polyphemus would mistranslate Utas into Outis, meaning "Nobody." So when Odysseus blinded
the only eye of Polyphemus within the closed cave, and when Polyphemus called for outside
help by yelling, Nobody is hurting me, his fellow Cyclops left him alone, hearing that Nobody
was hurting him.
Not only the word Utas, "Traveler," can be confused with Outis, "Nobody," but the Magyar term
utsz as well, meaning "sapper."
In the military a sapper is a professional whose task is to impair or undermine the stability of
defensive structures, like fortifications, by insidious means. Given the fact that according to
Homer Odysseus was "world-famed for stratagems," and that he was the one who invented the
legendary stratagem of the Trojan Horse, it is highly probable that Odysseus was considered to
be a professional utsz, "sapper." So the possibility cannot be ruled out that Odysseus identified
himself as an utsz, which term Polyphemus confused with outis, "nobody." In either case
Odysseus told the truth, and by telling the truth, fooled Polyphemus.

The postulate that the terms Odusseia and Oduseus are cognate with the Magyar utazs, "travel,"
and utazs, "traveler," is supported by the facts that the Greek word for road is ods (), and
that the Etruscan name for Oduseus is Utuze or Uthuze.
Allegedly the Etruscans -- a pre-Roman race of unknown origin speaking a language unrelated to
other language groups -- "adopted Odysseus" into their religion under the name Utuze. In light of
the fact that the Magyar utazs, "traveler, voyager," provides the correct etymology for the name
Oduseus or Odysseus, the statement that the Etruscans "adopted Odysseus" must be questioned.
After all the Etruscan Utuze is considerably closer to the Magyar terms utas or utazs than to
Odysseus. These findings suggest that instead of the Etruscans adopting Odysseus, the Greeks
adopted the Etruscan Utuze.
Finally the postulate that the correct etymologies for the terms Odusseia and Oduseus are utazs,
"travel," and utaz or utazs, "traveler," finds support in the fact that in the language of the
Albanians udhe means "route, travel," and Odysseus "traveler."
These findings are remarkable because Othoni, the island home of Odysseus, is only 38 miles
from the Albanian cape Linguetta. It may be assumed that the Albanians retained the correct
etymology of Odysseus, "traveler," because he lived so near to the shores of Albania.
Now lets compare the etymologies scholarship managed to provide. A Google search yields the
following, among others:
Odysseus' name suggests that he was the "victim of enmity" (Greek odyssesthai: "to hate" or "to
be angry").
The name Odysseus means a "man of constant sorrow" or "man of wrath."
The verb (odussomai) means "to get angry", and the latin word "odium" (hate) shares
its origin.
Corinthian Greek Olysseus, Olytteus, general Greek Odysseus, probably of Illyrian origin,
influenced by popular connection with odyssesthai, to be hated.
We could go on ad nauseam. In any case the suggested Illyrian origin of the name Odysseus is
noteworthy. At different times Illyrian tribes inhabited lands from Vienna to Athens. The Greeks
recognized some kinship between themselves and the Illyrians, but described them as a
barbarous people resembling the tribes of Thrace. Both Illyrians and Thracians offered human
sacrifices, and tattooed their bodies, similarly to the Picts of Britain.

Under Bardylis (385 to 358 BC) the Illyrians nearly succeeded in destroying the kingdom of
Macedon, but eventually Philip the Great conquered them and annexed part of their country.
During the next centuries they prayed on the commerce of the maritime powers as pirates. Under
the Illyrian queen, Teuta, the Greeks turned to Rome for help. After fighting the Romans in
several wars, in AD 6-9 the Illyrians joined the rebel Pannonians, but the Romans managed to
crush their forces. According to the Roman historian Seutonius they were the most formidable
enemies with whom the Romans had to contend with since the Punic Wars (264 to 146 BC).
A Google search on the Thracians shows that in ancient times ascetics called the Ctistae lived in
Thrace. The Ctistae dedicated their lives to the gods, and were held in great honor among the
people, because they lived a celibate life and never married. The information provided makes it
sufficiently evident that Ctistae is cognate with the Magyar tiszta (pronounced tista), meaning
"pure, clean, undefiled." There is no doubt that the ascetics were called Tiszta, "Undefiled,"
because they remained celibate. This etymology constitutes one more attestation of the Magyar
languages presence among the tribes of Illyria and Thrace.
It needs to be pointed out yet that Josephus (37 100 AD), in discussing the Essenes in the
Antiquities of the Jews (Book 18 22), writes: "They live no differently from, but most similarly
to those who among the Dacians are called Ctistae."
Common sense says that "among the Dacians" the ascetics were called Tista or Tiszta,
"Undefiled," because the givers of that designation spoke the Magyar language, and the native
Szkelys or Siculi in the Transylvanian heartland of ancient Dacia still speak the same language.
To conclude, at this stage the postulate that Othoni is the island home of Odysseus remains what
it is, simply a theory. More fact-finding is needed. At any rate the failure to realize that the
Magyar term utaz, "traveler," is the correct etymology for the name Odysseus, does not reflect
well on the current state of philology and Homeric studies. This failure is excusable in the case
of scholars who are not familiar with the Magyar language. But when Harvard Universitys
Hungarian-born Gregory Nagy, praised as "renowned authority in the field of Homeric studies
and archaic Greek poetry," fails to discern the connection between Homeric names and the
Magyar language, that incompetence is hardly excusable.