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Odysseus at the Court of Alcinous (1814-1816) by Francesco Hayez (Public Domain)

Clues To King Alcinous’ Scheria: The Lost Sickle In The Sea

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The mythological Alcinous and the location of his kingdom of the Phaeacians have remained one of the most elusive topics of ancient Greek literature. Clues to the ruler and his kingdom survive only in the narratives of the journeys of Odysseus and Jason. Was there an Alcinous prototype ruling over a foreign nation of master seafarers? Apollonius in Argonautica directs one to Drepane in the Ceraunian sea; Apollodorus in Library points to Corcyra (Korfu) as the island of the Phaeacians; Homer in the Odyssey only writes that Odysseus washed ashore on Scheria, and that the Phaeacians had fled from Hypereia where they were under attack from the Cyclopes. How much evidence can the ancient narratives provide, and how much of it can be corroborated by archaeology, geography and paleontology?

The Argo, by Konstantinos Volanakis (1837–1907) (Public Domain)

The Argo, by Konstantinos Volanakis (1837–1907) ( Public Domain )

Clues From The Odyssey And Argonautica

In every source, it is said Alcinous was not a native to Greece but instead a ruler of the peoples known as the Phaeacians, living in the outskirts of what then was the known world. He was a wise and just leader; favored by both gods and man. He is first and formally introduced in the eighth century BC epic, Homer’s the Odyssey . King Alcinous also plays an important role in the third century BC Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica. Although this script post-dates Homer by at least half a millennium, Homer and his audience were well aware of the exploits of Jason and the Argonautic myth. The Argonauts were a band of heroes in ancient Greek mythology who accompany Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece on their ship, the Argo. They are said to predate the Trojan War. This becomes clearer in the episode in the Odyssey where Circe gives Odysseus instructions on how to continue his voyage home and where she begins to speak of the Planctae (or the Wandering Rocks) stating the following: “ One seafaring ship alone has passed by those, that Argo famed of all, on her voyage from Aeetes, and even her the wave would speedily have dashed there against the great crags, had not Hera sent her through because Jason was dear to her ”.

 

 

Circe and Odysseus, by Matthijs Naiveu (1702) (Public Domain)

Circe and Odysseus, by Matthijs Naiveu (1702) ( Public Domain )

It should also be noted that Circe was the sister of King Aeetes of Cholchis. Aside from the Planctae, other themes from the Odyssey can be found in the Argonautica which include the sirens.

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By profession, Petros Koutoupis is a software developer and an entrepreneur. When not overwhelmed with being a good husband and an excellent father (of two), and during the little free time he may have, Petros enjoys immersing himself with topics of ancient history and theology. He is fluent in the language of Greek, and has been a self-taught student of Septuagintal Greek and Biblical Hebrew; with additional knowledge in Aramaic, Ugaritic, and Akkadian grammar. His recent work focuses predominantly on the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of Eastern Mediterranean, leading to a quest to unravel the mysteries of our history.

Top Image : Odysseus at the Court of Alcinous (1814-1816) by Francesco Hayez ( Public Domain )

By Petros Koutoupis

Comments

There are true stories at the base of most myths, of course a lot of superrnatural details were added later. There is no doubt the Trojan war took place, unfortunately there is not a similar proof for Odysseus whereabouts. As about the Argonautes, probably a gold seeking raid took place (fleece was used to collect gold grains from the rivers of Caucasus). 

Hi All,

I've read two Jason versions of the Golden Fleece; Edith Hamilton, and Bulfinch's of course The Odyssey in all its entirety. Once thought them to be Myth's but, that's not the case anymore.

Would love to expand on why that is but, not this time around, so until next time, or unless I think of something else to share about this Topic Everyone, Goodbye!

That makes sense, but Apollonius gives a very specific location of the rocks, and anyway the route of the Argonautes (on the way to Colchis, the return trip is not very well defined) was very specific and had nothing to do with a route near Arctic. Anyway, there is so much exaggeration in ancient Greek myths, that some wandering rocks are not much of a wonder.

Bruce Nowakowski's picture

the wandering rocks sounds like glaciers to me. I always wondered if the Golden Fleece myth was misplaced in the Black sea but rather somewhere in the North Atlantic. 

I wonder why Schera (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sicilia_arcaica.jpg) in north-western Sicily usually goes unoticed, as Sicily and Trapani in particular was probably the area of Phaeacians, after they had fled from the area of Cyclops (Etna?). Schera was destroyed later by Carhidonians. 

On the other hand, the narrative of Apollonius of Rhodes in Argonautica (written much later than Odyssey) is obviously based on myths and third party accounts and lacks the realism of Homer’s geographic descriptions. So Apollonius placing Scheria at modern Corfu cannot be given credibility, as this was a myth Corfy people had already embraced.

It must also be condidered that while at least six Argonautes were fathers of Homer’s heros, Apollonius uses the same characters (Alcinous and his wife) in the same time frame as in Odyssey.

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