Lampedusa, Linosa and Homer

Few know that (this is why I decided to write about it) Homer’s’ Odyssey hides a reference to Lampedusa’s central role in the Mediterranean sea centuries before Odysseus sealed in order to return home to Ithaca.
The first time I noticed this reference to Lampedusa I thought that the Mycenaean could once have sailed to the Pelagian Islands, then, absent any archaeological evidence, I realized that perhaps its meaning was different.
My studies published in this website show how Lampedusa, first colonized in the sixth millennium bc,  hosted an important Neolithic and megalithic culture which left important traces of its passage and of its greatness on the Island and below its sea for a period that covered more than two Millenia (5200-3000 BC): echoes of this greatness must have reached the Mycenaean sailors through their trade and cultural exchange ties with the Thapsos culture of Sicily between 1500 and 1300 BC. Hence  the distant memory the Homer, by oral tradition, must have kept and finally saved on his immortal work in the twelfth book of his Odyssey.
In the twelfth book of the Odyssey two nymphs are mentioned (nymphs sometimes represent geographical entities such as rivers, lakes, Island…)  by their evocative names: Lampetia and Phaetusa, daughters of Helios.
Lampetia  (Λαμπετίη ) means shining/burning while Phaetusa (Φαέθουσάmeans shining/gleaming: it is a clear reference to the ancient names of the two main Pelagian islands : Lampas and Aethusa (ancient name of Linosa found in Plinio’s "Historia Naturalis" probably as a corruption of an older version of the same name: Phaetusa ).

 



Lampetia and Phaetusa, daughters of Helios,  were in charge of the custody of their father’s sacred cows in the Island of Trinacria (Sicily): this may well mean that Lampedusa and Linosa may have played an important role in the ancient territorial autonomy and independence eof Sicily . In the Greek mythology indeed to steal the cows of a country or tribe often meant to try to conquer it by force, hence the Pelagian islands must have once been very important if their role was known to the Mycenaean sealers who must have learnt this in Sicily during their trade and by cultural Exchange with the  Thapsos culture. The memory of the former importance of Lampedusa, probably already a distant one in Mycenaean times was therefore saved forever in Homer’s immortal verses.  
I believe that archaeology have a mission and it must be to help recover the lost memory of ancient people: Lampedusa is still waiting ….I hope that my studies will bring archaeology closer to Lampedusa: the only island in the Mediterranean sea whose prehistory  has not been archaeologically explored to date.

A prehistoric gold plate in the British Museum coming from Sicily: maybe it shows the sacred Helios Cows?  (picture courtesy of the British Museum which hold all its rights). 


Below the original verses from the Odyssey and their English translation: (XII book) :

"Θρινακίην δ' ἐς νῆσον ἀφίξεαι: ἔνθα δὲ πολλαὶ
βόσκοντ' Ἠελίοιο βόες καὶ ἴφια μῆλα,
ἑπτὰ βοῶν ἀγέλαι, τόσα δ' οἰῶν πώεα καλά,
πεντήκοντα δ' ἕκαστα. γόνος δ' οὐ γίγνεται αὐτῶν,
οὐδέ ποτε φθινύθουσι. θεαὶ δ' ἐπιποιμένες εἰσίν,
νύμφαι ἐυπλόκαμοι, Φαέθουσά τε Λαμπετίη τε,
ἃς τέκεν Ἠελίῳ Ὑπερίονι δῖα Νέαιρα.
τὰς μὲν ἄρα θρέψασα τεκοῦσά τε πότνια μήτηρ
Θρινακίην ἐς νῆσον ἀπῴκισε τηλόθι ναίειν,
μῆλα φυλασσέμεναι πατρώια καὶ ἕλικας βοῦς.
τὰς εἰ μέν κ' ἀσινέας ἐάᾳς νόστου τε μέδηαι,
ἦ τ' ἂν ἔτ' εἰς Ἰθάκην κακά περ πάσχοντες ἵκοισθε:
εἰ δέ κε σίνηαι, τότε τοι τεκμαίρομ' ὄλεθρον,
νηί τε καὶ ἑτάροις: αὐτὸς δ' εἴ πέρ κεν ἀλύξῃς,
ὀψὲ κακῶς νεῖαι, ὀλέσας ἄπο πάντας ἑταίρους.'

"'You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will see many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the sun-god- seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with fifty head in each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become fewer in number, and they are tended by the goddesses Phaethusa and Lampetie, who are children of the sun-god Hyperion by Neaera. Their mother when she had borne them and had done suckling them sent them to the Thrinacian island, which was a long way off, to live there and look after their father's flocks and herds. If you leave these flocks unharmed, and think of nothing but getting home, you may yet after much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm them, then I forewarn you of the destruction both of your ship and of your comrades; and even though you may yourself escape, you will return late, in bad plight, after losing all your men.'

Symbol of Sicily “Trinacria”


Phaetusa (Linosa) seen from Lampetia (Lampedusa)