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1) Odysseus lands in the Phorcy's bay
2) Odysseus and the Nymph cave
3) Odysseus visits his shepherd Eumaios
4) Odysseus goes to his palace......
5) Odysseus visits his father Laertes in the orchard
6) The question of Asteris

 

1)

After 20 years of absence, Odysseus is brought back to his native Ithaca by Phaecians. Odysseus at first does not recognize the surroundings, so that Athena has to  appear in order to explain to him his whereabouts - Homer Od.13.344:This is the haven of the Old One of the Sea, Phorky's, and here is the olive tree that grows at the head of it; [near it is the cave sacred to the Naiads;] here too is the overarching cavern in which you have offered many an acceptable hecatomb to the nymphs, and this is the wooded mountain Neritum. translated by Samuel Butler

Comment:

    location of the landing place is thus defined by the bay's name Phorcy, presence of olive trees, view of the Neriton mountain and nearby cave of the Nymphs. Fact of life is that what is labeled presently as a Nymph cave, is not near to Phorcy's bay at all. It is not even visible from the bay, being hidden behind a hill.

    *A brochure obtainable from the Vathi city hall claims that there is a written record of a cave in the bay's area, in appearance similar to what is presently called Nymph cave, but was disassembled by local people for building purposes in 17th century! Interestingly 2 researchers of Homer’s geography – W. Gell in 1806 and H. Schliemann in 1868 described remnants of a large cave in Phorcy’s bay area.

     Nowadays there is a road sign near the bay with the name of Phorcy.... There are of course olive trees at the base of the bay, (in Ithaca they are everywhere), some of them appear very old indeed. Neriton mountain is clearly visible from the Phorcy's beach. Beach consists predominantly from pebbles, only the small easterly section contains sand. From here Mt. Neriton is dominating the view.

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Ithaca Greece Vathi Phorcy bay Mt. AetosRelationship of Phorcy's bay to Vathi and Mt. Aetos. Looking south from the Mt. Neriton area. Road to Mt. Aetos is clearly visible although the weather was not perfect. phorcy_2.jpg (190231 bytes)Arriving to Phorcy's bay from the sea. Nymph cave is hidden in the background - behind the hills - arrow. 

 

Phorcy's bay, Dexa bay, Ithaca, GreeceView of the Phorcy's bay - beach with olive trees. Present Nymph cave is behind the hill marked by an arrow. Numerous olive trees. Phorcy's bay, Dexa bay, Ithaca, GreecePhorcy's bay with the view of Neriton mountain -in clouds (=looking north). Was the ship like this?

 

2)

From the Phorcy's bay Odysseus transfers his treasures to the Nymph cave- Homer Od.13.366: So saying, the goddess entered the shadowy cave and searched out its hiding-places. And Odysseus brought all the treasure thither, the gold and the stubborn bronze and the finely-wrought raiment, which the Phaeacians gave him. [370] These things he carefully laid away, and Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, who bears the aegis, set a stone at the door. translated by A.T. Murray 

Comment:

    There is nowadays a winding ascending asphalt road from the Phorcy's bay to what is believed to be the Nymph cave (see above notes), approx. 2 km long. There are road signs pointing to it. Straight line distance between the port and the cave is 1300m.  A shortcut exists in the easterly portion of the bay - steep and slippery footpath to the asphalt road. In Summer 2001 cave was closed due to archeological excavations.

    According to Homer,  cave of the Nymphs has two entrances: one facing north- toward the Phorcy's bay and Neriton Mt., for the "mortals", and one located south of it, serving gods. However what is presently accepted as a Nymph Cave has entrances orientation West to East rather then North to South, supporting remarks above *.

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Northern entrance of the Nymph caveNorthern entrance of the Nymph cave for the "mortals", where Athena set a stone to close it.

Nymph cave - southern entranceSouthern entrance (for the gods) is about 10m higher up and much smaller, not big enough even for a "mortal". View from the Nymph cave - looking north. Neriton in Ithaca, GreeceView north from the cave area. Neriton Mt. is dominating the background. Phorcy's bay is not visible, just the small islet at its entrance.

 

 

 

 

3)

From the Phorcy's bay Odysseus went the rough path to see his shepherd Eumaios as advised by Athena where to find him.... Homer Od. 13.407:Thou wilt find him abiding by the swine, and they are feeding by the rock of Corax and the spring Arethusa, eating acorns to their heart's content and [410] drinking the black water, things which cause the rich flesh of swine to wax fat. 

and Homer Od. 14.1: Odysseus went forth from the harbor by the rough path up over the woodland and through the heights to the place where Athena had showed him that he should find the goodly swineherd, translated by A. T. Murray

 

Comment:

    From the Phorcy's bay harbor Odysseus walked “the rough footpath” in hilly Ithaca (Od.14.1) to his shepherd  Eumaios, whose location is given by Homer close to Arethusa fountain and Korax rock (Od. 13.407). Straight-line distance between Phorcy's bay and Korax rock is 6.5 km as measured by GPS. There is now a winding asphalt road from the harbor to Vathi and then to a plateau called Marathias in southern tip of Ithaca where Korax rock is located about 240m above the sea. Below Korax rock in an extremely steep slope is the Arethusa fountain. Both are facing west and the sea below.

    Korax means a raven, but there were no ravens to be seen when we visited. Marathias plateau where once Eumaios pigs were fattening on acorns has now sparse population of olive trees only, no oak trees. We have of course seen beautiful old oak trees near the monastery Taxiarchon, so it seems Homer was right, but Eumaios surroundings were deforested centuries ago. This was noticed by Schliemann already in 1868. There is a small farmstead sitting on top of the Korax rock.

    Arethusa fountain can be clearly identified and must be then over 3000 years old, despite numerous earthquakes and is still functioning- it was full of water and in apparent use.  We tasted its water and it was cool and delicious! The footpath trail to it is on the slope facing the sea and the west, starting approx.. 1km before Marathias plateau going left from the asphalt road - track 2 on the map. It is winding, slippery, rocky and 1.7 km long as measured by GPS, road sign says 1km....

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Arethousa well, Ithaca, Greece, Homer, OdysseyThere is a path visible- approaching Arethusa. Tourists are at the entrance to the fountain area. White crag on top of the picture is the Korax rock. Arethousa well, Ithaca, Greece, Homer, Odyssey Arethusa area has the ledge kept in good shape. The fountain itself is on the right.

 

Closeup of the Arethousa well, Ithaca, Greece, Homer, Odyssey Close up of the Arethusa well - fountain. Water level is about 1 m below the ledge plane. Water is crystal clear and cool in the hottest weather. view from the Arethousa fountain View from the Arethusa ledge toward the sea = looking east. Narrow footpath, leading to Arethusa, close to a deep precipice is marked with an arrow.
Arethousa trail, Ithaca, Greece, Homer, Odyssey Walking the trail early morning to Arethusa, one is confronted with "hundreds" of freshly made spider webs spread across the trail.

 

Marathia, Ithaca, Greece, Homer, Odyssey Above the Korax rock is Marathias plateau nowadays with sparse vegetation and sporadic olive trees. In Homer's time this area was obviously populated with oak trees, giving acorns for pigs and shade for people.....Present status is an obvious result of deforestation centuries ago.
Oak tree in Ithaca, Greece. - Homer, Odyssey Remnants of oak trees can be found sporadically in Ithaca as this group near Taxiarchon monastery  demonstrates. Acorn shells from Ithaca, Greece - Homer, OdysseyMediterranean acorn and shells of acorns from under the oak trees. Crystalline quartz rock is from the Nymph cave excavations.

4)

Disguised as a beggar by Athena, Odysseus goes to his palace to confront the suitors and to regain his kingdom.....

Where was the Odysseus' palace?

 

    Well there are no GPS - WGS 84 coordinates in the Odyssey regarding this. Although it is felt that Homer's descriptions of Ithaca belong to the realistic mode, one has to take still only hints and indirect descriptions from the text. 

         Where Odysseus' palace possibly once stood nobody knows. Basically there are two opinions: 

a) Palace - fortress was located in Pilikata region in Northern Ithaca, this is suggested by J. V. Luce in his book > see also the map.

b) Palace- fortress was located near or on Mt. Aetos in the isthmus between southern and northern Ithaca as presently argued by S. Symeonoglou.-see also the map.

    Each location has its weaknesses...... (among others - question of Asteris identity).

        Since Pilikata location is very well described and documented by photos in J.V.Luce's book, if interested please read this book.

        Mt. Aetos location appears more appealing personally and I should be excused for concentrating predominantly on this area.  Mt. Aetos area encompasses space on and around Mt. Aetos and it includes the ancient Piso Aetos harbor - see map.

4a)

Relationship between the ancient Ithaca city and its harbors can be found in  Homer Od. 16.471:I was now above the city, as I went on my way, where the hill(?) of Hermes is, when I saw a swift ship putting into our harbor, and there were many men in her, and she was laden with shields and double-pointed spears. translated by A. T. Murray

with the following exception - according to Greek original: Od.16.471:  êdê huper polios, hothi th' Hermaios lophos estin,  where Hermaios lophos  could mean Hermes col, rather then hill, exactly as translated by J.V. Luce p.219 for the Pilikata region.

 

city of Ithaca is lying under Neion.... Homer Od. 3.80:thou askest whence we are, and I will surely tell thee. We have come from Ithaca that is below Neion; translated by A.T.Murray

 

there is another harbor, away from the city - Rheithron.... Homer Od. 1.185My ship lies yonder beside the fields away from the city, in the harbor of Rheithron, under woody Neion. translated by A.T.Murray

Comment:

    This Eumaios report to Telemachos hints that  Hermes ridge is somewhere above the ancient city and that the channel and the harbor are visible from there.

    The Aetos area is marked west by Mt. Aetos (376m high) and east by another steep hill Merovigla (570m high). Between them is a ridge through which a new asphalt road winds. The ridge or rather col is approximately 250m wide. A valley with terraces and with olive trees leads from the ridge to the Piso Aetos harbor, which is approximately 600m south and is easily visible from the ridge.  Could it be that this is the ridge of Hermes mentioned by Homer? And that Mt. Aetos is Neion? And Piso Aetos the ancient city of Ithaca harbor?

    Base of the Mt. Aetos area  is easily reached by a good asphalt road. A road sign there says that the old city Alalkomenes was there on the Mt. Aetos summit. It has nothing to do with Mycenaean Odysseus' Ithaca city. It is believed to be built somewhere in 8th century B.C. However several archeologists made explorations in Aetos area beginning with W. Gell in 1806. H. Schliemann was exploring Aetos in 1868 and other followed.  It is here where Apollo sanctuary  (Od. 20.278) and other structures related to the Odyssey were discovered recently by Prof.. Symeonoglou

    Bros Aetos beach - bay area, lying on the northern side of ridge of Hermes - in Molos bay, one could well imagine as the Rheitron. It sits under northeasterly slope of Mt. Aetos (=Mt. Neion?) and is certainly suitable as a harbor for ancient ships.

     Is it coincidence that exactly the name of Hermes was used by Homer so close to the Odysseus' palace, considering that Hermes is said to be Odysseus' great grandfather........?

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Mt. Aetos areaView of Aetos area where most excavations done. Looking west from the middle of the ridge. Mt. Aetos (Neion?) in the background.  Mt. Aetos and Piso Aetos portView of Aetos area looking north from above the channel. Putative ridge of Hermes is clearly visible. Topography of Mt. Aetos and Piso Harbor clearly depicted.
Molos bay view of Mt. Aetos, Bros Aetos and Mt. Merovigla.View of "Rheitron" = Bros Aetos under Mt. Aetos. Looking south from the Molos bay. Middle pole of the boat goes right through the middle of the "ridge of Hermes". Mt. Aetos and ancient olive tree.One of ancient olive trees on Mt. Aetos slope.

 

 

4b)

Mt. Aetos area with its assumed ancient city Ithaca fits Homer's perception that it is sea-girt..... Homer Od. 21.251: for there are many other Achaean women, some in sea-girt Ithaca itself, and some in other cities; translated by A. T. Murray

Comment:

    Being on the base of isthmus, Mt. Aetos area certainly has the sea from both sides very close. The isthmus has the sea channel west with Kephalonia close by. East is the Molos bay with Bros Aetos beach - good candidate as harbor for ancient ships. Straight line distance from the Aetos base to Piso Aetos is 600m and to Bros Aetos: 1000m. Walking on the "ridge of Hermes" north or south not full 100m one can get views of the sea on both sides as depicted below. Theoretically it is possible that the ancient city was localized somewhere in the valley leading from the "ridge of Hermes" to contemporary Bros Aetos bay. Schliemann (page 62) believed it was several hundred meters northwest from the valley as suggested here.

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View from ridge of Hermes on the channel, Piso Aetos and Kefalonia.South view from the "ridge of Hermes"-Piso Aetos bay below. Kephalonia in the background. View from ridge of Hermes on Molos bay.100m north from previous viewpoint one gets Molos bay view with Mt. Neriton.
Shepherd on ridge of Hermes below Mt. Aetos. Molos bay in the background.Shepherds tending their flocks can be still found on "ridge of Hermes". Molos bay in the background. Apollo's sanctuary discovered by prof. Symeonoglou below Mt. Aetos.Remnants of the Apollo sanctuary (Od.20:278) can be found between viewpoints of the 2 pictures above.

4c)

Entering the city of Ithaca Odysseus stops there at a well built fountain for the citizens..... Homer Od. 17.204: But when, as they went along the rugged path,  they were near the city, and had come to a well-wrought, fair-flowing fountain, wherefrom the townsfolk drew water--this Ithacus had made, and Neritus, and Polyctor, and around was a grove of poplars, that grow by the waters, circling it on all sides, and down the cold water flowed  from the rock above, and on the top was built an altar to the nymphs where all passers-by made offerings  translated by A. T. Murray

Comment:

    Schliemann gives a nice description of the fountain he believed to have seen not far from the bifurcation of the old road to Aetos (leading through the valley) and the road north. According to Homer the well served citizens of the ancient city of Ithaca. Old road to Aetos can be found obviously as a footpath between fenced off properties, at  the Bros Aetos bay, through the valley to Aetos from the busy asphalt road going north. Following the footpath approximately 150m on the right one can find a well. (in GPS table Waypoint = WELL1). It has a contemporary cement plate. Next to the well is a winter current canal with estuary to Bros Aetos bay. 50m up the hill is a rocky promontory of Mt.Aetos as described by Homer. Close association of the well with winter current canal is very interesting, suggesting constant water flow in ancient times, since rains were frequent then, obviously not limited to winter season only (Od. 13.245). Well is thus located in the Mt. Aetos stream territory flowing into the Bros Aetos Bay. 

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2002_7_5.jpg (60610 bytes)View of the well from the footpath. L upper corner= rocky promontory of Mt. Aetos. In the middle of the picture is the well with winter torrent canal walls in the background. well ancient IthacaIn foreground new well. Winter torrent canal wall on the right.

 

4d)

Telemachus bedroom in the palace is in a place with a wide outlook.... Od. 1.425: But Telemachus, where his chamber was built in the beautiful court, high, in a place of wide outlook, thither went to his bed, translated by A. T. Murray

Comment:

    So could the palace be on the Aetos summit, where later Alalkomenes city was built and where H. Schliemann was digging in 1868 ? Well the summit certainly has a large plateau and an old well- nowadays partly filled with stones and is surrounded by stone walls.  They do not appear cyclopean though. However half way up to the summit there is a remnant of a wall marked as an old cyclopean wall. Interestingly there are several still functioning wells on Mt. Aetos slopes. Steep footpath leading to Mt. Aetos summit is well marked by spots of red paint on rocks. 

 

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Ithaca Greece Mt. AetosFootpath to the top of Mt. Aetos is well marked by red dots. Ithaca Greece Mt. AetosTo reach summit one has to pass through this gate.
Remnants of cyclopean walls on Mt. Aetos.Midway to the summit of Mt. Aetos these remnants of cyclopean? walls can be found. Continuation of the Mt. Aetos summit.This is continuation of the plateau below- looking south. Arrow points to the Piso Aetos port. Kephalonia is right.
Walls of the old city of Alalkomenes.Summit itself was once surrounded by these walls (not cyclopean). Boulders from collapsed walls are scattered on the slopes of Mt. Aetos. Summit of Mt. Aetos, where H. Schliemann was digging in 1868.Plateau on the summit has remnant of a well. H. Schliemann was digging here. Continuation of this plateau is seen on the picture above.

5)

After annihilation of all the suitors  Odysseus goes to visit his father Laertes in the orchard....... Homer Od. 24.205: But Odysseus and his men, when they had gone down from the city, quickly came to the fair and well-ordered farm of Laertes, which he had won for himself in days past, and much had he toiled for it.

and Homer Od. 24.210: the servants that were bondsmen, that did his pleasure; but within it was an old Sicilian woman, who tended the old man with kindly care there at the farm, far from the city. translated by A. T. Murray

Comment:

    These two citations are seemingly not very helpful, regarding the distance where the orchard is. In the first: Od.24.205 Odysseus quickly comes to the orchard. Second citation says that the orchard is far from the city: Od.24.210. It could be that all is relative, related to the age: younger Odysseus reaches the orchard quickly, for the old Laertes the city is far.....

    So where is the orchard? Well on some maps available in Ithaca there is a place marked as Agros Laerti, little north of isthmus, on the road to Kathara monastery, close to Mt. Neriton. The place marked on the map is relatively - for Ithaca - large, flat piece of land with some terraces on the hill of course. It could well serve as an orchard and the southerly slopes would be suitable for vineyards.

    There is a well manicured footpath along the southerly part of Agros Laerti ending in a rock area with a view on Mt. Aetos. GPS measurement to  Mt. Aetos gives 3 300m straight line distance.  I tried to walk and measure how large Agros Laerti could have been. Southerly portions were difficult to negotiate. They appear abandoned  with wild bushes between which remnants of collapsed terraces were seen. Then there is a house with fences blocking the path. So the approximate circumference of the area which I obtained is about 1600m - 1800m long in an oval shape or 180m x 500m. The main body of Agros Laerti contains scattered old even ancient looking olive trees, occ. bushes and overgrown grass. Some terraces there appear preserved, some collapsed with stones wildly spread.

 

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View from Mt. Aetos on Agros Laertes. Looking north  from Mt. Aetos on Agros Laerti area -  marked by an arrow.  Kephalonia is left. 5_1neg.jpg (26099 bytes) Mt. Aetos Agros Laerti view Looking south,   relationship of flat Agros Laerti (arrow) with Mt. Aetos is visible. 
View of Agros Laertes.Agros Laerti area main body- taken from the road to Kathara monastery. Looking southwest. Close up on Agros Laerti. Agros LaertiClose up of the Agros Laerti area - orchard. Terraces are partly preserved, partly collapsed.

 

So where perhaps was the Odysseus' palace and the ancient city of Ithaca?

    If one assumes the Ithaca's topography as presented here, then  some  deductions are possible as follows:

    The ancient city of  Ithaca obviously had the sea from both sides and was below the ridge of Hermes: lying either north or south of the ridge. Eumaios was on the ridge of Hermes, above the city...seeing the harbor (Piso Aetos) and the returning ship. Ithaca city and Rheitron (Bros Aetos) were under the same mountain - Neion (Aetos).  When Odysseus left the palace to visit Laertes orchard, he went through the city.  Eumaios and Odysseus both had to walk through the city to reach their destinations. Due to local geography, to reach the Korax area from the ridge of Hermes, Eumaios's only possible route was to go north , "along the present asphalt road....." (then of course east and then south around present Vathi etc.). This means that the ancient city of Ithaca could have been somewhere north of the Hermes ridge. It leaves location of the Odysseus' palace somewhere on the slope of Mt. Aetos or  rather on the summit of Mt. Aetos. 

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The above deductions in a graphical mode. Looking south from Neriton area. Suggested Eumaios trip to Korax area in yellow, Odysseus' trip to Laertes in red. Marks in photo: 1=Vathi's bay; 2=Phorcy's bay.

suggested routes for Eumaios and Odysseus

  

 

 

 

      Following reflection may be of interest regarding Odysseus' palace generally: It seems that the palace will never be found, considering that “Odysseus was plowing his fields when summoned for the Troy expedition” (Hyginus) and that “he built his bedroom around the wild growing olive tree” (Od.23.190-200). It appears that he was not probably a very rich and powerful king and correspondingly his residence could not have survived several millennia…. (Telemachus was astonished indeed seeing richer Menelaos' palace: Od.4.75).

6)

Finally and the last is the question of Asteris: Homer Od.4.844:There is a rocky isle in the midst of the sea,  midway between Ithaca and rugged Samos, Asteris, of no great size, but therein is a harbor where ships may lie, with an entrance on either side. There it was that the Achaeans tarried, lying in wait for Telemachus. translated by A.T. Murray 

and Homer Od.16.365: Day by day watchmen sat upon the windy heights, watch ever following watch, and at set of sun we never spent a night upon the shore, but sailing over the deep in our swift ship we waited for the bright Dawn, lying in wait for Telemachus, translated by A.T. Murray

Comment:

    Very important topographic landmark in Homer's Odyssey is the islet of Asteris. It is described as rocky, midway between Ithaca and Kephalonia, having harbors - bays on both sides and having windy heights = being hilly. 

    Geographically Asteris had to be located somewhere south of Odysseus’s palace and its harbor, in the channel between Ithaca and Kephalonia in order to fulfill the role ascribed to it by Homer: a place from which returning Telemachos' ship from Pylos could have  been intercepted and dealt with accordingly.

    Well the fact is, there is no such an islet around the Aetos area or rather around the ancient city of Ithaca's port. What is presently accepted as possible Asteris is a small islet in northern  part of the channel between Ithaca and Kephalonia, close to Polis bay - map nowadays called Daskalio.  Unfortunately, except of being in the channel, this islet does not fit other Homer's criteria at all. There is a good discussion of this problem in J.V. Luce's book.

    It may be, that there is a solution to Asteris problem for the Aetos area. While exploring visually the channel from Mt. Aetos summit, a land structure resembling an islet was observed. Map consultation revealed it as a peninsula called nowadays Dichalia. Personal exploration showed that it would fulfil Homer's description as Asteris perfectly, bearing in mind that in Homer's time Greek word nesos could have ment islet as well as peninsula. Literature search showed that similar idea for Asteris was mentioned already in 1807 by W.Gell. He felt that this small peninsula on Kephalonia, just opposite Mt. Aetos area fits Homer's description of Asteris much more precisely then Daskalio. (It can be found close to Kephalonian port of Sami-map.)

 

 

Some useful Waypoints in WGS 84 Datum and tracks related to this page:

Waypoints from GPS on digitized map are marked only with 6 characters, altitudes are only approximate:

  Latitude Longitude Alt.
"AETOP" = Mt. AETOS Summit N38021.4519' E020040.6297’   354m
"BASE" = Mt. AETOS-BASE N38021.2988' E020040.9935’   147m
"AEPISO" = PISO-AETOS N38020.9704' E020041.0962’      1 m
"AGROSL" = AGROS LAERTI N38022.9531’ E020040.2398’  236 m
"ARETHO" = Arethusa N38019.4935’ E020044.6266’    87 m
"BROSAE" = BROS-AETOS N3802l.8737' E020040.53l8'      1 m
"CYCLPW" = CYCLOPWALL-Aetos N3802l.4492’ E020040.884l'  226 m
"KORAX" = KORAX Rock area N38019.3780’ E020044.6l80'  239 m
"MARATH" =MARATHIA Plateau N38019.5207' E020044.3609’  281 m
"NYMPHC" = NYMPH cave N38021.6650' E020042.3964’  188 m
"PHORCY" = PHORCY'S bay N38022.27l0’ E020042.2044’      1 m
"POLIS" = POLIS BAY N38026.4396' E020038.4158’      1 m
"WELL1"= ITHACA'S WELL N38021.774' E020040.907'       5 m

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description of some tracks made by GPS and transferred into the digitized map of Ithaca: marked by numbers, not names.

1 = 2200m long track: Phorcy's bay -> cave of the Nymphs.

2 = 1700m long Arethusa trail.

3 = 1500m long trail from the Korax crag area toward the asphalt road to Vathi.

4 = Agros Laerti border, approx. 1600 - 1800m long.

5 = Footpath to Aetos top approx. 1200m long.

6 = Footpath to Gidaki beach approx. 1500m long.

7 = Footpath to Rize's cave approx. 420m long.

All of the above topography is summarized in this unique aerial view of Ithaca. Thank you NASA.

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satelite view of Ithaca