"I live in Ithaca, where there is a high mountain called Neritum, covered with forests; and not far from it there is a group of islands very near to one another - Dulichium, Same, and the wooded island of Zacynthus. It lies squat on the horizon, all highest up in the sea towards the sunset, while the others lie away from it towards dawn. It is a rugged island, but it breeds brave men, and my eyes know none that they better love to look upon."
- The Odyssey.
These various and sundry Ithacae once mentioned above were of course mere shadows of the Platonic island of Ithaca (or Itháki as they like to call it) in Greece. This island, smallest of the Ionian Islands, occupies only about 96 square kilometres and is formed by two mountains joined by an isthmus.
The island was devastated by a tsunami in 1953 and despite having been inhabited since the third millennium BC thus far the population has only recovered to the tune of ~3 600 inhabitants at present time, not including the large seasonal transient tourist population.
What draws these vacationers and travellers? Nothing about the local industries of currants, wine and olive oil particularly make it stand out from its neighbours and mainland Greece. No, the big attracting factor here is that Ithaca is famous in myth and history as the kingdom and long-sought home of 12th-century-BC monarch and all-around smart cookie Odysseus, as recounted in Homer's epic poem the Odyssey.
Seductive even on the level of mere legend, Lord Gordon Byron was drawn here in August 1823 and found its legendary beauty so enthralling that he considered purchasing the whole island and living there permanently. Regrettably, the Greek war of Independence from the Ottoman Empire ultimately distracted him from this goal but after things quieted down in that part of the world Heinrich Schliemann, an aspiring archaeologist, came to dig and excavate what he believed to be the sites described in the Odyssey as the homes described in that work of Odysseus, Laertes, Penelope and Telemachos. These results were confirmed in 1930 by the British School at Athens, by which time Schliemann had gone on to work his magic on the ruins of Troy and Nineveh.