When you’re swimming around the beautiful islands of Greece, you’ll find hidden caves, untouched beaches and areas where only a small amount of people have visited. Greece is a wonderful country, rich in culture, history and timeless mythological tales. In this series of blog posts, we’ll take you through the interesting stories that have been told throughout generations and up next is Lefkada, home to beautiful coastal treasures and rich in Greek culture.
The island of Lefkada is located in the Ionian Sea, on the west coast of Greece. It is connected to the mainland by a long causeway and floating bridge. It truly is a wonderful place to visit and its name derives from a few different mythological legends.
One particular myth states the name actually developed from the brother of Penelope (son of Icarius) who was known as Leucadius. Other legends state it comes from Leucus who was a companion of Ulysses who founded the temple of Apollo on the island. These particular temple ruins were actually discovered in 1905, it was said to be the most famous temple on the island and if the story of Leucus is indeed true, the temple was said to be erected around the time of the start of the Trojan War.
Another mythological story states the name of the island came from a man known as Leucatas who fell from the rocks of the cape to save himself from Apollo, who, at the time had an infatuation with Leucatas.
The most notable story of the island’s name is said to be derived from Homer, who calls it ‘Lefki Petra’, which means ‘white rock’ because of the white colour that rocks have when hit by the sunlight, on the west coast of the island.
Interestingly the island was called Ithaca until 1100 BC when the Dorians conquered the island and renamed it. The residents who fled at the time moved to an island known as Sami. They later renamed Sami to Ithaca in remembrance of their old home.
According to various mythological tales, the God Zeus used to sit at the rocks of Cape Lefkatas in between love affairs to ‘rest’ and take a break from his escapades. From this tale, the cape soon became known as a place to escape the torment of love, which fits in with the brief story we mentioned above about Leucatas.
It is said that the Goddess Aphrodite decided to jump from the cape after she had discovered her love Adonis had died. Of course, due to the fact she was a Goddess, she came out of the waters completely unharmed.
Another victim of the cape was said to be the Ancient Greek poet, Sappho. Sappho was one of the 9 lyric poets of Ancient Greece. Little is known about her life but according to several sources, she jumped from the rocks because she wanted to relieve herself of her love for a ferryman named Phaon.
Another apparent tradition is tied in with the temple of Apollo. Once a year, the people of Lefkada allegedly had a ceremony to ‘purify’ the community and they would therefore throw a convict from the rock in order to prevent evil within the city.
Lefkada & Homer
The German archaeologist, Wilhelm Dörpfeld began his excavations in ancient Olympia in 1877 and by 1901 he had started his excavations in Lefkada, completing them by 1914. Dörpfeld believed Lefkada to have been Homer’s Ithaca even before his excavations began, as he had recognised some locations on the island that fit Homer’s description of Odysseus’ island.
His hypothesis was based mainly on the lyrics 21-26 of rhapsody I of Odyssey, where four islands are mentioned.
“I dwell in Ithaca, the island with the beautiful sunset. Over it there is the mount …and around Ithaca, there are many islands Very close one to the other That is Doulihion and Sami and the dense Zakynthos This (Ithaca) is close to the coast, being the last one of all islands to the west The other islands are far from the coast to the east and the sun…”
Dörpfeld believed Ithaca of these verses was modern-day Lefkada, Doulihio was Cephalonia, Sami, was modern-day Ithaca and Zakynthos was the contemporary island of Zakynthos.
As we now also know, Lefkada was originally called Ithaca, which would therefore make sense to this theory. Homer also described that Ithaca could be reached on foot, and Lefkada is the only island that is connected to the mainland by the narrow causeway/floating bridge.
Dörpfeld published his research “Alt Ithaka” in 1927, which was then translated into Greek by Vassilis Fragkoulis under the title “Lefkas, the Homeric Ithaca.”
Lefkada is very well known for its beautiful coastline and white sand beaches next to its turquoise coloured waters. You can dive into a wonderful mythological journey with us and experience the view of Cape Lefkatas and take in the surroundings of Homer’s Ithaca.
We have now opened up next year’s (2022) bookings, so get your trip booked and ready for next year and come with us for a trip of a lifetime. Come and join us on an unforgettable journey!
We can’t wait to see you soon.
23 August 2021