Giovanni Antonio Ciantar
Mljet is a Croatian island in the Adriatic nearly opposite Dubrovnik. It is one of the many locations claimed as Homer’s Ogygia, which in turn has been identified by some as Atlantis. This is not the only controversial matter associated with the island, Mljet in Greek is Melite a name it shares with Malta. For centuries there has been a strong tradition on Mljet that St. Paul was in fact shipwrecked on their island. The evidence(a)(b) is quite strong and worthy of investigation.
The claim was expounded in a 1730 monograph by Ignjat Durdevic (Ignazio Giorgi)(1675-1737) who hailed from Dubrovnik. A refutation by the Maltese poet Giovanni Antonio Ciantar (1696-1778) followed a few years later.
Recently, new information in The Geography of Ananias of Širak, written between 592-636 AD, confirms that Saint Paul stayed in Dalmatia following a shipwreck that happened on the Adriatic island of Melita (Mljet)(a).
A 2012 paper, from archaeologist Marija Buzov, adds further support to the claim of Mljet as the site of St. Paul’s shipwreck(g). Interestingly she recounts that there is also the legend of Paul being bitten by a snake according to the traditions of Mljet. However, the idea that he banished snakes from either Mljet or Malta is belied by the existence of snakes on both islands today. It brings to mind the ancient story that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, which, for different reasons, is also untrue as there were never snakes in Ireland.
An extensive and more recent contribution from Fr. Noel Muscat brings the debate up to date (2018). As a native of Malta it was no surprise that he concluded that Malta rather than Mljet was the location of St. Paul’s shipwreck. His essay can now be read online(f).
According to Heinz Warnecke, another serious contender for the location of Paul’s shipwreck is Argostoli near the island of Cephalonia(c). At the other end of the spectrum, Kenneth Humphreys offers evidence, which demonstrates that the entire Pauline story is a concoction(e).
Further rivalry concerns the origin of the name of the toy dog breed, the Maltese. Callimachus around 350 BC attributing the honour to Mljet, while John Caius, physician to Queen Elizabeth I, maintained that he was referring to Melita in the Sicilian Strait.