Laestrygonians, we are told by Homer were mythical giants encountered by Odysseus on his return journey to Ithaca.
Wikipedia tells us that “according to Thucydides (6.2.1.) and Polybius (1.2.9) the Laestrygones inhabited southeast Sicily. The name is akin to that of the Lestriconi, a branch of the Corsi people of the northeast coast of Sardinia (now Gallura). Later Greeks believed that the Laestrygonians, as well as the Cyclopes, had once inhabited Sicily.
“According to historian Angelo Paratico, the Laestrygonians were the result of a legend originated by the sight by Greek sailors of the Giants of Mont’e Prama, recently excavated in Sardinia. Earlier, Victor Bérard had also suggested Sardinia.
Some writers have also sought to attribute a historical reality to the Laestrygonians, often proposing locations very different to that of Thucydides and Polybius. Emmet Sweeney [700.23] has noted that Robert Graves who invariably placed the Greek myths in a Mediterranean setting, suggested that the home of the Laestrygonians was to be found in the far north of Europe, in the Land of the Midnight Sun!
Equally exotic is the suggestion from Gerard W.J. Janssen of Leiden University who places the voyages of Odysseus in the Atlantic(b). However, although he situates most of the places visited in the eastern Atlantic, he does claim(a) that Homer‘s Laestrygonians were to be found in Cuba, an interpretation supported by both Théophile Cailleux and Iman Wilkens.
Homer (c. 8th cent. BC) is generally accepted as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, regarded as the two greatest epic poems of ancient Greece. A recent study of the Greek used by Homer has enabled scientists from the University of Reading to confirm that the language used is compatible with that used in the 8th century BC, in fact dating it to around 762 BC(i).
It should also be noted that over 130 quotations from the Illiad and Odyssey have been identified in Plato’s writings(s). George Edwin Howes (1865-1942), an American classicist, produced a dissertation+ on Homeric quotations in Plato and Aristotle.
Almost nothing is known of Homer’s life. He has been variously described as mad, blind and even mythical. Andrew Dalby, the English linguist, has gone so far as to claim that the author of the two famed epics was a woman! While in 1897 Samuel Butler, the novelist, was even more specific when he proposed that Homer was a Sicilian woman(j).
For centuries it was assumed that the content of these Homeric poems was the product of his imagination, just as the historical reality of Homer himself has been questioned. In 1795, F.A. Wolf, a German academic declared that ‘Homer’ was just a collective name applied to various poets whose works were finally combined into their present form in the 6th century BC. Wolf’s ideas sparked furious argument among Greek scholars that still resonates today. Now (2015), historian, Adam Nicholson has claimed that the author ‘Homer’ should not be thought of as a person but instead as a ‘culture’(o).
In a 2021 review of Victor Davis Hanson’s Who Killed Homer? , Adam Kirsch outlines how “Milman Perry proved that the Iliad and the Odyssey were not written by a lone genius(ah). They were originally not written at all, but through fieldwork in Yugoslavia, Perry (1902-1935) demonstrated how the Homeric epics were the result of traditional bardic storytelling. Wikipedia describes Perry as “an American Classicist whose theories on the origin of Homer’s works have revolutionized Homeric studies to such a fundamental degree that he has been described as the ‘Darwin of Homeric studies’.”
Ed Whelan, an Irish classical scholar, published a brief paper in 2021 that endorsed the Homeric ‘multiple authors’ theory(ap).
An anonymous author offered “Although there has been a great deal of controversy about the question of whether Homer alone wrote the two famous poems, much of the evidence points towards Homer being the author due to the consistent style of writing. Also, some analysts argue that Homer may have written one of the poems but not the other since both differ greatly in style. In contrast, the reason other analysts state for this difference is that Iliad was written in his youth while Odyssey was created during Homer’s years of age.” (aq).
The identification of the site at Hissarlik in modern Turkey as Troy by Heinrich Schliemann led to a complete re-appraisal of Homer’s work and, of course, further controversy. Homer’s Iliad is the story of the Trojan War and it has been suggested that in fact, he had compressed three or more Trojan wars into one narrative. What is not generally known is that there are also ancient non-Homeric accounts of the Trojan War(q).
Kenneth Wood and his wife Florence have built on the research of his mother-in-law, the late Edna Leigh, and produced, Homer’s Secret Iliad, a book that attempts to prove that the Iliad was written as an aide-memoire for a wide range of astronomical data.
Allied to, but not directly comparable with, is the astronomical information identified in the Bible by the likes of E. W. Maunder (1851-1928).
Guy Gervis has adopted some of their work and specifies a date of around 2300 BC for the events described in the Iliad and Odyssey, based on an analysis of this astronomical data(n). Harald A.T. Reiche held similar views which followed some of the ideas expressed in Hamlet’s Mill by Santillana & Dechend who were colleagues of Reiche at M.I.T. They also claimed that “myths were vehicles for memorising and transmitting certain kinds of astronomical and cosmological information.”
Much has been written about the historicity of Homer’s epic accounts, including a good overview on Wikipedia(ab). Many have concluded that Homer did use real events, even if they were frequently dressed in mythological clothing compatible with the literary conventions of his day. I consider Plato to have treated the story of Atlantis similarly.
A recent study of solar eclipses recorded in Odyssey using data from NASA has confirmed that Odysseus returned to Ithaca on the 25th of October 1207 BC(r).
Scholars have generally supported the idea that Homer’s works have a Mediterranean backdrop with regular attempts to reconcile his geography with modern locations, such as the claim in 2005 by Robert Brittlestone, a British investigator to have located the site of Ithaca, the homeland of Odysseus, on the Greek island of Cephalonia. This popular idea should be put alongside the views of Zlatko Mandzuka who maintains that all the locations mentioned in the Odyssey can be identified in the Adriatic.
Nevertheless, there has been a growing body of opinion that insists that this Mediterranean identification is impossible. A range of alternative regions has been proposed(f) as the setting for the epics, which extend from Portugal as far northward as the Baltic.
In his Odyssey (VII: 80), Homer wrote about the island of Scheria in the western sea. His description of the island has been compared with Plato’s description of Atlantis and has led to the theory that they refer to the same place. There is little doubt that both the detailed geography and climatic descriptions that are provided by Homer cannot be easily reconciled with that of the Mediterranean. Consequently, the Odyssey has had many interpretations, ranging from Tim Severin’s conclusion that it refers entirely to the Eastern Mediterranean to Iman Wilkens’ book, Where Troy Once Stood, which has the voyage include the west coast of Africa, then across to the West Indies and following the Gulf Stream returns to Troy which he locates in Britain.
Location is not a problem exclusive to the writings of Plato. Wilkins’s claims are a reflection of similar ideas expressed by Théophile Cailleux in the 19th century. Gilbert Pillot has also argued for voyages of Ulysses having taken him into the North Atlantic. A Spanish review of Pillot’s book is available(ag). In 1973, Ernst Gideon (? – 1975) wrote in a similar vein in Homerus Zanger der Kelten, reprinted later as Troje Lag in Engelan.
It is worth noting that Bernard Jones has recently moved  Troy to Britain, probably in the vicinity of Cambridge, a location also preferred by Wilkens! Like many others, he argues that Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were not set in the Mediterranean as so many of the details that he provides are incompatible with the characteristics of that sea. However, Jones has gone further and claimed that there are details in Virgil’s Aeneid, which are equally inconsistent with the Mediterranean [p.6-10], requiring a new location!
An interesting overview of the various attempts to transfer the Odyssey from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe is available(w). Damien Mackey has also endorsed the idea of a Northern European backdrop to Homer’s Odyssey(aa).
Another researcher who places most of Odysseus’ travels in the eastern Atlantic is Gerard. W.J. Janssen of Leiden University on the academia.edu website(v). In a series of six papers(ai-an), he systematically reviews Homer’s geography, identifying locations referred to by him with places in the Atlantic. He compares his identifications with other commentators including Iman Wilkens and Théophile Cailleux. His website, with an English translation, offers additional information, including the suggestion(ao) that Homer’s Laestrygonians were to be found in Cuba, an interpretation also offered by Cailleux and Wilkens. They also claim that Odysseus’ Caribbean trip included a visit to Saba, a Dutch possession, which is identified as the Aeolian Isle!
The idea of an Atlantic backdrop to the Homeric epics will not go away. The Dutch researcher, N.R. De Graaf(ae). continues to write extensively on his Homeros Explorations website(ad)(x) regarding many of the specifics in Homer’s accounts. He has proposed Lanzarote in the Canaries as the location of Scheria, which concurs with the views of Wilkens and Janssen. Other specifics are that Ithaca was near Cadiz and that Sparta was Cordoba, while the ancient city of Carmona on the plains of Andalucia are, for De Graaf, Mycenae!(af)
E.J. de Meester also argued(ac) for the British Isles as the location of many of Homer’s references. It struck me as quite remarkable that the level of debate regarding the date, source and geographical details of Homer’s works is rather similar to the controversy surrounding Plato’s Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias. The late Edo Nyland was another researcher who had also opted for a Scottish backdrop to the Odyssey and had recently published his views.
Felice Vinci also supports a Northern European background to the Iliad and Odyssey. However, in Vinci’s case, Scandinavia, and in particular the Baltic Sea, is identified as the location for the adventures in Homer’s classic. An English language synopsis of his book is available on the Internet. The persuasiveness of Vinci’s argument has recently renewed interest in the idea of a Baltic Atlantis. The assumption being that if Troy could be located in the Baltic, so might Atlantis. Vinci’s views are comparable with those of J. Rendel Harris expressed in a lecture delivered in 1924(p) in which he claims that “we are entitled to take Homer and his Odysseus out of the Mediterranean or the Black Sea, and to allow them excursions into Northern latitudes.”
However, a scathing review of Vinci’s book can be found on the Internet(d) and in issue 216 (2006) of Fortean Times written by Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs.
Further support for a Northern European Troy has come from the historian Edward Furlong, a former naval navigation officer, who has advocated for over twenty years that the journey of Odysseus went as far north as Norway. His particular views are outlined on the Internet(c).
Other writers, such as the late Henrietta Mertz [0396/7], have suggested that Homer’s epic refers to a trip to North America. Professor Enrico Mattievich Kucich of Lima University is also certain that the ancient Greeks discovered America America. However revolutionary this idea may seem it shows how this particular subject is growing and would probably justify a reference book of its own.
The idea of an Atlantic backdrop to the Homeric epics will not go away. The Dutch researcher, N.R. De Graaf continues to write extensively on his Homeros Explorations website(x) regarding many of the specifics in Homer’s accounts.
In 1973, James Bailey also proposed in his well-received The God-Kings and the Titans that the Odyssey recorded a trans-Atlantic trip. Evidence exists for large-scale mining in the Americas as early as the 5th millennium BC. Bailey maintained that the Europeans imported enormous quantities of copper and tin from Central and South America to feed the demands of the Old World Bronze Age, an idea that was later heavily promoted by Frank Joseph and in great, if overly speculative, detail by Reinoud de Jong(y).
Finally, the Atlantis connection with this entry is that if, as now appears to be at least a possibility, Homer’s Odyssey was about a journey to the North Sea then the possibility of the North Sea setting for the Atlantis story is somewhat reinforced.
A recent book by Steven Sora has developed the Atlantic notion further with the suggestion that not only was Troy located outside the Strait of Gibraltar but that both Homer’s Trojan War and Plato’s Atlantean war are two versions of the same war with the understandable distortions and embellishments that can occur with a narrative, probably involving some degree of oral transmission and then written down hundreds of years after the events concerned.
Ukraine is soon to be added to the growing list of alternative locations for the setting of Homer’s epics with the publication of Homer, The Immanent Biography, a book by A.I. Zolotukhin(g). He claims that Homer was born in Alibant (Mykolayiv, Ukraine) on September 14, 657 BC(t). He follows the views of Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876) who believed that most of Odysseus’s travels took place in the Black Sea rather than the Mediterranean. Additionally, he locates Atlantis in the western Crimean area of Evpatoria(l). His 60-page book is available on his website(m).
An interesting paper(e) by the German historian, Armin Wolf, relates how his research over 40 years unearthed 80 theories on the geography of the Odyssey, of which around 30 were accompanied by maps. One of the earliest maps of the travels of Odysseus was produced by Abraham Ortelius in 1597(u), in which the adventures of Odysseus all take place within the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, arguably reflecting the maritime limits of Greek experience at the time of Homer or his sources! Another website(z) by Jonathan S. Burgess, Professor of Classics at the University of Toronto offers further information on this, including some informative bibliographical material.
In 2009, Wolf published, Homers Reise: Auf den Spuren des Odysseus a German-language book that expands on the subject, also locating all the travels of Odysseus within the Central and Eastern Mediterranean.
Wolf’s ideas were enthusiastically adopted by Wolfgang Geisthövel in his Homer’s Mediterranean, who also concurs with the opinion of J.V. Luce , who proposed that Homer was “describing fictional events against authentic backgrounds.” This would be comparable to a James Bond movie, which has an invented storyline set in actual exotic locations around the world.
Perhaps the most radical suggestion has come from the Italian writer, Michele Manher, who has proposed(h) that Homer’s Iliad originated in India where elements of it can be identified in the Mahabharata!
In August 2015, a fifteen-hour reading of the Iliad was performed in London.
(ag) Perijóresis: Odisea (perijoresis.blogspot.com) (Spanish)
He suggested that Homer’s Laestrygonians had been residents in Sardinia.
Cuba is a Caribbean island favoured by some as a serious contender for the location of Atlantis.
” A two-page article appeared in the February 1952 edition of the magazine ECOS entitled ’Formó Cuba Parte de la Atlándida?’. Written by Francisco Garcia-Juarez, the press secretary of the Instituto Cubano de Arqueologia (Institute of Cuban Archaeology, or ICA) it posed the question: did Cuba once form part of Atlantis? He explained how members of the Institute were investigating the idea that traces of an Atlantean culture might be found in Cuba and Hispaniola.” This study had been prompted by a suggestion from Egerton Sykes(e).
Some years ago, Leicester Hemingway, the brother of Ernest, claimed to have spotted off the northern coast of Cuba “an expanse of stone ruins, several acres in area”.
In more recent years, it was reported that Paulina Zelitsky and her team of underwater explorers found formations, in 2000 feet of water off the western tip of Cuba that resembled submerged cities. Although further explorations were planned it is reported that the U.S. government applied pressure to have any further funding denied. May 2013 had Zelitsky trying to revive interest in her theories in an interview with Luis Mariano Fernandez(d).>However, in 2012, Andrew Collins offered a different account of the Zelitsky funding difficulties(g).<
Andrew Collins is probably the best-known supporter of a Cuban Atlantis. His book and website(a) list eleven points in favour of this theory. He contends that Cuba’s western plain, which stretches from Havana westwards to Pinar del Rio was the great Plain of Atlantis described by Plato. He believes that the main city was located near the present Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud) situated in the south of the island. In 2009 Norman Frey wrote a paper(b) supporting the Gulf of Batabanó which lies north of the Isle of Youth as Atlantis’ location at the end of the last Ice Age. He supports his contention with satellite images and the work of Dr Christine Pellech.
A.R.E. is also a supporter of Cuba as a possible location for the capital of Atlantis. They have suggested an underwater ‘island’ at Zapata, located on the southern side of Cuba, north of the Isle of Youth and just to the west of the infamous Bay of Pigs. This ‘island’ is surrounded by a small ring of water and is about 7 miles in diameter, consistent with Plato’s description of the outer ring of Atlantis. A.R.E.’s Greg Little obtained old depth and bottom contour charts of the site and found that the island was comprised of a series of rings. Little also identified other features in the locality that match Plato’s story; ancient manmade canals north of the underwater island. These canals have been attributed to the Taino Culture, a mound builder culture present in Cuba about 3,000 years ago that became extinct shortly after the Spanish conquest. Further north there is a mountain range enclosing the area with a wide river running at its base — a further match with Plato. Little also found that the centre of the underwater island is not only the tallest portion but also has several springs on it.
One completely off-the-wall suggestion has been that the Cuban Missile Crisis was instigated to prevent the Soviets from finding Atlantis(f)!!
A project to compile an archaeological Atlas of Cuba has so far identified over 3,000 pre-Columbian sites. Cuba’s westernmost province, Pinar del Rio and the central region of Villa Clara have the highest density of sites, with 500 each(c).
>Gerard W.J. Janssen of Leiden University places the voyages of Odysseus in the Atlantic(i). However, although he situates most of the places visited in the eastern Atlantic he does claim(h) that Homer‘s Laestrygonians were to be found in Cuba, an interpretation supported by both Théophile Cailleux and Iman Wilkens.<
(f) Archive 2462