OVERVIEW

Perhaps no works exerted more influence in the Western literary tradition than Homer’s epic poems of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Set to writing sometime in the 8th century BC, the two ageless poems stem from a much older oral poetic tradition. They describe events that took place some 400 years before they were first written down. The earlier period they refer to is the heroic age of the Bronze Age, the time when the Mycenaean civilization flourished in Greece, from about 1600 BC to about 1200 BC.

The two Homeric epics played the greatest role in the development of Ancient Greek culture and education. The Iliad and the Odyssey were used as textbooks in the ancient Greek world, and as Plato noted, Homer “has taught Greece.” Homer’s influence touched every discipline, including philosophy. His wisdom was praised, and during the Hellenistic and Roman periods the Stoic philosophers believed that the epics contained Stoic concepts.

Having Homer as our guide, on this voyage we will explore places that figure in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Sailing from Istanbul, founded as Byzantion in the 7th century BC by Greeks, later becoming Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, we will call at Canakkale, our gateway to Troy, where, as told in the Iliad, Greeks fought the Trojans for ten years. Navigating the narrow Dardanelles, we will enter the Aegean, Homer’s “wine-dark” sea, to call at Chios, the beautiful island that is reputed to be Homer’s birthplace. Sailing toward the Cycladic islands, we will stop in Delos, the sacred island where Apollo and his twin sister Artemis were born, continuing to fabled Argolis in the Peloponnese, where we will explore Mycenae, the most powerful city of Mycenaean Greece, and home of Agamemnon, who led the Greeks in the war against Troy. Homer described Mycenae as “rich in gold.” Rounding the southern shores of the Peloponnese, we will stop in Pylos to visit the Mycenaean palace that is associated with the wise King Nestor. From there, on to western mainland Greece for the visit to the Necromanteion of Ephyra, where Odysseus entered the Underworld, and to Ithaca, home of Odysseus. Sailing in the Gulf of Corinth and transiting the scenic Corinth Canal, we will disembark at a yacht marina near Piraeus, the ancient and modern port of Athens, where we will spend two days.

We are most fortunate to have with us as guest lecturers Emily Wilson, Professor in the Department of Classical Studies and Chair of the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania, author of many books, and whose translation of the Odyssey received wide acclaim; and William B. Irvine, Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University, who authored several books, including Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, which has been translated in several languages.