Ithaca: Cave of the Nymphs at Polis. Photography by Nixe III

“And then, that hour the star rose up,
the clearest, brightest star, that always heralds
the newborn light of day, the deep-sea-going ship
made landfall on the island … Ithaca, at last.

"There on the coast a haven lies, named for Phorcys,
the old god of the deep — with two jutting headlands,
sheared off at the seaward side but shelving toward the bay,
that break the great waves whipped by the gales outside
so within the harbor ships can ride unmoored
whenever they come in mooring range of shore.
At the harbor’s head a branching olive stands
with a welcome cave nearby it, dank with sea-mist,
There are mixing-bowls inside and double-handled jars,
crafted of stone, and bees store up their honey in the hollows.

"There are long stone looms as well, where the nymphs weave out
their webs from clouds of sea-blue wool—a marvelous sight—
and a wellspring flows forever. The cave has two ways in,
one facing the North Wind, a pathway down for mortals;
the other, facing the South, belongs to the gods,
no man may go that way …
it is the path for all the deathless powers.”

The Odyssey, Chapter 13, by Homer. Translated By Robert Fagles.

This cave was a devotional site from the late Bronze Age to the fourth century CE. Among the archaeological artifacts found inside the cave are lamps, and vessels for eating and drinking. There are standing and sitting female figures, and dedication to and reliefs of the nymphs. Other discoveries include scarabs, coins, bronze tripods, and a dedication to Odysseus.


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