April 16: Odysseus Returns

OdysseusIt was on this day in 1178 B.C.E. that Odysseus, king of Ithaca, returned to his home after ten years fighting the Trojan War and then another ten years on a long sailing journey back to his beloved wife Penelope.

Odysseus’ return was heralded by a solar eclipse designed by the goddess Athena to befuddle the roughly 100 men who had assumed Odysseus dead and taken up residence in the palace at Ithaca in the hopes of marrying Penelope. Upon this sight, the prophet Theoclymenus commented “The sun has been obliterated from the sky, and an unlucky darkness invades the world.” leading the suitors to laugh. It was at this moment that Odysseus, disguised as an old beggar, arrived at the palace. The suitors mocked him, but Penelope allowed the poor beggar to spend the night in the palace.

The next morning, at the prompting of Athena, Penelope decided to organize a contest;  the man who could string Odysseus’ heavy bow and then shoot an arrow through the rings of twelve axes would win her hand in marriage. No man amongst the suitors was able to accomplish the feat, so the beggar asked if he could try to shoot the arrow. Again, the suitors mocked him, but much to their surprise he strung the bow and shot an arrow through all twelve axes. It was at this moment that he revealed his true identity and with the assistance of Athena, his son Telemachus and a few loyal servants, he brutally slayed the hundred unwanted house guests. After a bit of shock, Odysseus and Penelope lived as happily as characters in a Greek epic can…

Now, you might be saying “Wait, I thought that the story of Odysseus was a myth, as depicted in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey.” Well, my verbose friend, you’re probably right. So, if the events I just discussed are fictional, why have we specifically tied them to April 16, 1178 B.C.E.? It’s a funny story; back in 2008, researchers Marcelo Magnasco and Constantino Baikouzis of New York’s Rockefeller University looked at astronomical references in The Odyssey and determined that they lined up with computations made by astronomers Carl Schoch and Paul Neugebauer that a total solar eclipse occurred over Ithaca and the other Ionian islands around noon on April 16, 1178 B.C.E. So, by process of elimination, this eclipse must have been the one created by Athena within Homer’s epic poem.

Since an eclipse announced the return of Odysseus, and fortuitously there was an eclipse the other night, let’s drink an Eclipse. This recipe comes to us from London’s Eclipse Bar. It’s a nice fruity summery cocktail made with plenty of raspberries.

Eclipse

  • 12 fresh raspberries
  • 2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1 ounce Chambord
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces cranberry juice

Muddle the raspberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and then add ice and the liquids. Strain into an ice filled highball glass and garnish with a raspberry and a sprig of mint.

Tomorrow: Silence Dogood

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