As is (or should be) completely obvious to anyone who has visited this blog for a while, my love for Hómēros' Odysseia knows no bounds. It's my go-to book when I wish to feel connected to the Gods and it is only rivalled by Hesiod' Theogony in times I have reached for it. if you catch me reading out of the house, depending on the amount of space I have available in my bag that day, either the Odysseia or the Theogony will probably be in my hands.

As much as I love the Odysseia, I gave up on dissecting Odysseus' exact route through the Mediterranean Sea long ago. Trying to keep up with that convoluted mess was never a priority for me.  Even in ancient times, though, Odysseus' route was disputed and discussed quite often. Ancient geographers, scholars, and historians took great interest in the journey Odysseus had taken. The most important ancient sources are the first century geographer Strabo, who has collected information on Eratosthenes' and Polybius' investigations into the subject; as well as the 'Dictys of Crete', a novelisation of the Trojan War which many later writers treated as an authentic historical record of the war.

Many of the towns, cities, and other locations mentioned by Hómēros were no longer there in the time these scholars begun to search for them, and many concluded they simply had never been there. None seemed to mind too much; the Odysseia is a work to be enjoyed for what it is: entertainment. Eratosthenes, a Greek third century mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, music theorist, and the chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria is (through Strabo) famous for saying: "you will find the scene of the wanderings of Odysseus when you find the cobbler who sewed up the bag of the winds." [1.2.14]

That said, Strabo did come to a consensus at least with himself when he gives us the following list of locations, given here with the corresponding source in the link above, where possible:
  • Lotus-eaters: Djerba (1.2.17)
  • Cyclops: south-east Sicily, near Etna and Lentini (1.2.9)
  • Aeolus: Lipari, among the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily
  • Laestrygonians: south-east Sicily (1.2.9)
  • land of the Cimmerians: the Bosporus (1.2.9)
  • The Ocean: the Black Sea (1.2.10)
  • Sirens: either Cape Faro, by the Strait of Messina; or Sirenussae, a headland in Italy between the Bay of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno; or Naples itself (1.2.12-13)
  • Scylla and Charybdis: Strait of Messina (1.2.9, 1.2.16)
  • Ogygia (Calypso's island) and Scheria: "imagined in fantasy" as being in the Atlantic (1.2.18)
After Strabo, many contended these points, and thus, a true consensus was never reached amongst the ancient writers. The majority of classical scholars today hold the view that Odysseus's landfalls are best treated as imaginary places, but that does not mean new attempts to map out the journey have not been undertaken. Most famously is perhaps the study done by the French Homeric scholar Victor Bérard around 1930. Bérard took the views of the ancients and adapted them to the point where he himself was satisfied with the journey. His account thus differed from the ancient writers in some details:
  • Lotus-Eaters: Djerba
  • Cyclopes: Posillipo in Italy
  • Aeolus: Stromboli
  • Laestrygonians: northern Sardinia
  • Circe: Monte Circeo in Lazio
  • The entrance to the Underworld: near Cumae
  • Sirens: the coast of Lucania
  • Scylla and Charybdis: Strait of Messina
  • Island of the Sun: Sicily
  • Calypso: the Straits of Gibraltar
  • Scherie: Corcyra
Based mostly off of Bérard, Gisèle Mounzer, Product Marketeer at ESRI, has made an interactive map of Odysseus' journey placed on a modern map, making it possible to track Odysseus as he crossed the Mediterranean Sea again and again in his journeys. There are fourteen points laid out by Mounzar, and each is accompanied by a quote from the Odysseia, or an explanation of it. In this regards, it functions as a fascination tool to gain a greater understanding of Odysseus' struggles.
If Mounzar's map really depicts the route taken by Odysseus--or even if there was a route at all, or an Odysseus--remains to be seen. All I can say is that it is as well a researched guess as any, and I greatly enjoyed the time I spent studying it.