Μαρμαροσπηλια

Marmarospilia - Cave of the Nymphs


Useful Information

Location: On Ithaka (island). 3km NE from the capital Ithaki.
Open:  
Fee:  
Classification:  Karst cave.
Light: none, bring torch.
Dimension: A=180m asl
Guided tours:  
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography: Porphyry (no year): On the Cave of the Nymphs, translated by Thomas Taylor. Phanes Press.
Jennifer Larson (2001): Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore., Oxford University Press. 380 pp. Nympholiptou Cave p 242.
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As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Last update:$Date: 2015/08/30 21:55:34 $

History


Description

This cave has several names. The name Cave of the Nymphs comes from the ancient Greek mythology.

"In what ship, my dear father, did your crew bring you to Ithaca? Of what nation did they declare themselves to be - for you cannot have come by land?"

"I will tell you the truth, my son," replied Ulysses. "It was the Phaeacians who brought me here. They are great sailors, and are in the habit of giving escorts to any one who reaches their coasts. They took me over the sea while I was fast asleep, and landed me in Ithaca, after giving me many presents in bronze, gold, and raiment. These things by heaven's mercy are lying concealed in a cave, and I am now come here on the suggestion of Minerva that we may consult about killing our enemies. First, therefore, give me a list of the suitors, with their number, that I may learn who, and how many, they are. I can then turn the matter over in my mind, and see whether we two can fight the whole body of them ourselves, or whether we must find others to help us."


Text by Homer (800 B.C.). With kind permission.

It is said, that this was the place where the Phaeacians left the sleeping Odysseus and the gifts they gave him, when they brought him back to Ithaca, ten years after the end of the Troyan War.

But one fact is rather curious: Marmarospilia is 180m above sea level and it is rather strenuous to carry all the goods so far. A cave closer to the shore would be a better bet. Recent finds of twelve tripods in  Loizos Cave, similar to those Odysseus is supposed to have received from the Phaeacians, make this cave a much better bet.

This cave is about 2.5km up a rough but navigable road, signposted from the brow of the hill above Dhéxa beach in the Bay of Vathi. The claim that this cave is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey (XII, 96) where the returning Odysseus concealed the gifts given to him by King Alcinous, is enhanced by the proximity of Dhéxa beach, although there is some evidence that the ”true„ cave was located just above the beach and was accidentally destroyed by quarrying some years ago.

A narrow entrance leads into a level floored chamber 7 m wide by 4 m deep and 3 m high. To the left there is a balcony overlooking a large chamber which is 5 m lower down. This is The Great Chamber, 14 m long, 10 m wide and 10 m high containing some sooty coloured speleothems. The chamber is dimly light by a small karst window in the ceiling giving a very ghostly effect. A small side passage for 5 m before closing down. A powerful torch is needed.


Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.


See also


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