Odysseus washed up on the island of Ogygia after drifting for nine days on the open sea, having lost his ship and his army to the monsters of Italy and Sicily. He was returning home to Ithaca, from the war in Troy, eager to be reunited with his wife Penelope. When he reached the island he was greeted by Calypso, the Goddess Nymph, daughter of the Titan god Atlas and Tethys, who promised him immortality and eternal youth if he would stay with her. She led him to her cave, which was surrounded by a luxuriant wood of alder and poplar and sweet smelling cypress and a trailing vine. However, despite his initial thoughts that he had reached safe sanctuary, Odysseus soon realised that he could not escape the island. He fell into sorrow and sat on the shores, looking out at the unresting sea, shedding tears of grief. He longed only to escape, to return home. Calypso kept him captive on the island for seven years until she was obliged by the Greek gods to allow him to leave. She gave him an axe that well fitted his hands, led him to the borders of the island where he could cut down alders and firs and fashion a boat, and gave him cloth for a sail. The name Calypso is linked with the Greek word καλύπτω, meaning: to conceal.
Calypso’s Cave is located on the island of Gozo, Malta. The cave is believed to be the same cave that Homer refers to in The Odyssey. Gozo has been inhabited for thousands of years and there is archeological evidence of Neolithic temple ruins. Gozo, as part of Malta, has been ruled by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Sicilians, French and British. Malta gained its independence from Britain in 1964 and became a Republic in 1974; UK passport holders form the largest group of foreign residents living on Malta and Gozo. The island with its architecture of low limestone slabbed buildings built on top of rocky landscape looks north African and the gutteral language sounds more Arabic than European. Like Malta, it is predominantly a Catholic culture: ninety eight per cent Catholic; religious figurines proliferate and there are numerous fiestas throughout the summer. Today it is a popular tourist destination; it also lies en route for immigrants making the treacherous transit from North Africa across the mediterranean, seeking sanctuary in Europe.
Over the period of two weeks the island begun to reveal some of it’s mysteries to me. All images were taken on the island of Gozo, Malta.
© Barry Falk 2019