Phthia in Homer’s Iliad

Pelion Mountains enclosing the Pagasetic Gulf with the monastery Pau in the foreground. PHOTO CREDIT: Heidi B. This photo is licensed under the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

“For my mother Thetis the goddess of the silver feet tells me
I carry two sorts of destiny toward the day of my death. Either,
if I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans
my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting;
but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers,
the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be a long life
left for me, and my end in death will not come to me quickly.”1

While all of the action in Homer’s Iliad takes place around the city of Troy, there are references to many of the areas both in Greece, where the Achaian fighters have left their homes, and around Troy, where the Trojan allies live. Achilleus, or Achilles, the most-feared fighter on the Achaian side, often refers to his home in Phthia where his father Peleus is. His longest descriptions of his home come in Book Nine when he refuses to return to the battle despite Agamemnon’s promised gifts. He tells Odysseus, Big Aias (Ajax), and Phoinix that he desires to return home and live a long and uneventful life. If Poseidon grants them a favorable passage, he believes he and his Myrmidons will arrive home on the third day after their departure.

The area of Phthia surrounded Mount Othrys, which is indicated on the map. This area was a part of the ancient region of Thessaly. The image at the top of this post shows the Pelion Mountains, which form the hook shaped peninsula that encloses much of the Pagesetic Gulf to the east of Mount Othrys. The mountains are named after Achilleus’ father, Peleus, and in the woods of these mountains the myths say the centaur Chiron–who tutored Achilleus, Jason, and Hercules–lived.

Read more about Phthia, Pelion, and Thessaly on Wikipedia. Find the Iliad at a local library or on Amazon.

1Homer. Iliad of Homer. Trans. Richard Lattimore. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1951. 209. Print.

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