Homer, the greatest Greek poet, is also called the first written geographer and Odysseus is the vehicle, a veteran of the blood-flowing war of Troy and jack of all trades. What I find interesting is how his ship is ‘lost’. Ancient Greeks were oriented along the shoreline, which they relied on to navigate a familial trade economy. Accessible only by skilled enterprise the sea is full of adventure and lustful sexuality, yet the epic points back to the hilly, pastoral land where his Odysseus’ son Telemachos waits to cultivate his father’s estate and legacy. A Huckleberry Finn meets Tolstoy ending.
We often think about geography only scientifically, ignoring its take on the world’s psychotic aspects. The story of the Odyssey follows a literary-geographic structure beginning with real references and accurate distances, descending into less precise, more hellish and heavenly wild seascapes, and back again. So the sea, like the Greek imagination, is a mixture of rational fact and curious wonder reflecting the true state of knowledge of the time, but also the Greek way as Edith Hamilton describes it: at once pagan and scientific, the greatest athletes and warriors of Greece were also intellects, dometic farmers, and leaders.
“Know thyself,” and “nothing in excess” commands the oracle at Delphi. I like to think geographers are more than dry academics. We don’t stay stationary, we’re red-blooded explorers with something worth living for, renaissance people even, and yes, maybe we get to score along the way.