Ulysses, Parthenope and the birth of Naples

by Federico D'Addato

THE myths and the legends have helped to provide explanations regarding natural phenomena for civilization who did not have enough means to understand reality, in ancient world characters like Ulysses, Romulus, Arachne and many others became protagonists of the birth of some places o animals.

Ulisse, Parthenope e la nascita di Napoli
Parthenope is the name of the mermaid who, according to legend, gave birth to Naples

The Odyssey: the stories about Ulysses

The Odyssey is a Greek poem attributed to Homer and tells the hero's return journey Ulysses from Troy to Ithaca.

In fact, it is not unusual that the same term is used to indicate a series of adventures that lead from one place, not necessarily physical, to another.

The story of Ulysses, or of Odysseus, a character already present in the other great work attributed to Homer or the Iliad, it starts like this:

"Sing to me, muse, of the multifaceted man, who wandered for a long time after he destroyed the sacred citadel of Ilium"

During the trip, it lasted well ten years, exactly like the war between Achaeans e Trojans, the hero finds himself facing an innumerable amount of obstacles in his path, from the "monsters" Of Scylla e Charybdis to the cyclops Polyphemus, from the sorceress Circe upon returning to the homeland now inhabited by Suits, its rivals, passing through the sirens.

Ulisse, Parthenope e la nascita di Napoli
One of the various artistic representations that see Ulysses and his crew in contact with strange creatures

The love between Parthenope and Ulysses that gave birth to Naples

Because of the god of the sea Poseidonas soon as the war is over and about to return to Ithaca, Ulysses finds himself in other lands.

Arrived near the Italian coasts recalls an anecdote told him about dangerous sea creatures: the sirens, which Homer introduced as follows:

«You will arrive, first, from the Sirens, than everyone

men enchant whoever comes to them.

To the one who unaware approaches and listens to the voice

of the Sirens, never again his wife and children

they are close to him, happy that he's back home,

but the Sirens enchant him with clear song,

lay down on the lawn: around it is a heap of bones

of putrid men, with wrinkled skin ».

The physical appearance of these characters is never described by the author, it is in fact assumed that one of their narratives had already been abundantly made in the Argonautics, that is, the exploits of Jason, for which it was taken for granted for the tradition of the time that it is the hearer both the cantor had a precise idea of the figure of the mermaids.

Among the most famous are three sisters: Ligea, which gave rise to Lamezia Thermal baths; Leucosia, which gave the name to Punta Licosia near Paestum e Parthenope, from which instead Naples was born.

Knowing to pass into the sea inhabited by these creatures than with theirs beauty and theirs I sing they bewitched men to make them abandon the ship causing shipwrecks, Odysseus, known for his cunning, he prepared one strategy.

The commander in fact he imposed on all the men of his crew to plug their ears, so as not to fall into temptation and consequently die.

However, driven by curiosity, Ulysses gave a further order to his subordinates: to make himself bind to the mast and not caring about his screams and moans until the end of the crossing that would take him out danger.

Ulisse, Parthenope e la nascita di Napoli
Ulysses's strategy consisted in letting himself be tied to the mast where, consciously, he met Parthenope's gaze

The Greek wanted to hear this wonderful I sing which, as it is written, read:

"Come, famous Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans,

and stop the ship, so that he can hear the voice of us.

No one has ever passed this way on the black ship

without hearing the sound of honey with our mouth,

but he goes after having enjoyed it and knowing more things "

Completely self conscious and now totally enchanted Odysseus squirming and a siren, Parthenope approached him and went away fell in love but aware of not being able to have it.

The fraction of moments that took the long gaze between the two, until the ship passed the route, it was filled with sadness for both.

Parthenope in fact died in that same instant and her body ended up in the depths of the sea which carried her towards the it costs, which changed morphology and gave life to the territory we now call Naples.



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