If you are familiar with the Greek hero Odysseus, you may remember the task that revealed his true identity to the court of Ithaca. After 20 years of suffering and adventures, he finally returned home only to find his palace full of uninvited guests. The prospect of his wife Penelope remarrying attracted more than a hundred suitors eager to propose to her and feat on Odysseus' food and wine in the meantime.
Odysseus proved he was alive and well by shooting an arrow straight through 12 axes ("through the iron" as Homer puts it). It left people everywhere wondering for centuries just how can one shoot an arrow through an axe. Many scholars tried to provide explanations. If we ignore the unlikely theories that needed very wildly shaped axes or shady translations of the Homeric text, there are two groups of opinions.
One of those groups provides a solution that is depicted o this mug. This position of the axes was described by Sir D. L. Page in his "Folktales in Homer's Odyssey".
The issue was always made complicated by the fact that one cannot really shoot anything through the metal part of an axe. While other theories suggested that Odysseus must have been shooting through empty axe-heads only (without handles in them), Page's theory suggested the complete opposite. The handles were not just in their place, but they were made of metal too. Moreover, they had a ring at the end of their handles - for hanging the axes. Axes just like that were definitely used by the Minoan civilization, so why couldn't similar ones be on Ithaca?
- It fits the expression "through the iron"
- The target would be just in the right height for a sitting shot (Homer explicitly tells us that Odysseus was sitting)
- The task can be accomplished successfully. It ws even documented by Peter Brain and D. D. Skinner in the 70s in their paper "Odysseus and the Axes: Homeric Ballistics Reconstructed".
- It would require very special axes
If you like this explanation, you should consider purchasing this mug. If you don't, look at the alternative
- White ceramic
- 11 oz (0.33 l)
- Rounded corners