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Benjamin Scolnic Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT, USA

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Abstract

The nostos, the return home in Greek mythology, is most often a journey over the sea, and it is the god Poseidon who rules the sea, both ensuring the safe passage of fishermen and sailors and causing disasters to individuals like Ajax son of Oileus, sometimes through obstacles like his daughter Charybdis. Most famously, he uses his power to hinder the nostos of Odysseus, all the while knowing he cannot prevent him from reaching home. This example illustrates how a god who may once have been the most powerful deity can no longer control ultimate results. As his power declines over the centuries, that of Zeus increases.

It is also by sea that we see the ships in Isaiah 23, attempting to return to their homes in Sidon and Tyre on the eastern Mediterranean coast. In this Biblical passage from the eighth century BCE, the ships wail when they see that their seaport homes have been destroyed; there are no homes to which they can return. The great god of the Sea and the epichoric gods have failed to protect the cities which are considered their progeny. The Israelite prophet mocks their powerlessness and celebrates the power of his One God. There is no nostos, no homecoming for ships because they no longer have homes. Just as Poseidon could not prevent Odysseus from his nostos, the so-called Averter of Disaster has not prevented the disaster that has befallen his children.

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