Archaeology: The Ships of Homer's Time Are There to Be Explored

Then he fenced the whole from stem to stern with willow withes to be a defence against the wave, and strewed much brush thereon.

—The Odyssey

With the help of the sea nymph Calypso, far-wandering Odysseus prepared to sail for home across the wine-dark sea. But when he had finished his boat, why did he cover the bilge with a layer of brushwood? Generations of scholars have sweated over the passage without producing a satisfactory answer. One theory holds that brush is only a mistranslation of ballast; some classicists argue that Odysseus was merely making a bed. A few despairing translators...

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