There are numerous stories about shipwrecks around the Maltese Islands. The islands are just a speck in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coast of Sicily but storms along the rocky coast can be very violent. Numerous ships have been claimed by the Mediterranean here.
Two of the shipwrecks and their stories are fascinating parts of the Maltese archipelago’s history. The wreck of Odysseus is woven into the island folklore and the wreck of the Apostle Paul is part of the bedrock for Christianity in Malta. This blog entry is about Odysseus and Paul and the stories about their importance to the European nation of Malta, my April “home.”
In the Odyssey, Homer recorded that Odysseus’ ship had been blown off course sailing from Troy and that all aboard, except for Odysseus, died. According to Maltese legend, the Greek warrior was able to survive the torrents, unrelenting seas, and the violent storms in the Mediterranean and escape to land in what is today known as the Maltese island of Gozo. This is also where Odysseus met Calypso, the enticing daughter of Titan Atlas.
Calypso lived in a grotto found in Gozo. She was a vixen and had designs to marry Odysseus but his desire was to return home to his wife Penelope. As the queen of the island, Calypso refused to let him leave and essentially held him hostage for what is believed to be one to seven years. “Calypso’s cave” on Gozo is one of many found here.
Heartbroken, Calypso eventually agreed that Odysseus could leave and he returned to Greece and Penelope. However, the story of Odysseus and Penelope play a vital part in telling Gozo’s story.
The other shipwreck involves the Apostle Paul. As recorded in the Bible book of Acts of the Apostles, Paul was aboard a ship bound for Rome for trial. Like the story described in the Odyssey, Paul’s ship was wrecked on Melita (now known as the island of Malta).
Maltese tradition refers to the small off-shore Saint Paul’s Island as the place where he and all of the crew set foot on land and where Paul survived a poisonous snake bite. The survival of the entire crew is seen by many as being miraculous. A statue is there to mark the legendary location.
Paul stayed in Malta for several months and according to tradition, he lived in a cave known today as St. Paul’s Grotto located in Rabat which is next to Mdina near the center of the Malta island. While in Malta, Paul was invited to the Mdina home of Publius, the Roman’s head of the Maltese islands.
It is said that Paul cured Publius’ father and others from life-threatening illnesses. Many believed the cures to be miracles and, subsequently, many converted to Christianity. Publius was one of those and became the first Bishop of Malta. The pictured Cathedral of Mdina stands on the site believed to be where Publius’ house was located.
While I am in Malta, I will write about my experiences. The architectural beauty has caught my eye and I will blog more about it, the phenomenal history, and all of my other observations and experiences.
But I determined that my first story about Malta had to be one related to the sea surrounding these islands and two of the famous shipwrecks entwined with the culture of this wonderful place. I am excited about living in Malta so stay tuned for more!