for we did not know whether to go outside Chios by the island of Psyra, keeping this to our left, or inside Chios, over against the stormy headland of Mimas.

I cannot picture the course of this voyage. Especially, the bold parts.

  • Does this help?
    – JMB
    Jun 28, 2014 at 16:25
  • @JMB So the first option is to go between Chios and the open sea and the second to go between Chios and Mimas?
    – user8153
    Jun 28, 2014 at 16:34
  • 3
    Please edit to show where you found this usage. Quote the paragraph you found it in, with a link if possible. Don't just copy a sentence as though it appeared out of thin air. Words and phrases mean different things in different contexts, and words change in meaning over time. You are more likely to get an answer that is appropriate for the context you found the word or sentence in if you provide that context. See this meta post for more information. Thanks. Jun 28, 2014 at 17:44
  • 1
    Also, please try to avoid such generic question titles if possible :) Thanks! Jun 28, 2014 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


This quote is from an English translation of The Odyssey by Homer. The quote comes from Book 3.

A map such as this one might help. You can find Lesbos just west (left) of the word TURKEY. And below that, to the south, both Chios and the smaller island Psara.

The general sense is whether to sail:

  1. outside Chios by the island of Psyra, keeping this [Psyra] to our left, that is: out into the open Aegean Sea, west of both Chiros and the smaller island Psyra (also spelled Psara)-- or

  2. inside Chios, that is: through the Chios Strait, a narrow passage between the island of Chios and the coast of Anatolia over against the stormy headland of Mimas. that is: toward a part of the Anatolian mainland that juts out into the strait, and which was presumably stormy, causing dangerous passage.

So either go out in the open sea to the west of both Chios and Psyra OR go to the east of Chios, which means through the straight of Chios.

  • 1
    Very good answer. Other translations more clear: ...whether to head out west from rugged Chios, towards the island of Psyria, keeping it to larboard, or to sail south, landward of Chios, past Mimas’ windy promontories. (poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Greek/Odyssey3.htm#BkIII148). Also, *as we were debating the long voyage, whether we should sail to sea-ward of rugged Chios, toward the isle Psyria, keeping Chios itself on our left, or to land-ward of Chios past windy Mimas.*(perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/…) Jun 28, 2014 at 20:31
  • @CoolHandLouis The geography is starting to escape me. The Penguin Classics translation by Fagles (1996/2002), which I just happened to have started reading this week, reads whether to head north, over the top of rocky Chios, skirting Psyrie, keeping that island off to port, or run south of Chios, by Mimas' gusty cape. Head north? Maybe the waypoint is not Lesbos after all, but that is how it reads to me. Still the general meaning is clear: go out past Chios or through the strait.
    – user6951
    Jun 28, 2014 at 21:33
  • There might not be a definitive geography from the original, which could be fictional; different translations make different assumptions. I think your Answer is definitive since this is really about interpreting the meaning of English used in the question, and not about interpreting the precise meaning of The Odyssey. Jun 28, 2014 at 22:06

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