Portugal as <i>Nostos</i> Interrupted

  • Christopher Kark Stanford University
Keywords: Epic, Prophecy, Apocalypse, Restoration, Sebastianismo


In the present article, I examine the role of prophecy in Gabriel Pereira de Castro’s Ulisseia (1636) and António de Sousa de Macedo’s Ulissipo (1640), two pre-Restoration epics that center on Odysseus as the mythological founder of Lisbon. In both epics, a prophecy drives the hero to found Lisbon as a precondition for making his nostos to Ithaka while also speaking of a fabled warrior landing at the future site of Lisbon in order to found a great empire. is prophecy echoes others that predict the return of the Encoberto, yet they also tempt Odysseus into forgetting his nostos for the sake of Lisbon’s foundation. Insofar as forgetting one’s nostos is associated with a deathlike state (lêthê) in epic poetry, the parallel between Odysseus and the Encoberto strongly suggests that the imperial enterprise itself is a hazard that leads the hero towards oblivion and death. 

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