5. Anchises’ Pastures, Laertes’ Orchards: Images of Civilization and Its Opposite

Having explored Homeric vegetal imagery that describes order and threats to that order at the cosmic level, we turn now to a set of images that explores similar concepts on the human scale. We found in Chapter 4 that the Homeric poets associated trees and pillars with stability in the cosmos and flowers with challenges to that order, and thereby offered their audiences insights into these abstract concepts. As we shall see, floral and arboreal images also accompany Homeric descriptions of civic order and its opposite.
But there are important distinctions to be drawn between the two sets of images. Firstly, the images of uncivilized wildernesses that we shall study do not, in fact, distinguish between floral and arboreal growths. Both kinds of growth are associated with the wild lands haunted by Pan or with the exotic locations visited by Odysseus. Secondly, Homeric images of cosmic and civic order differ in their treatment of wild and cultivated plants. The sorts of images of cosmic order that we considered in Chapter 4 all describe wild growths. There is no indication in any of these images that the growths in question were the result of human tendance: the heaven-high fir of Odyssey 5, the date-palm of the Hymn to Apollo, and the fir tree of the Διὸς ἀπάτη are all natural growths, no less than the flowers in the relevant passages. But as we shall see, the Homeric poems associate good order in human societies not simply with images of trees but more specifically with managed growths of trees, particularly those found in orchards. In the Odyssey, the labor required to maintain such plantations is associated with the work of kings, which upholds the good order of their communities. [1]
In this way, the Homeric poets suggested the comparative difficulty of maintaining order on earth. Only through the constant labor of kings can the good order of human societies be preserved; appropriately, the Homeric poets associate the maintenance of that order with the careful management of arboreal growths. By contrast, the images of wild arboreal growths that we studied above do not suggest that careful labor is needed to maintain order in the cosmos. And this is in keeping with the depictions of potential threats to Zeus’ supremacy that we discussed in the last chapter. Either these threats are not carried through or, if they are, they are not of a very serious nature. We might think, for instance, of the potential threat from Apollo in his Homeric hymn, which is never actualized, or of Hera’s brief challenge to Zeus’ rule in the Διὸς ἀπάτη, which he is able to face down with relative ease. Zeus’ power and might is much greater than that of kings; accordingly, his cosmic order is much more strongly established than the order of human communities.

Arboreal and Floral Imagery of Flourishing Cities in Hesiodic Poetry

We can set in relief the particular choices made by the Homeric poets in fashioning such imagery if again we consider equivalent images from the Hesiodic tradition. In Chapter 4, we studied comparanda from the Theogony for Homeric vegetal imagery of cosmic order. This time we shall focus on the Works and Days, which not only provides advice on farming but also depicts just and unjust human societies. Like their Homeric counterparts, the Hesiodic poets use vegetal imagery to explore the notion of the well-functioning polity. There is, however, an important difference between the uses of such imagery in the two poetic traditions. The Hesiodic poets associate both wild and cultivated growths with well-ordered societies, but as we shall see the Homeric images of flourishing polities focus on managed growths.
The Hesiodic poets, for instance, illustrated the notion of flourishing communities with the verbal root ἀνθε-, which is associated with wild vegetation and particularly with flowers. At Works and Days 227, the verb ἀνθέω describes the flourishing of the Just city and of its people: τοῖσι τέθηλε πόλις, λαοὶ δ’ ἀνθέουσιν ἐν αὐτῇ. In Homeric poetry, the verbal root ἀνθε- possesses either general vegetal or specifically floral meanings (see Appendix). Much the same can be said of the usages of that root in Hesiodic poetry. At Works and Days 582, for example, the phrase σκόλυμος ἀνθεῖ refers not to general vegetal flourishing but specifically to the blooming time of the thistle. [2] On the basis of such usages, we could interpret the phrase λαοὶ δ’ ἀνθέουσιν ἐν αὐτῇ at Works and Days 227 either as a general reference to vegetal flourishing or more specifically as a floral metaphor. The second meaning is certainly possible here: Glenn Most renders the line, “their city blooms and the people in it flower.” [3] Similarly, the Hesiodic Shield refers to the cities Ἄνθεια and Ἄνθην (381, 474). These names would presumably have suggested to early audiences thriving rather than disorderly communities. And again, the terms Ἄνθεια and Ἄνθην could allude to wild floral growths or to wild vegetation more generally.
The Hesiodic poets thus helped their audiences to understand the concept of the flourishing city. If the passages mentioned above were seen as floral images, they would have drawn on the time of flowering and fertility as the peak of the functioning and health of a plant in order to illustrate the vigor of these cities. [4] Alternatively, such uses of the ἀνθο/ε- root may have carried general vegetal associations and may thus have helped audiences to understand the more abstract notion of the flourishing of a city through the more concrete notion of the flourshing of plants.
The Homeric poets provide only partial parallels for such Hesiodic usages. There are some echoes of the Hesiodic associations of cities and flourishing in Homeric poetry: Ἄνθεια is the name of a city that Agamemnon offers to Achilles (Iliad 9.151, 293), and the Catalogue of Ships refers to an Ἀνθηδὼν ἐσχατόωσα (2.508). As with the places from the Hesiodic Shield discussed above, these lexemes evoke either wild growths in general or specifically wild flowers. But with the exception of these place-names, wild growths carry very different connotations in Homeric poetry. In the Homeric images of cities and civilization that we shall discuss below, wild flowers and trees are associated with an absence of civilized order. [5]
The differences between the treatments of wild growths in the Homeric and Hesiodic corpora become still more apparent when we compare further details from the Hesiodic description of the Just City with a Homeric image that at first sight appears closely to resemble the relevant lines from the Works and Days. At Works and Days 232–237, we learn that the city whose rulers give straight judgements to citizen and foreigner alike will be blessed with fertility of soil and womb:
          τοῖσι φέρει μὲν γαῖα πολὺν βίον, οὔρεσι δὲ δρῦς
          ἄκρη μέν τε φέρει βαλάνους, μέσση δὲ μελίσσας·
          εἰροπόκοι δ’ ὄιες μαλλοῖς καταβεβρίθασιν·
235    τίκτουσιν δὲ γυναῖκες ἐοικότα τέκνα γονεῦσιν·
          θάλλουσιν δ’ ἀγαθοῖσι διαμπερές· οὐδ’ ἐπὶ νηῶν
          νίσονται, καρπὸν δὲ φέρει ζείδωρος ἄρουρα.
Works and Days 232–237
          To them the earth bears much livelihood; in the mountains the oak
          Bears acorns on high and bees in its middle;
          The woolly sheep are weighed down by their fleeces;
235    Women bear children that are like their parents;
          They flourish with good things continually; nor do they journey
          On ships, but the grain-giving plow-land bears fruit.
This passage alludes to numerous kinds of human, animal, and vegetal flourishing, including that of trees: children are born, resembling their parents; [6] sheep are heavy with wool; the fields abound with fruit; oaks bear both acorns and bees.
At first glance, Odysseus’ description of the blessings brought by a just king at Odyssey 19.108–114 would seem to offer a close parallel for this Hesiodic passage:
                          ἦ γάρ σευ κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἱκάνει,
          ὥς τέ τευ ἢ βασιλῆος ἀμύμονος, ὅς τε θεουδὴς
110    ἀνδράσιν ἐν πολλοῖσιν καὶ ἰφθίμοισιν ἀνάσσων
          εὐδικίας ἀνέχῃσι, φέρῃσι δὲ γαῖα μέλαινα
          πυροὺς καὶ κριθάς, βρίθῃσι δὲ δένδρεα καρπῷ,
          τίκτῃ δ’ ἔμπεδα μῆλα, θάλασσα δὲ παρέχῃ ἰχθῦς
          ἐξ εὐηγεσίης, ἀρετῶσι δὲ λαοὶ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.
Odyssey 19.108–114
                          Your fame reaches the wide heaven,
          As that of some excellent, god-fearing king,
110    Who among many men upholds justice,
          Ruling mighty subjects, and the black earth bears
          Wheat and barley, and the trees burgeon with fruit,
          And the flocks constantly bear young; through his good leadership
          The sea provides fish, and the people excel under him.
As with Works and Days 232–237, these lines associate just rulership with a flourishing realm. Due to the king’s good leadership (ἐξ εὐηγεσίης, 19.114) and to the justice he upholds (εὐδικίας ἀνέχῃσι, 109), not only do his people flourish—they are many, strong, and excellent (110, 114)—but the earth and its waters burgeon with life. The land bears cereal crops; trees are weighed down with fruit (111-112). Sheep moreover increase constantly, and the sea provides the king’s people with fish (113).
There are differences however between the vegetal images of the two passages and, indeed, between this passage of the Works and Days and the imagery of the Odyssey more generally. Odysseus’ allusion to trees heavy with fruit at Odyssey 19.112 might suggest an orchard—that is, a plantation within the spaces belonging to a human community. Note that it follows a reference to wheat and barley, the sorts of species that we would expect to find in agricultural fields (111–112). In any case, these trees are not explicitly associated with wild spaces. Our passage from the Works and Days, however, not only describes “grain-giving plow-land” but also oaks growing in the mountains—that is, in wild places beyond the control of the city. The flourishing of the Just City is associated, then, with both wild and domesticated spaces.
And we can observe a further distinction between the Hesiodic description of the image of the Just City and other images from the Homeric corpus: unlike the equivalent passages from Homeric poetry, Works and Days 232–237 associate a flourishing polity with both cultivated and uncultivated vegetal growths. The plow-land of Works and Days 237 would be tended by human hands—and indeed the remainder of the Hesiodic poem focuses on such agricultural labor. But the oaks in the image of the Just City fall beyond the remit of cultivators. People might step outside the boundaries of the land tamed by agriculture to gather the bounty of the oaks; yet their acorns are not the product of human labor. The Homeric image of the Just King is ambiguous in this respect: while it refers to agricultural fields, the fruit trees of Odyssey 19.112 might be growing in orchards or in the wild. Other images from the Homeric corpus, however, associate civic order both with agricultural crops and with trees managed by human hands. [7]

Wild Growths and Uncivilized Lands: The Hymns to Aphrodite and Pan, and Odyssey 5

In the passages from Homeric poetry that we shall discuss below, wild growths—both floral and arboreal—are associated with challenges to civilized order or with uncivilized spaces. Our first example of such imagery derives from the Hymn to Aphrodite, which we have already discussed as the tale of Aphrodite’s seduction of Anchises. [8] But the hymn also tells the story of a clash between the forces of the wild and the civilized. [9] The themes of the wild and the civilized in the hymn are closely linked to its characterizations of Aphrodite and Anchises and of their interactions with the world of nature. Anchises, as a prince of Troy, is a man of breeding and culture, and he has introduced some measure of civilization to the wild spaces of Ida. Along with other shepherds he has attempted to assert control over the environment of Ida by establishing a settlement: he and his companions have constructed “well-built huts” (κλίσιας εὐποιήτους, 75). When Aphrodite first encounters him she finds him in this civilized setting, engaged in the refined activity of lyre-playing (80). The landscape of Ida outside the settlement is a “mother of wild beasts” (μητέρα θηρῶν), but Anchises has exercised control over these animals by hunting them: on the mountain’s slopes he has slain bears and lions to line the floor of his hut (159–160). [10]
Aphrodite takes on the outward appearance of a civilized human being, but this masks her affiliation with wild nature. We have already explored intersections of Aphrodite’s costume and speech with the themes of seduction and deception. But these elements of the hymn also interact with the theme of civilization. In order to seduce Anchises, Aphrodite dons the sorts of accoutrements that he might associate with a civilized maiden: she is decked in perfumes, oils, beautiful clothes, and dazzling jewelry (61–65, 85–90). In her lying speech at lines 108–142, she complements her refined appearance with allusions to civilized life, mentioning such details as a Trojan nurse and illustrious parents. And most importantly, she raises the prospect of marriage with Anchises—that is, the prospect of a union within the bounds of civilized mortal institutions.
But such promises are not borne out in her encounter with the Trojan prince, which turns out to be a brief erotic dalliance rather than the prelude to a marriage. What is more, events earlier in the hymn reveal Aphrodite to be not so much a civilized maiden as a goddess of wild nature. She has power over all creatures (lines 3–5), and while Anchises hunts wild animals and thus asserts dominance over them, Aphrodite encourages their natural proclivities: she causes them to mate as she journeys from Olympus to Ida (69–74). Under her influence, “they all at once / lay down two-by-two in their shady haunts” (οἱ δ’ ἅμα πάντες / σύνδυο κοιμήσαντο κατὰ σκιόεντας ἐναύλους, 73–74). The latter detail is echoed in her lying speech, despite its general focus on civilized themes. She describes how Hermes led her not only over environments controlled by mankind—their “many fields” (πολλὰ … ἔργα, 122)—but also over undefined spaces: she witnessed “unapportioned and unsettled land through which wild / flesh-eating beasts wander in their shady haunts” (ἄκληρόν τε καὶ ἄκτιτον ἣν διὰ θῆρες / ὠμοφάγοι φοιτῶσι κατὰ σκιόεντας ἐναύλους, 123-124). The phrase κατὰ σκιόεντας ἐναύλους thus appears both in Aphrodite’s speech (74) and in the narrator’s description of the wild places that she visits on her real journey to Ida (124) and gives emphasis to the goddess’ associations with wild nature. Anchises’ efforts to control the landscape of Ida, then, contrast with the wild forces associated with Aphrodite.
The pastureland where Anchises and his fellow shepherds graze their cows is however a space between the wild or civilized. [11] The work of shepherds takes place in apparently wild spaces outside the bounds of human settlements. Nevertheless, their activities represent the exploitation of such spaces to the benefit of humans: they use these lands to raise cows, sheep, and goats, whose flesh and milk will eventually feed human communities. The tension between these two facets of pastureland, the wild and the civilized, is suggested in lines 54–55, our very first description of Anchises in the hymn: “he used to herd cows in the high mountains of Ida of the many dales” (ἐν ἀκροπόλοις ὄρεσιν πολυπιδάκου Ἴδης / βουκολέεσκεν βοῦς). His task of herding cows, which would benefit his community, is set against an allusion to the wild spaces of Ida. [12]
These pastures are, then, at once the haunt of wild animals and spaces that are exploited by herdsmen for civilized purposes: this is a landscape contested by forces of the wild and the civilized—the forces represented in the hymn by Aphrodite and Anchises. And such a contest is reflected in the descriptions of vegetation in these pastures. This vegetation is described in different ways before and after the lovemaking of Aphrodite and Anchises: the pastures are “grassy” ποιήεντας (78) on Aphrodite’s arrival, but “flowery” ἀνθεμοέντων (169) immediately after their lovemaking. The first phrase, νομοὺς κατὰ ποιήεντας, defines the lands of Ida in terms of their use by Anchises and his fellow pastoralists: they provide grassy fodder for their cows. It reflects the civilized purpose for which these lands are being exploited by the herdsmen. But the second phrase, νομῶν ἐξ ἀνθεμοέντων, describes these lands in terms of wild flowers.
This subtle change in the description of the pastures draws on concrete aspects of the natural environments that would have been familiar to early audiences and would thus have helped them to understand the change that has taken place in the narrative: the power relations between the Trojan prince, the goddess and the world of nature have altered. Before their lovemaking, Anchises had exercised a degree of control over his environment. He also seemed to have the upper hand in his encounter with Aphrodite: she appeared before him in the meek guise of a maiden (82) and sued for his hand with the promise of influential connections and bridal gifts (131–142). But Aphrodite’s seduction of Anchises turns the tables. Like Zeus in Iliad 14, Anchises is overcome by a goddess’ seductive wiles and lies prostrate in sleep (170–171). And as in the Διὸς ἀπάτη, this development is marked by floral imagery. [13] The allusion to wild flowers in ordered spaces at Hymn to Aphrodite 169 casts light on the events of the wider narrative: the wild power of Aphrodite has insinuated itself into the civilized spaces created by Anchises and his fellow shepherds. Her conquest of the Trojan prince in his hut is reflected in the spaces that the shepherds have attempted to tame outside their settlement. [14]
Flowers, then, mark Aphrodite’s conquest of civilized order in the hymn and the irruption of the forces of the wild with which she is associated. We find further examples of such imagery in the Hymn to Pan. [15] But this second hymn offers a more straightforward celebration of wild forces, which are associated with the figure of Pan himself and with the landscapes that he roams. Like Anchises, Pan is associated with herding, hunting, and music; but these apparently civilized qualities are greatly outweighed by the disorderly characteristics of the god and of his landscapes.
At first sight, we might notice intersections between the characterization of Pan in the hymn and that of Anchises in the Hymn to Aphrodite. Not only does Pan haunt mountainous regions (6–7), but he is also somehow connected with pastoralism, even though he is not himself depicted as a herdsman: he is νόμιον θεόν, either “the god of herdsmen [νομῆες]” or “the god of pasture [νομός]” (5). [16] And like Anchises he is a hunter. He slays wild beasts in the hills (13–14) and collects their pelts: presumably, the lynx hide that he is wearing in lines 23–24 is the product of such a hunt. [17] Similarly, as we have seen, Anchises lines his hut with the hides of beasts that he has slain. Pan is also a musician, though of a rather different sort from Anchises. Aphrodite finds Anchises playing the lyre (κιθαρίζων, Hymn to Aphrodite 80), an instrument associated with the cultured activity of epic poetry. [18] But Pan plays a reed-pipe, an instrument derived from his natural surroundings, and whose music competes with the song of the nightingale, a denizen of the natural world (Hymn to Pan 16–18). [19]
Other characteristics of Pan distinguish him still more clearly from the Trojan prince. We might think in particular of the descriptions of the god’s birth and physique, which are closely associated with the notion of mingling. The nymphs who sing of his conception and birth in the second half of the hymn (29–47) use the verbal root μιγ- to describe the mingling in love of his parents: μιγῆναι, line 34. Hermes, an Olympian god, mingled with a wood-nymph, a spirit of the natural world (33–35). For this reason, we may assume, Pan’s body is a monstrous mixture of anthropomorphic god and wild goat: he is “monstrous … goat-footed, two-horned” (τερατωπόν … αἰγιπόδην δικέρωτα, 36–37). [20]
Pan’s landscapes are likewise characterized by disorderliness, in contrast with the civilized order that Anchises and his companions have attempted to impose on the wild spaces of Ida. The first half of the hymn describes the untamed wilderness through which the god wanders. He visits snowy peaks (λόφον νιφόεντα, 6), rocky paths (πετρήεντα κέλευθα, 7), soft streams (ῥείθροισιν … μαλακοῖσιν, 9), and sheer rocks (πέτρῃσιν ἐν ἠλιβάτοισι, 10). The hymn mentions also the wild vegetation of Pan’s haunts, which include wooded groves (πίση / δενδρήεντ’, 2–3) and dense thickets (ῥωπήϊα πυκνά, 8). When the description of Pan’s haunts resumes in lines 25–26, we are once more offered an image of wild disorder. The god is depicted cavorting with nymphs in a disorderly meadow of saffron and hyacinth flowers. Pan’s saffron and hyacinth flowers are said to mingle “indiscriminately” (ἄκριτα, 26) with grass—in contrast with the discriminate (κριτά) spaces of civilization. [21] As in the case of Pan’s body, then, the root μι(σ)γ- describes a disorderly mingling. The description of disorderly mingling in the natural environment would have helped audiences to imagine the disorderly nature of Pan himself:
ἐν μαλακῷ λειμῶνι τόθι κρόκος ἠδ’ ὑάκινθος
εὐώδης θαλέθων καταμίσγεται ἄκριτα ποίῃ.
Hymn to Pan 25–26
… in a soft meadow where saffron and fragrant
Flourishing hyacinth mingle indiscriminately with the grass.
The indiscriminate mingling of this vegetation recalls the allusions to wild spaces and wild growths in the Hymn to Aphrodite, rather than the order that Anchises and other humans have tried to introduce to such spaces. As with the description of the “unapportioned and unsettled” (ἀκληρόν τε καὶ ἄκτιτον) haunts of wild beasts at Hymn to Aphrodite 123–124, lines 25–26 of the Hymn to Pan emphasize the lack of differentiation in Pan’s meadows; and as with the “flowery pastures” of Hymn to Aphrodite 169, which suggest the invasion of Aphrodite’s wild powers, these lines focus on the wild growths of flowers in the landscapes of Pan. Despite their occupying similar mountainous landscapes, then, Pan’s association with the disorder of wild nature contrasts sharply with Anchises’ attempts to impose order on such wildernesses.
The contrasts between Pan’s landscapes and the more civilized spaces of mankind are borne out further when we refer to other Homeric Hymns. In the Hymn to Aphrodite, the wild slopes of Ida have been settled by shepherds. But the uninhabited landscapes described in other hymns are, in fact, more reminiscent of Pan’s haunts. Homeric Hymn 1 describes the birth of Dionysus, a god of wild nature who in the Hymn to Pan is particularly pleased at the birth of the new god (Hymn to Pan 45–46). Hymn 1 identifies Dionysus’ birthplace as Nysa and depicts it as a land of untended vegetal growth. If we accept Martin West’s reconstruction of the poem, Nysa is described as growing μενοεικέα πολλά, “many means of sustenance” (line 14). [22] But no human hand is responsible for such growth. Nysa is situated “far from humans” (πολλὸν ἀπ’ ἀνθρώπων, 8). It is enclosed by a cliff and has no harbor; it is therefore unvisited by ships (11-14). [23] Likewise Pan’s haunts, described in the first half of his hymn, are wild, craggy landscapes frequented only by the god and his retinue of nymphs. The flowers at lines 25–26 form the climax to this description and encapsulate the wildness of Pan’s landscape.
The flower-gathering of Korē and her companions, which we discussed in Chapters 2 and 4, is set in a similar location—or perhaps even in the very same place as is described in Hymn 1. Her flowers grow on the Nysian Plain (line 17). Listeners familiar with Orphic traditions might have located this landscape at the ends of the earth, the very furthest point from the civilized lands of Greece: an Orphic account of the abduction of Korē (fr. 43 Kern) situated it by the streams of Oceanus, i.e., at the edge of the world. [24] The identification of Korē’s companions as “the daughters of Oceanus” (Hymn to Demeter 5) would have supported such associations. Alternatively, audiences might have equated the Nysian Plain with the Nysa of Hymn 1, which is set “far off in Phoenicia, near the flows of the Nile” (τηλοῦ Φοινίκης, σχεδὸν Αἰγύπτοιο ῥοάων, Hymn 1.10). But in either case, the reference to the Nysian Plain would have suggested a land far from human civilization.
Moreover, the descriptions of the flowery meadows in the Hymn to Demeter bear a close resemblance to those of the meadows at Hymn to Pan 25–26. In particular, Korē’s depiction of the flowers that she and her companions were gathering echoes the language of Hymn to Pan 25–26: μίγδα κρόκον τ’ ἀγανὸν καὶ ἀγαλλίδας ἠδ’ ὑάκινθον / καὶ ῥοδέας κάλυκας καὶ λείρια ... (“mixedly, gentle saffron, irises, hyacinth, / rose-cups, and lilies …” Hymn to Demeter 426–427). [25] Among these flowers Persephone mentions saffron and hyacinth, the two flowers described in our passage from the Hymn to Pan. And as at Hymn to Pan 26 the root μι(σ)γ- suggests the disordered mingling of such flowers. In both hymns, then, disordered flowery growths are associated with lands untamed by human hands.
The passages considered thus far draw on the wild floral and arboreal growths of the Greek natural environment to illustrate the notion of a lack of civilization: in the Hymn to Aphrodite, the description of flowery pastures accompanies the irruption of Aphrodite’s wild power into the spaces that Anchises and his fellow shepherds have attempted to control. The indiscriminate mingling of flowers in the meadow of Hymn to Pan 25–26 echoes the disorderly nature of the god himself and encapsulates the wild disorder of his favorite haunts.
We turn now to the vegetation that the Odyssey depicts in its account of Odysseus’ return home to Ithaca. The descriptions of the lands of Odysseus’ travels, both those of the main narrator and those of Odysseus, are remarkable for their sensitive portrayals of vegetation. As with the descriptions of Pan’s haunts in the Hymn to Pan, the relevant passages from the Odyssey focus on wild growths, particularly those of flowers and trees, and on the absence of cultivation. And as in the Hymn to Pan, such features reflect the lack of civilized order in the places that are being described. The Lotus-Eaters, for instance, consume what Odysseus calls a “flowery food” (ἄνθινον εἶδαρ, 9.84) and a “honey-sweet fruit” (μελιηδέα καρπόν, 94), rather than the diet of an agricultural people. It is ironic that on arrival in their land Odysseus sends out scouts to determine “which men they are eating grain on the earth” (οἵ τινες ἀνέρες εἶεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες, 89). The Cyclopes for their part have neither laws nor assemblies; in keeping with their general avoidance of civilized institutions, they do not engage in the civilized practices of agriculture (108-115). [26] Nevertheless wheat, barley, and vines grow for them with the help of rain from Zeus (108-111). [27] An island facing their territory (often called Goat Island by critics) hosts abundant growths of wild plants: Odysseus observes poplars, vines, and well-watered meadows (132–133, 141). When he arrives on Aeaea, he spies Circe’s dwelling “through thick brush and woodland” (διὰ δρυμὰ πυκνὰ καὶ ὔλην, 10.150). And there are no agricultural fields on Circe’s island. [28]
Of all the wild lands of Odysseus’ travels the vegetation of Ogygia, the island of Calypso, is described in the most detail. And as with the other lands that he visits, the wild vegetation of Ogygia is indicative of an absence of civilization. But in order to see this, we need to distinguish between mortal and immortal perspectives on the island. While a god might associate the island with cosmic order and experience simple joy at the island’s vegetal abundance, for Odysseus it is an isolated land far from the civilized environment of Ithaca.
Such distinctions in perspective are first introduced at 1.45–62. We have already noted that the image of “the navel of the sea” (ὀμφαλός … θαλάσσης, 1.50) associates Ogygia with cosmic order. But this image, in fact, derives from a speech of Athena at a council of the gods, and the possibility arises that such an interpretation is valid only from their perspective; from Odysseus’ point of view the notion of “the navel of the sea” might have altogether different associations. And indeed Athena herself is at pains also to advertise Odysseus’ particular perspective to her divine addressees. Immediately before she mentions “the navel of the sea” she describes the pain that Odysseus is experiencing “far from his friends” (δηθὰ φίλων ἄπο, 49); soon afterwards (57–59) she describes his longing for home. The image of “the navel of the sea” would normally suggest the notion of cosmic stability to the gods, but Athena invites them also to see it from Odysseus’ perspective, as an image of isolation: for him the island is surrounded by the sea like a boss (ὀμφαλός) in the middle of a shield. [29] Stranded on Ogygia, the wretched Odysseus is as far from home as he will ever be.
Similarly, Hermes’ reaction to Calypso’s island in Book 5 contrasts with the feelings attributed to Odysseus soon afterwards. Upon Hermes’ arrival on Ogygia, considerable emphasis is placed on the island’s wild vegetation, which is allotted eleven lines in the narrative (63–73). A flourishing forest (ὕλη … τηλεθόωσα, 63) of alder, poplar, and cypress (64) surrounds the goddess’ cave; [30] a young vine burgeoning with grapes stretches around it (ἡμερὶς ἡβώωσα, τεθήλει δὲ σταφυλῇσι, 69). And as in the description of Pan’s haunts in the Hymn to Pan, the passage concludes with an allusion to flowery meadows: ἀμφὶ δὲ λειμῶνες μαλακοὶ ἴου ἠδὲ σελίνου / θήλεον· (“all around soft meadows of violet and celery / were flourishing,” Odyssey 5.72–73). With the exception of the vine, none of the plants in this description would have been found in the orderly plantations familiar to early audiences from their own settlements or from the fields surrounding them. The trees, like the oaks in the Hesiodic image of the Just City, are not the kinds of species that ancient listeners would have seen in the managed spaces of orchards. And the abundant flowers would have called to mind the meadows of the Greek world—wild spaces whose luxuriant growth required no human tendance.
Hermes wonders at this flourishing vegetation (θηεῖτο, 75), and such a reaction appears to have purely positive connotations in this context. In other passages of Homeric poetry, the experience of wonderment, θαῦμα, encompasses feelings of awe or even trepidation: it is the sort of awed wonder that mortals feel before the divine. [31] But here it is associated with the feelings of a god and with simple joy: “even an immortal, if he came and saw it, would wonder and rejoice in his mind” (ἔνθα κ’ ἔπειτα καὶ ἀθάνατός περ ἐπελθὼν / θηήσαιτο ἰδὼν καὶ τερφθείη φρεσὶν ᾗσιν, 73–74). [32]
The description of Odysseus soon afterwards creates a clear contrast with this depiction of Hermes’ positive reaction to Calypso’s vegetation: Odysseus sits on the seashore, weeping and looking out at the sea (82–84). His grief is said to arise from two sources—his disenchantment with Calypso and his longing for Ithaca. As we learn from line 153, where Odysseus’ emotions are once more described, his life was wasting away “as he mourned for his return, since the nymph was no longer pleasing to him” (νόστον ὀδυρομένῳ, ἐπεὶ οὐκέτι ἥνδανε νύμφῳ, 153).
But audiences would have seen that Odysseus is also disillusioned with Calypso’s wondrous surroundings. The narrative of Odyssey 5 offers a number of reasons to arrive at such a conclusion. Firstly, it associates Calypso, the nymph who “no longer pleased” Odysseus, with her environs. The long description of her island (53–73) positions her in the midst of her vegetation: she sings in her cave, and her cave is surrounded by forests and meadows (ἀμφί, 63, 72). [33] Secondly, on the basis of passages such as Hymn 7.38–42, where Dionysus inspires the growth of vines and ivy, listeners are likely to have inferred a still closer connection between Calypso and her vegetation: her divine presence inspires its growth. [34] Thirdly, there is a clear contrast not only between the emotions of Hermes and Odysseus, but also between the positioning of their bodies relative to Calypso and her surroundings. While Hermes gazes at Calypso’s vegetation, Odysseus, by settling himself on the shore and looking out to sea, turns away both from Calypso and from the abundant flowers and trees that grow around her cave. [35]
Fourthly, audiences familiar with Homeric descriptions of heroes’ homelands would have sensed a connection between Odysseus’ pining for Ithaca and his rejection of Calypso and of her island: Ogygia is an uncivilized land, unfit to be the home of a civilized individual such as Odysseus. It is not that Calypso utterly lacks the trappings of civilization. She is, for instance, described as singing and weaving when Hermes arrives on the island. She is also able to offer Odysseus mortal food (196–197), and when he leaves she provides clothing and provisions (264–267). [36] Nevertheless her living in a cave is hardly indicative of civilization. As Hymn 20 makes clear, such was the state of mankind before the kindly teachings of Hephaestus god of craftsmanship: they lived in mountain caves “like beasts” (ἠΰτε θῆρες, 4). [37]
Other aspects of her island likewise point to a lack of civilization and to its undesirability from the perspective of a mortal such as Odysseus. As we learn from Hermes at 5.100–102, it is far from the cities of mankind. Hermes expresses this notion from a god’s point of view: Calypso’s island is distant from “mortals who perform sacrifices and choice hecatombs for the gods” (βροτῶν … οἵ τε θεοῖσιν / ἱερά τε ῥέζουσι καὶ ἐξαίτους ἑκατόμβας, 5.101–102). Hermes thus explains his own reluctance to travel to Ogygia—a god can derive no benefits from visiting, since there is no one there who might offer a sacrifice. [38] But Hermes’ words also remind us of the undesirability of Ogygia from the point of view of a mortal such as Odysseus: it is far from the rites of civilization, from the sorts of practices that are important to the self-definition of mortals (cf. βροτῶν, 101). The implications of Hermes’ words, then, echo those of Athena’s speech in Book 1, where she emphasizes the isolation of Ogygia: this is a land cut off from civilization and is hence no sort of homeland for Odysseus. [39]
What is more, the flowery meadows and wild, super-abundant vegetal growths of Calypso’s island would in no way have reminded Odysseus of his homeland. [40] As we shall see, Ithaca is a land of ordered plantations of domesticated trees, whose vegetation forms a clear contrast with that of Ogygia. In fact, the wild, superabundant growths of Calypso’s island represent the furthest point—in both spatial and qualitative terms—from the civilized plantations of Ithaca. A land that represents a kind of Golden Age paradise from the perspective of a god such as Hermes would carry much less pleasant connotations for Odysseus. [41]

Homeric Vegetal Imagery and Descriptions of Civilized Spaces

We turn now to Homeric vegetal imagery that, in clear contrast with the wild flowers and trees discussed above, is associated with civilized order and, in particular, with the good order ensured by patriarchal social structures. Most of these images fall into one of two categories: they either describe cereal crops and the labor required to maintain them, or they focus on managed arboreal growths. As we shall see, both of these kinds of image are present in the Iliad, which does not associate one more closely than the other with civilized order. The Odyssey, however, does in fact distinguish between them. While some passages of the Odyssey associate agriculture with civilization, the poem places particular emphasis on managed growths of trees, especially on those associated with the orderly spaces of orchards.
The Iliad associates both agricultural and arboricultural labor with patriarchal social structures and patriarchal authority. [42] At 11.67–71, for instance, the Trojans and Achaeans, as they attack one another, are compared with reapers who work opposite one another “in the field of a blessed man” (ἀνδρὸς μάκαρος κατ’ ἄρουραν, 68). This brief phrase evokes both the orderly spaces of agriculture and a hierarchical, patriarchal society—a peacetime equivalent of the hierarchical social structures depicted on the Iliadic battlefield and in Iliadic assembly scenes. A rich man owns the field and has sufficient resources to hire reapers to work it for him. The description of agricultural labor in this simile appears consonant with its allusions to a patriarchal societal order: in the context of the Homeric poems, both agriculture and patriarchy are redolent of civilization.
Such associations of societal order with agricultural labor are echoed on the shield of Achilles, crafted by Hephaestus at Iliad 18.478–608. [43] At 541–572 Hephaestus creates a series of agricultural scenes, including one that is set in the allotment of a king (τέμενος βασιλήϊον, 550). The relevant lines (550–560) offer a more extended description of the kinds of tasks and societal structures depicted in the simile that we have just discussed. There is a clear division of labor between the several workers. Reapers cut down the wheat; boys collect the wheat that they cut; other men bind it into sheaves. Meanwhile food is prepared for the laborers; but once more, different tasks have been assigned. Heralds have slaughtered an ox and are now preparing it; women are scattering barley. The king presides over the entire scene: βασιλεὺς δ’ ἐν τοῖσι σιωπῇ / σκῆπτρον ἔχων ἕστήκει ἐπ’ ὅγμου γηθόσυνος κῆρ (“the king, holding his scepter, was standing among them with a happy heart,” 556–557). These lines suggest both the hierarchical, patriarchal nature of the society that Hephaestus has depicted and its peaceful functioning. The king holds the scepter, a symbol of royal authority in the Homeric poems. He stands in silence, there being no need to give instructions, and feels joy at the good work that is being carried out on his behalf. [44]
The Iliad also associates royal authority with a second kind of managed vegetal growth—the managed trees found in orchards, which the epic mentions alongside agricultural fields on a number of occcasions. When Diomedes wishes to claim the authority to speak among the Achaean lords, he evokes his late father’s wheat-fields and orchards: ἅλις δέ οἱ ἦσαν ἄρουραι / πυροφόροι, πολλοὶ δὲ φυτῶν ἔσαν ὄρχατοι ἀμφίς (“he had sufficient wheat-bearing fields, and many were the orchards of trees all around,” Iliad 14.122-123). Elsewhere in the epic, orchards as well as agricultural fields are bestowed on kings and princes in recognition of their royal authority. Three times this concept is conveyed with the formula φυταλιῆς καὶ ἀρούρης, “of orchards and plowland”: the king of the Lycians grants Bellerophon his daughter’s hand, half his kingdom, and a fine allotment of orchards and plow-land (6.192-195); the same sorts of lands are granted to Sarpedon and to Glaucus (12.313–314), and might have been given to Aeneas, had he killed Achilles (20.184-186). [45]
Only one passage from the Iliad focuses on royal orchards without also mentioning agricultural fields. Achilles abducts Lycaon, son of Priam, from his father’s orchard (ἐκ πατρὸς ἀλωῆς, 21.36), where he was exploiting these growths of trees for a particular purpose: “he was cutting new branches from a fig tree with the sharp bronze, so that they might form the rails of a chariot” (ὁ δ’ ἐρινεὸν ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ / τάμνε νέους ὄρπηκας, ἵν’ ἅρματος ἄντυγες εἶεν, 37–38). The association of these orchards with Lycaon’s homeland and with the royal estate of Priam is highly reminiscent of the description of Laertes’ orchards in the Odyssey, which as we shall see are associated with Odysseus’ homecoming and with his patriarchal inheritance on Ithaca.
From this Iliadic evidence it would not be possible to conclude that agricultural fields or managed allotments of trees were associated more closely with civilized order and with the royal authority that guarantees such order—the Iliad does not rank these two kinds of vegetal growth in its allusions to orderly societies. The Odyssey, however, places greater emphasis on associations of orchards and arboricultural labor with civilized order than on equivalent associations of agricultural fields and agricultural labor: a series of images of managed trees accompanies Odysseus’ reintegration into the patriarchal society of Ithaca. We shall discuss the relevant evidence below, before considering in Chapter 6 what characteristics of agricultural and arboricultural growths in the environments familiar to early poets and audiences might have justified such differentiation in the Odyssey.
We get a first sense of the relative importance of agriculture in the Odyssey from the epic’s depictions of the uncivilized and civilized lands that Odysseus visits. There are few allusions to agriculture in the relevant passages. Of the descriptions of uncivilized lands mentioned above, only Odysseus’ narrative of the Cyclops episode bucks this trend. Odysseus notes that the Cyclopes do not engage in the civilized practices of agriculture—they neither plow nor sow (108-115). The nearby Goat Island is likewise “unsown and unplowed” (ἄσπαρτος καὶ ἀνήρατος, 123) and possesses flat land that could be ploughed (ἄροσις λείη, 134). The island, then, possesses resources that have not been exploited by the Cyclopes but that could be harnessed by a civilized individual such as Odysseus, who is familiar with the techniques of agriculture. [46] Otherwise, as we have seen, the uncivilized lands of Odysseus’ travels are defined in terms of their wild floral and arboreal growths, rather than the presence or absence of agriculture.
The Odyssey’s depictions of more civilized lands—Ithaca and Scheria, land of the Phaeacians—allude to agriculture, but place greater emphasis on orderly plantations of trees. In three out of four cases, these plantations are defined by enclosures, and in two out of four cases they are associated with human labor. We should firstly consider the descriptions of Scheria, since it is not only Odysseus’ last stopping-off point before reaching Ithaca, but also forms a thematic point of transition between the uncivilized lands mentioned above and the Ithacan environments that we shall discuss below. Scheria is a land with many of the trappings of civilization—a royal court, athletic games, religious rites, fine clothes, guest-gifts, feasting, and epic song. Nevertheless, aspects of Phaeacian culture mark a clear departure from the characteristics of civilized lands such as Ithaca. For instance, while the Phaeacians are known for their seamanship, their ships have no helmsmen or rudders: they are able simply to read the minds of the sailors (8.555–562).
In its descriptions of Scheria, the poem dwells to a considerable extent on the vegetation near the city and the royal palace, and this vegetation, like the Phaeacian homeland more generally, carries both civilized and less civilized connotations. When the land of the Phaeacians is introduced at the start of Book 6, the poem mentions how Nausithous led them to this new homeland and there “divided agricultural fields” among his subjects (ἐδάσσατ’ ἀρούρας, 6.10). Later Nausicaa explains that she will lead Odysseus through “the fields and the works of mankind” (ἀγροὺς ἴομεν καὶ ἔργ’ ἀνθρώπων, 7.259). [47] As with the descriptions of Ithaca that we shall consider, then, some mention is made of the civilized practice of agriculture.
More emphasis is given, however, to the plantations near the Phaeacian palace. In the course of the descriptions of these plantations, clear contrasts are drawn between their more civilized and their less civilized characteristics. [48] They are bounded by a wall (ἕρκος) and hence occupy a space defined by human planners, unlike the wildernesses described in the Hymn to Pan or in Odyssey 5: περὶ δ’ ἕρκος ἐλήλαται ἀμφοτέρωθεν (“a wall has been driven around it on both sides,” 7.113). We shall observe similar references to enclosures in the descriptions of Ithaca later in the Odyssey. There are also a few allusions in this passage to the sorts of human labor needed to maintain civilized plots of land. People gather and tread grapes (7.124-125). Perhaps workers are also employed to keep the plantations tidy: the vegetable beds are κοσμηταί, “ordered” (127). In these respects the Phaeacian plantations suggest a greater degree of civilization than the wild lands of Odysseus’ travels. These are not merely wild growths but have been tamed to some degree by human hands.
And yet in other ways these plantations depart markedly both from the managed growths of Ithaca, which we shall discuss below, and from the managed growths with which audiences would have been familiar from their own communities. No human tendance is required to nurture these plants, since they grow automatically and throughout the year. The garden beds, for instance, “burgeon unfailingly” (ἐπηετανὸν γανόωσαι, 128). In the description of the orchards, which forms the greater part of the depiction of the Phaeacian plantations (112-121), particular emphasis is placed on such impressive qualities. Rather than following the cycles of nature, the fruit ripens all year round (117-118); and this is not the result of any human tendance but of the West Wind (118-119):
          ἔκτοσθεν δ’ αὐλῆς μέγας ὄρχατος ἄγχι θυράων
          τετράγυος· περὶ δ’ ἕρκος ἐλήλαται ἀμφοτέρωθεν.
          ἔνθα δὲ δένδρεα μακρὰ πεφύκασι τηλεθόωντα,
115    ὄγχναι καὶ ῥοιαὶ καὶ μηλέαι ἀγλαόκαρποι
          συκέαι τε γλυκεραὶ καὶ ἐλαῖαι τηλεθόωσαι.
          τάων οὔ ποτε καρπὸς ἀπόλλυται οὐδ’ ἀπολείπει
          χείματος οὐδὲ θέρευς, ἐπετήσιος· ἀλλὰ μάλ’ αἰεί
          Ζεφυρίη πνείουσα τὰ μὲν φύει, ἄλλα δὲ πέσσει.
120    ὄγχνη ἐπ’ ὄγχνῃ γηράσκει, μῆλον δ’ ἐπὶ μήλῳ,
          αὐτὰρ ἐπὶ σταφυλῇ σταφυλή, σῦκον δ’ ἐπὶ σύκῳ.
Odyssey 7.112-121
          Outside the courtyard and near the gates was a great orchard
          Of four guai; a wall has been driven around it on both sides;
          There tall, flourishing trees have grown,
115    Pears and pomegranates and apples with shining fruit,
          Sweet figs and flourishing olives.
          Of these the fruit never perishes nor fails,
          Neither in winter nor summer—it is there throughout the year; but the West Wind
          Always blows, growing some and ripening others.
120    Pear on pear matures, apple on apple,
          And grape on grape, fig on fig.
At first sight Odysseus seems to have encountered a kind of paradise—an allotment that gives of its bounty whether or not it is managed by human hands. And his reaction in lines 133–134 appears entirely positive, in clear contrast with his distress on Calypso’s island: he wonders at these plantations. [49] In fact, his emotions echo those of Hermes on Ogygia, with the same phrases used of both characters: “standing there [Hermes, Odysseus] wondered. / But when he had wondered at all these things in his heart …” (ἔνθα στὰς θηεῖτο ... / αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ δὴ πάντα ἑῷ θηήσατο θυμῷ, 5.75–76, 7.133–134).
Nevertheless, Odysseus chooses not to stay in Scheria. And we can start to understand why the sight of these plantations might be less than satisfying to him when we compare them with the orchards of Odyssey 24, which we shall consider below. True, the pears, pomegranates, apples, figs, and olives of 7.112–121 anticipate Laertes’ own pear-, apple-, and fig-trees (24.340–341). But while Laertes tends his orchards, the Phaeacian plantations are not subject to human tendance in the same way and to the same degree. [50] The fact that the Phaeacian orchards bear fruit automatically and unceasingly differentiates them from the orderly plantations of Ithaca. [51]
In this respect, they bear a closer resemblance to landscapes that the Odyssey associates with the divine. Indeed, the lack of influence of the seasons in these plantations reminds us of a description of Olympus early in the Phaeacian episode: “it is neither shaken by winds nor ever wet with rain, nor does snow come near it” (οὔτ’ ἀνέμοισι τινάσσεται οὔτε ποτ’ ὄμβρῳ / δεύεται οὔτε χιὼν ἐπιπίλναται, 6.43–44). There is a still greater resemblance between the Phaeacian orchard and the Islands of the Blessed, described at 4.565–569. On these islands, the West Wind is likewise a beneficial influence and, while there are seasons, they have little impact on the inhabitants. The wind cools the fortunate mortals who live there, and there is “neither snow nor much winter nor ever rain” (οὐ νιφετός, οὔτ’ ἂρ χειμὼν πολὺς οὔτε ποτ’ ὄμβρος). Menelaus is to enjoy “the easiest life for mortals” because he is the son-in-law of Zeus. The Phaeacian orchards, with their lack of human management and their growth under the influence of the West Wind, likewise carry associations with the divine: they are said to be the “glorious gifts of the gods” (θεῶν … ἀγλαὰ δῶρα, 132). [52]
Odysseus’ reaction of wonder at 7.133-134 is entirely appropriate to plantations that resemble such divine landscapes: as mentioned above, it is the sort of reaction that humans experience in the face of the divine. But while for a god such as Hermes feelings of wonder would have purely positive connotations, for a mortal they carry with them a sense of awe or even dread at the more-than-human. [53] Odysseus’ wonderment at these semi-divine growths is, then, quite consistent with his decision not to stay in Scheria. Given their automatic flourishing, there is something unheimlich about these plantations. The vegetation of Phaeacia, then, represents a greater degree of civilization than the wild lands of Odysseus’ travels; but it falls short of the carefully managed growths of his homeland.
As with the depiction of Scheria, greater emphasis is placed on orchards than on agricultural fields in the descriptions of Ithaca in the second half of the Odyssey. Granted, the relevant passages make some mention of agriculture. At 13.244–247, for instance, Athena lists the natural resources of Ithaca, the civilized land to which Odysseus has been striving to return. Among other things she mentions its “wondrous grain” (σῖτος ἀθέσφατος, 244). And at 18.366–375, the disguised Odysseus boasts to Eurymachus of his own excellence at reaping and plowing. But in the final part of the epic, during the course of which Odysseus regains his place in Ithacan society, considerable emphasis is placed on arboreal imagery. [54]
In the last five books of the Odyssey we find a series of images of orderly, flourishing trees, culminating with the managed growths of Laertes’ orchards. The images in question not only distinguish Odysseus’ homeland from the lands of his travels but also accompany his resumption of his place at the head of Ithacan society—as in the Iliad, good order in society is closely associated with the patriarchal rule of kings such as Odysseus. We can, then, observe a development in the Odyssey from images of wild growths to images of ordered trees and from an absence of civilization to the good order of Ithaca. While the wild floral and arboreal growths of Ogygia or of the lands described in Books 9-12 suggest the lack of civilization in such places, and the orderly but automatic growths found in the Phaeacian plantations place Scheria between civilization and its opposite, the flourishing trees of Odyssey 19–24 provide an image for the civilized, patriarchal society of Ithaca, re-established or soon to be re-established by Odysseus’ return. [55]
We have already mentioned one of the arboreal images from the latter books of the Odyssey. At 19.108-114, Odysseus, still in his beggar disguise, compares Penelope’s fame to that of a Just King who inspires flourishing in trees, crops, and animals alike, and whose people excel. I quote the passage for the second time, for ease of reference:
                          ἦ γάρ σευ κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἱκάνει,
          ὥς τέ τευ ἢ βασιλῆος ἀμύμονος, ὅς τε θεουδὴς
110    ἀνδράσιν ἐν πολλοῖσιν καὶ ἰφθίμοισιν ἀνάσσων
          εὐδικίας ἀνέχῃσι, φέρῃσι δὲ γαῖα μέλαινα
          πυροὺς καὶ κριθάς, βρίθῃσι δὲ δένδρεα καρπῷ,
          τίκτῃ δ’ ἔμπεδα μῆλα, θάλασσα δὲ παρέχῃ ἰχθῦς
          ἐξ εὐηγεσίης, ἀρετῶσι δὲ λαοὶ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.
Odyssey 19.108-114
                          Your fame reaches the wide heaven,
          As that of some excellent, god-fearing king,
110    Who among many men upholds justice,
          Ruling mighty subjects, and the black earth bears
          Wheat and barley, and the trees burgeon with fruit,
          And the flocks constantly bear young; through his good leadership
          The sea provides fish, and the people excel under him.
The allusions to animal and vegetal flourishing in these lines would have helped audiences to imagine the human well-being that results from the beneficial rule of a just king. The king’s citizens will abound in excellences like plants at the peak of health. The Homeric poets thus referenced more concrete concepts associated with the natural environment—the flourishing of animals and plants—to aid their audiences’ understanding of a more abstract kind of well-being.
Odysseus’ simile refers not only to flourishing but also to patriarchal rule. The association of this image with a woman might seem at first sight to run counter to the notion of patriarchal rule embodied by the Just King. Penelope, however, in her reply to her disguised husband distances herself from the figure of the Just King and emphasizes the need for Odysseus’ presence on Ithaca. She describes the withering of her body and of her beauty in the absence of her husband (124-126) and states that “if he came and cared for my life, / my fame would thus be greater and more beautiful” (εἰ κεῖνος γ’ ἐλθὼν τὸν ἐμὸν βίον ἀμφιπολεύοι, / μεῖζον κε κλέος εἴη ἐμὸν καὶ κάλλιον οὕτω, 127-128). [56] Odysseus has just compared her with a ruler who causes his people, animals, and plants to flourish, but she claims in these lines that she would be more deserving of such fame if he were present.
And one can see her point. The depredations of the suitors have had a severe impact on the livestock of the island: the flocks (μῆλα) of Ithaca are not flourishing like those of the Just King (19.113), but will have to be restored by Odysseus (23.356–358). Penelope has succeeded, as we shall see, in maintaining the rootedness of their marriage, symbolized by the olive-tree bed in their bedchamber. But while the trees of Ithaca do, indeed, “burgeon with fruit” (19.112), this, as explained below, is the result of Laertes’ labor, not Penelope’s. Penelope, then, quite reasonably points out that she is unable on her own, in the absence of Odysseus, to ensure that the kingdom will flourish in the manner described in the simile. That sort of flourishing can only be actualized if Odysseus’ rule is re-established on Ithaca. [57]
But there is one thing about this passage that remains unclear, and it is of relevance to our analysis of the associations of trees in the Odyssey. As noted above, the trees described in line 112 are the sort of fruit trees we would find in orchards—civilized spaces under the control of human societies. Audiences, however, when they heard Odysseus’ image of flourishing fruit trees, had the choice of imagining two different kinds of planatation. They might have remembered the descriptions of the anomalous, automatic growths of Scheria from Book 7 (or from other, similar passages of Homeric poetry), which bear fruit without the need for human labor. Alternatively, they might have associated the fruit trees of 19.112 with the carefully managed growths that they would have known from their own homelands. But the lines quoted above refer explicitly neither to the management of trees nor to automatic growths. In this way, the image of the Just King helps to form a bridge between the preternatural orchards of Scheria, which produce fruit without the need for human intervention, and the trees of Ithaca, which must be carefully managed by human hands: the trees in our passage from Book 19 represent a neutral term between these two extremes, and they could be assimilated to either in the minds of listeners.
The two most important stages in Odysseus’ bid to regain his place in Ithacan society, the recognitions of him by his wife and his father, are both associated with images of managed trees. The first of the relevant passages is found in Book 23, where the marriage of Penelope and Odysseus is re-established. We noted in Chapter 2 that Penelope accepts Odysseus in the enhanced form that Athena has granted him, but that she hesitates before doing so. Odysseus overcomes her initial hesitation by describing the origins of their marital bed. Penelope has set him a test. She asks Eurycleia to set up their marriage bed outside the bedchamber, so that she may see if he is able to relate the secret of its construction (23.177-181). If this is truly Odysseus, he will be aware that the bed cannot be moved, since he himself built it around an olive-tree, still rooted in the ground.
Odysseus passes the test: he is able to describe both the tree itself and his own handiwork in fashioning the bed. Odysseus remembers that, before he made the bed, the olive-tree was growing “within a wall” (ἕρκος ἐντός, 23.190). It had been set off, then, within space demarcated for civilized usages. In this respect, it resembles the trees in the Phaeacian orchard, which are likewise surrounded by a wall (ἕρκος, 7.113). Next, Odysseus focuses on the olive’s healthful growth and strength: “a leafy thicket of olive grew … at its peak and flourishing; it was thick like a pillar” (θάμνος ἔφυ τανύφυλλος ἐλαίης … / ἀκμηνὸς θαλέθων· πάχετος δ’ ἦν ἠΰτε κίων, 23.190-191; cf. 195, 204). [58] He goes on to describe how he manipulated the tree as he constructed the bed. He cut off its leaves and prepared the trunk: he trimmed it, bored it and made it straight (23.195–201). This tree, rooted in the ground, formed the post (ἑρμῖν’, 198) of the bed as a whole. For this reason, Odysseus explains, it is impossible to move it (203–204).
We can work out some of the implications of this arresting image from its context in Odyssey 23 and from the fact that these lines are voiced by Odysseus: the description of the bed would have helped audiences to understand Odysseus’ hopes for his marriage with Penelope. As scholars have noted, Odysseus’ emphasis on the bed’s rootedness in the ground suggests his wish that their marriage has remained stable despite their twenty years apart. He wonders whether the bed is “still in place” (ἔτ’ ἔμπεδον, 203) and whether any man has moved it (203–204). Similarly, audiences could have inferred, he hopes that no man has intruded on their marriage. Such hopes are fulfilled by Penelope’s reaction in the subsequent lines, as she acknowledges the σήματ’ … ἔμπεδα (“constant signs,” 206) provided by Odysseus’ description of the bed: she embraces her husband (207–208) and makes clear that no other mortal, except for a single female attendant, knows the “clear signs … of our bed” (σήματ’ ἀριφραδέα … εὐνῆς ἡμετέρης, 23.225–226). [59]
And these allusions to stability in Odysseus’ and Penelope’s speeches also carry important implications for our understanding of Book 23 as a whole. Specifically, they counterbalance the unsettling notes introduced by the description of Odysseus’ appearance in lines 156-162. As noted in Chapter 2, Odysseus’ hyacinthine hair has deceptive qualities: Athena lends him the appearance of a young man in his prime. Moreover, we never hear that Odysseus is reunited with his wife in his regular, unenhanced form. But the allusions to stability in this scene emphasize the fact that their marriage has endured, even if Odysseus’ appearance is not quite what it seems.
We can also deduce the significance of references to labor in Odysseus’ speech, which have not tended to be the focus of scholarship on this scene. [60] If the bed represents Odysseus’ marriage with Penelope, then his work in fashioning it suggests the efforts on his part to craft their marriage (presumably matched by Penelope’s own efforts). Nevertheless, Odysseus has been absent these past twenty years. During that time, Penelope’s fidelity has forestalled a second, deleterious action on the part of another man, who might have “cut from under the stock of the olive” (ταμὼν ὕπο πυθμέν’ ἐλαίης, 204). While she may not have been able to inspire increase in the kingdom in the manner of the Just King, her fidelity to Odysseus has allowed their marriage to endure in his absence. She has ensured that the olive-tree bed and the marriage that it represented remained rooted in the ground.
The olive tree thus provides an image for Penelope’s preservation of their marriage, which is a prerequisite for Odysseus’ successful homecoming. And his recall of its construction marks an important stage in his re-assumption of his position in Ithacan society—the reconstitution of the marriage. The importance of the olive tree to Odysseus’ homecoming is reinforced when we observe its relationship with a passage in the following book. This second passage echoes elements of Odysseus’ description of the tree and is likewise associated with an important stage in his homecoming. The relevant lines depict managed trees growing within a plot defined by a wall, ἕρκος: at Odyssey 24.224 Dolius, his sons and some slaves are off collecting stones to form the “wall” ἕρκος, 24.224 of the orchard that is worked by Laertes. And Laertes’ orchard provides the setting for Odysseus’ reunion with his father and for the reconstitution of the patriarchal line on Ithaca. [61]
Just as Odysseus emphasizes the labor required to fashion his bed, the narrative of Book 24 dwells to a considerable extent on Laertes’ management of his orchard. His labor is emphasized the very first time that the orchard is mentioned: “Laertes himself had once gained possession [of it], since he had toiled greatly” (ὅν ῥά ποτ’ αὐτὸς / Λαέρτης κτεάτισσεν, ἐπεὶ μάλα πόλλ’ ἐμόγησεν, 24.206–207). Shortly afterwards Odysseus finds Laertes “digging around a tree” (λιστρεύοντα φυτόν, 227; φυτὸν ἀμφελάχαινε, 242). [62] And when Odysseus addresses him, he stresses the care that Laertes is taking in looking after his plants:
“ὦ γέρον, οὐκ ἀδαημονίη σ’ ἔχει ἀμφιπολεύειν
ὄρχατον, ἀλλ’ εὖ τοι κομιδὴ ἔχει, οὐδέ τι πάμπαν,
οὐ φυτόν, οὐ συκέη, οὐκ ἄμπελος, οὐ μὲν ἐλαίη,
οὐκ ὄγχνη, οὐ πρασιή τοι ἄνευ κομιδῆς κατὰ κῆπον…”
Odyssey 24.244–247
“Old man, you do not care for this plot
In ignorance, but your care for it is good, and not anything,
No tree, no fig, no vine, no olive,
No pear-tree, no garden-bed goes without care throughout the plantation …”
The importance of managed orchards (as opposed to any other type of vegetal growth) in this passage is underlined when we contrast it with descriptions of vegetation and/or agriculture elsewhere in the Odyssey. Firstly, the wild floral and arboreal growths of lands such as Ogygia provide a clear contrast with the ordered orchards of Ithaca: there are no flourishing fruit trees amid Calypso’s meadows. [63] What is more, even when Odysseus encounters orchards in Scheria, they lack a key characteristic of Laertes’ plantation: tendance by human hands. The figs, pears, and apples of Scheria (7.120–121) are matched by similar varieties in Laertes’ orchard. But while the trees of Scheria grow automatically, under the influence of the West Wind, the trees of Laertes’ orchard require the assiduous attention of their owner.
Nevertheless, there is something not quite right about the scene before Odysseus’ eyes, which can only be remedied by his reunion with Laertes. Odysseus continues:
          “ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω, σὺ δὲ μὴ χόλον ἔνθεο θυμῷ·
          αὐτόν σ’ οὐκ ἀγαθὴ κομιδὴ ἔχει, ἀλλ’ ἅμα γῆρας
250    λυγρὸν ἔχεις αὐχμεῖς τε κακῶς καὶ ἀεικέα ἕσσαι.
          οὐ μὲν ἀεργίης γε ἄναξ ἕνεκ’ οὔ σε κομίζει,
          οὐδέ τί τοι δούλειον ἐπιπρέπει εἰσοράασθαι
          εἶδος καὶ μέγεθος· βασιλῆι γὰρ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας.
          τοιούτῳ δὲ ἔοικας, ἐπεὶ λούσαιτο φάγοι τε,
255    εὑδέμεναι μαλακῶς· ἡ γὰρ δίκη ἐστὶ γερόντων … ”
Odyssey 24.248–255
          “But I will tell you this, and place no anger in your heart:
          No good care attends your own person, but you possess a grievous
250    Old age; and at the same time you are dirty and dressed in an unseemly fashion.
          Not for the sake of your idleness does your lord not care for you,
          And your appearance and size are impressive to look at,
          Not at all those of a slave; you seem like a king.
          You seem like the sort of man who should sleep softly,
255    Once he has washed and eaten; such is the right of old men … ”
Properly, then, Laertes’ care for the trees (κομιδή, 245, 247) should be matched by the care of his lord for Laertes’ own person (κομιδή, 249; κομίζει, 251). And in the context of this meeting of Odysseus and Laertes—that is, of the king of Ithaca and of his aging father—these references to a lord and to proper care in old age take on a particular relevance: Laertes’ care for the orchards should have been matched by Odysseus’ care of his father. Odysseus is the ἄναξ, “lord,” whose duty it was to care for Laertes. He owes this care for two reasons: Laertes has grown old (255) and he is a man of the royal family (253). In his absence, Odysseus has been unable to fulfill his duties; accordingly, Laertes has suffered neglect. [64] The problem caused by Odysseus’ absence is solved soon afterwards, when Odysseus reveals his identity to Laertes and the royal line of Ithaca is thereby restored. Presumably, Odysseus will now be able to ensure his father does not suffer neglect: Laertes’ labor will now be matched by Odysseus’ own care of Laertes.
The trees in Laertes’ orchards are crucial to the restoration of ties between royal father and royal son: Odysseus proves his identity not only by showing Laertes the scar that he sustained in a boar hunt (24.331–335; cf. 19.428–466), but also by demonstrating his knowledge of the trees. Odysseus describes how, as a child, Laertes led him through the orchard, naming and numbering the trees that were to be his:
          εἰ δ’ ἄγε τοι καὶ δένδρε’ ἐϋκτιμένην κατ’ ἀλωὴν
          εἴπω, ἅ μοί ποτ’ ἔδωκας, ἐγὼ δ’ ᾔτεόν σε ἕκαστα
          παιδνὸς ἐών, κατὰ κῆπον ἐπισπόμενος· διὰ δ’ αὐτῶν
          ἱκνεύμεσθα, σὺ δ’ ὠνόμοσας καὶ ἔειπες ἕκαστα.
340    ὄγχνας μοι δῶκας τρισκαίδεκα καὶ δέκα μηλέας,
          συκέας τεσσαράκοντ’·
Odyssey 24.336–341
          Come on, let me also tell you the trees throughout the well-built
          Orchard, which you once gave to me; still a child, I was asking you
          For each type, following you through the plantation; we were walking
          Through them, and you named and told me each kind.
340    You gave me thirteen pear-trees and ten apple-trees,
          Forty fig-trees.
These trees offer an image for the flourishing and endurance of the patriarchal line of Ithaca. As a gift from the old king to the young prince (cf. ποτ’ ἔδωκας … δῶκας, “you once gave … you gave,” 337–340), they constitute a part of the royal inheritance of Ithaca. This inheritance is reactivated through Odysseus’ remembrance of the conversation he once had with his father. [65] Moreover the fact that the trees have endured in this spot and continued to flourish suggests that, thanks to Laertes’ labor, the patriarchal line of Ithaca has remained stable and viable in Odysseus’ absence—even if Laertes lacked the resources (or the will) to care for his own person. [66] It is appropriate, then, that Laertes should regard the trees as σήματ’ … ἔμπεδα, “constant signs” (346). [67] Like the olive-tree bed, which likewise provides “constant signs” (σήματ’ … ἔμπεδα, 206), they provide an image for important constituents of Odysseus’ identity—his marriage with Penelope and his place in the royal line of Ithaca—and for their endurance in his absence. Much as Penelope’s efforts have ensured that their marriage remains rooted in the soil, Laertes’ labor has preserved the patriarchal inheritance of Ithaca.
And now that Odysseus has returned and the patriarchal line of Ithaca has been restored, his labor as king can ensure the well-being not only of family members such as Laertes and Penelope, but of the Ithacan people as a whole. The Just King in Odysseus’ own image in Book 19 ensures the flourishing of his people through his good leadership (εὐηγεσίη, 114): ἀρετῶσι δὲ λαοὶ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ (“the people excel under him,” 114). But we saw that Penelope disclaims the ability to inspire such flourishing in Odysseus’ absence. Now that he has returned and his rulership has been re-established, his labor can bring about such happy states of affairs. [68] As Tiresias predicts at 11.136-137 and as Odysseus recalls in conversation with Penelope at 23.283–284, Odysseus’ people will be blessed (ὄλβιοι).
We have, then, observed a progression from the wild lands of Odysseus’ travels to the managed vegetation of Ithaca, which is associated with his journey back to the civilization of Ithaca and his re-assumption of his place at the head of Ithacan soceity. Much as the lack of civilization on Ogygia contrasts with the good order of Scheria and Ithaca, the wild flowers and trees of Calypso’s island contrast with the orderly plantations of those more civilized lands. And we have traced a progression through three descriptions of trees in an enclosure (ἕρκος)—from the orchard of the Phaeacians, which requires no human tendance, through the managed olive tree of Book 23 to the orchards managed by Laertes in Book 24. In each case, Odysseus comes closer to the completion of his homecoming. The Phaeacian orchards more closely resemble the orderly allotments of Ithaca than any other vegetation that Odysseus encounters on his travels; Odysseus’ description of the olive-tree bed leads to his reunion with Penelope; and the royal orchard hosts his reunion with Laertes.
In this way, the Homeric poets offered images drawn from the natural environment to help their audiences understand the abstract concepts of civilization and its opposite. Uncivilized places were like the wild growths that they would have seen beyond the bounds of settlements, fields, and plantations. The orderliness of civilized societies could be imagined in terms of the orderly vegetation that they would have seen in orchards. As in those plantations, however, constant labor was required to maintain their good order.
But there are still aspects of such vegetal imagery and, indeed, of the cosmic imagery discussed in Chapter 4 that we have yet to explain. As noted above, the Odyssey makes comparatively little mention of fields of cereal crops in its definitions of civilized and uncivilized spaces. We need to consider why the Odyssey poets might have focused on the managed growths of trees to convey the notion of civilized spaces, rather than on the agricultural fields that would also have been familiar to early audiences. And we have yet to explain why, in the Homeric imagery of cosmic order, flowers should be imagined as antithetical to the growth of trees. I shall address these questions in the following chapter, where I consider the relationship of such images with beliefs about the modes of reproduction of flowers, trees, and cereal crops.


[ back ] 1. Previous studies have tended to note only similarities between these two sets of Homeric arboreal images. Nagler (1996), for instance, argues for an equivalence between the bedpost and pillar in Odysseus’ house and the images of pillars and trees associated with goddesses such as Calypso (for the latter see Chapter 4 above), which in his opinion are associated with the structure of the cosmos. For such equivalences, see also Evans 1901 and Bakker 2001.
[ back ] 2. West 1978 ad loc.
[ back ] 3. Most 2006:107.
[ back ] 4. Theophrastus develops such ideas in combination with the Aristotelian notions of the teleological development and division into parts of living animals. When plants grow, bloom, and bear fruit, they have reached the peak of excellence and beauty: Βλαστάνοντα γὰρ καὶ θάλλοντα καὶ καρπὸν ἔχοντα πάντα καλλίω καὶ τελειότερα καὶ δοκεῖ καὶ ἔστιν (“When sprouting, flourishing and in possession of fruit all things appear and are more beautiful and more perfect,” Historia Plantarum 1.1.2).
[ back ] 5. The only possible parallel for associations of flowers and civic disorder in extant Hesiodic poetry is offered by the description of the winds that blow from the prone Typhoeus “throughout the boundless, flowery earth”: κατὰ γαῖαν ἀπείριτον ἀνθεμόεσσαν (Theogony 878). These winds throw agricultural lands into confusion: ἔργ’ ἐρατὰ φθείρουσι χαμαιγενέων ἀνθρώπων, / πιμπλεῖσαι κόνιός τε καὶ ἀργαλέου κολοσυρτοῦ (“they destroy the lovely fields of earth-dwelling men, / filling them with dust and grievous tumult,” Theogony 879–880). If we take the adjective ἀνθεμόεσσαν proleptically, it would be an indication of the disordered state of the earth after Typhoeus’ winds have passed over it. Alternatively, however, these lines could refer simply to the fertility of the earth, without any suggestion of disorder. For this image, see also Chapter 4 n2. A clearer parallel for Homeric associations of flowers and civic disorder is offered by Solon’s description of Εὐνομία, Good Order in the city, that “withers the flowers of delusion [ἄτη]” (fr. 3.35–36 West2). In marked contrast with the Hesiodic image of the Just City, which “flourishes” (ἀνθεῖ) as a result of righteous judgements, Solon here associates the root ἀνθο/ε- with those who pervert justice and thus threaten the functioning of the political community.
[ back ] 6. As West (1978 ad loc.) points out, the reference may be to children who resemble their fathers and are hence legitimate, or to children without deformities.
[ back ] 7. For further reflections on the similarities and differences between the Homeric image of the Just King and the Hesiodic description of the Just City, see Slatkin 1986:265–266.
[ back ] 8. See Chapter 3 above.
[ back ] 9. Cf. Segal 1974, Ory 1984, and Olson 2012 on Hymn to Aphrodite 68 and 122–124.
[ back ] 10. According to Faulkner (2008 on Hymn to Aphrodite 158–160), mention of the pelts at this point in the scene suggests Anchises’ momentary ascendancy over Aphrodite. See below for Anchises’ loss of control over the encounter when he sleeps with her.
[ back ] 11. For such liminal spaces and for their associations with herdsmen in Homeric poetry, see Redfield 1994:189–192.
[ back ] 12. Cf. the description of oaks in the mountains (οὔρεσι) at Works and Days 232, discussed above.
[ back ] 13. Manuscript M preserves another possible reference to flowers at line 175: the goddess is given the epithet ἰοστεφάνου, “violet crowned.” This adjective would contrast with her more regular epithet, ἐϋστέφανος, found both at the beginning of the hymn (line 6) and at the end (line 287). Faulkner (2008 ad loc.) tentatively adopts the reading of M on the principle of lectio difficilior, as do Càssola (1975) and van Eck (1978:63). If this reading is accepted, the change in the goddess’ epithets mirrors the change in Anchises’ pastures and thereby associates the goddess more directly with the new description of the pastures. For the Διὸς ἀπάτη, see Chapters 3 and 4 above.
[ back ] 14. Smith 1981:37: “Aphrodite is nature’s most powerful agent in the invasion of the settlements of men.”
[ back ] 15. The hymn survives in a version usually assigned to late archaic or early classical times: see Janko 1982:184–186, Borgeaud 1988:54. But scholars have shown that the hymn contains elements typical of Homeric poetry of the archaic period: Villarrubia 1997, Germany 2005, Thomas 2011:166–172. The similarities that we shall observe between the metaphorical systems of the hymn and those of Hymn to Aphrodite and the Odyssey support such arguments. This would not necessarily imply an early date for our version of the Hymn to Pan. But it would indicate that the hymn was composed by and prepared for people familiar with traditional Homeric diction, perhaps as part of an ongoing tradition of composition-in-performance: see Thomas 2011:169–170.
[ back ] 16. Likewise a phrase from the description of Pan’s haunts, ἀκροτάτην κορυφὴν μηλοσκόπον (“a very high peak, a lookout for sheep,” 11) alludes to pastoralism (Borgeaud 1988:61). But Pan is not said to look out for flocks; rather, he glares (δερκόμενος, 14) at the wild beasts that he hunts. Unlike Pan himself, his father Hermes engages in pastoralism: “he pastured flocks / beside a mortal man” (μῆλ’ ἐνόμευεν / ἀνδρὶ πάρα θνητῷ, 33).
[ back ] 17. Note also the hare’s pelt in which Hermes wraps the young Pan at line 43. For associations of Pan with civilized activities, see Cardete del Olmo 2016.
[ back ] 18. We see this, for instance, at Odyssey 1.153, where a herald hands a κίθαρις to the bard Phemius.
[ back ] 19. Moreover, if Borgeaud’s analysis (1988:74–89) is correct, Pan’s music is associated with a wild eroticism. Such an eroticism is more reminiscent of the depiction of Aphrodite than that of her lover Anchises in her Homeric Hymn.
[ back ] 20. On Pan’s associations both with disorder and with wild places, see Borgeaud 1988. See also Elliger 1975:162 on the correspondence in the hymn between Pan’s directionless wanderings and the “diffuseness” (“Diffusität”) of the elements that make up his landscape.
[ back ] 21. Such associations of the lexeme ἄκριτος are also operative on a cosmic level: as we saw in Chapter 4 above, Hera’s promise to resolve the “indiscriminate quarrels” (ἄκριτα νείκεα, Iliad 14.205, 304) of Oceanus and Tethys suggests a fantasy of returning the cosmos to a primal chaos. For the association of κρίνω with civilized order in early hexameter, cf. Theogony 535–536: ἐκρίνοντο θεοὶ θνητοί τ’ ἄνθρωποι / Μηκώνῃ (“gods and men were being distinguished / at Meconē). According to the scholium to Theogony 535, this statement, which introduces the description of Prometheus’ encounter with Zeus, alludes to the distinctions drawn between gods and men in the relevant episode: ἐκρίνετο τί θεὸς καὶ τί ἄνθρωπος ἐν τῇ Μηκώνῃ (“it was judged what was a god and what was a man at Meconē”; text from di Gregorio 1975:83). If Vernant (1974, 1989) and Clay (2003:100–118) are correct, the scholiast thus refers to the definitions of mortals and immortals that Prometheus establishes with his invention of sacrifice: men are allotted perishable meat, but the gods receive imperishable smoke.
[ back ] 22. West 2001, 2003. Flowers are not mentioned directly in the surviving fragments of the hymn, but at line 9 forests are described with the verb ἀνθέω, which is used to refer to wild floral growths elsewhere, as at Hymn to Apollo 139. For the semantics of ἀνθέω and for other Homeric instances of the verb, see the Appendix.
[ back ] 23. West 2001:2. For allusions to Orphic traditions in Homeric poetry, see the discussion of the Διὸς ἀπάτη in Chapter 4 above.
[ back ] 24. See Richardson 1974 on Hymn to Demeter 17.
[ back ] 25. On parallels between the meadows of Hymn to Pan and Hymn to Demeter, see Thomas 2011:158.
[ back ] 26. Cf. 9.191–192: Odysseus likens the Cyclops himself to “a wooded peak” (ῥίῳ ὑλήεντι), rather than to a “grain-eating man” (ἀνδρί … σιτοφάγῳ).
[ back ] 27. See also 9.357–358, where Polyphemus explains that “the grain-giving plow-land bears wine with many grapes for the Cyclopes, and Zeus’ rain increases it for them” (Κυκλώπεσσι φέρει ζείδωρος ἄρουρα / οἶνον ἐριστάφυλον, καί σφιν Διὸς ὄμβρος ἀέξει).
[ back ] 28. We shall study other uncivilized lands in Chapter 8 below, together with their vegetation: both the island of the Sirens and, surprisingly, the lightless land of the dead possess flowery meadows (11.539, 12.159); the Underworld also boasts fruit trees (10.509–510, 11.588–560).
[ back ] 29. Indeed, elsewhere in Homeric poetry the lexeme ὀμφαλός describes a nub in the middle of an object, whether a shield boss, a human navel, or a knob on a carriage (cf. Iliad 4.525, 11.34, 13.192, 568, 21.180, 24.273). On the basis of such usages, audiences would have imagined Calypso’s island as having the appearance of a nub of land surrounded by the sea (cf. νήσῳ ἐν ἀμφιρύτῃ, “on a sea-girt isle,” Odyssey 1.50)—much as a boss is a nub in the middle of a shield.
[ back ] 30. Cf. 1.51, where Athena describes Ogygia as νῆσος δενδρήεσσα (“a wooded island,” 1.51).
[ back ] 31. For associations of this lexeme with dread and the divine, see also Prier’s analysis (1989:84–97) of θαῦμα and related terms, and my discussion of reactions of wonder in the Phaeacian episode below.
[ back ] 32. The phrase “there, even an immortal if he came would wonder” (73–74) seems to anticipate the same reaction from both mortal and immortal visitors. Perhaps, then, a casual mortal visitor, who was not trapped on the island like Odysseus, might share Hermes’ joy. But there is no indication that any other mortal has ever visited Ogygia.
[ back ] 33. Calypso is once more associated with her surroundings at line 155: unwillingly, Odysseus lies with her at night “in her hollow caves” (ἐν σπέεσσι γλαφυροῖσι).
[ back ] 34. See Elliger 1975:128–131 and the discussion of Calypso’s vegetation in Chapter 6 below.
[ back ] 35. As de Jong puts it (2001 on Odyssey 5.76–91), “he literally turns his back on [Calypso] and her idyllic surroundings.” Moreover, if Odysseus is indeed disenchanted with Calypso’s vegetation, this would explain his choice of environs. He sits “on rocks and sand” (ἂμ πέτρῃσι καὶ ἠϊόνεσσι, 156), looking out “at the harvestless sea” (πόντον ἐπ’ ἀτρύγετον, 158; also 84). This standard epithet for the sea gains particular salience when juxtaposed with allusions to rocks and sand. Odysseus seems to have chosen the only infertile place on this wondrously fertile island. For the distinction between divine and mortal perspectives in these lines, see also Rinon 2008:51.
[ back ] 36. Calypso also supplies an ax and an adze, with which Odysseus fashions his raft (234–237).
[ back ] 37. The Cyclops’ cave (e.g., Odyssey 9.216) is likewise indicative of a lack of civilization.
[ back ] 38. We can contrast Hermes’ reluctance to visit Ogygia with Poseidon’s journey to the distant but fully inhabited land of Ethiopia, where he receives hecatombs (Odyssey 1.22–26).
[ back ] 39. For the remoteness of Calypso’s island, see also Odyssey 5.55 and 80.
[ back ] 40. The description of Calypso’s meadow of violets and celery at Odyssey 5.72 may also suggest that Odysseus’ stay on Ogygia, cut off from civilization, is a kind of death for him. In particular, celery was closely associated with death in wider Greek culture. It was used as a floral offering to the dead, and it also marked the houses of the recently deceased: see Erasmo 2012:6 and Garland 1985:116, 171. See also, in general, Zusanek 1996:114: celery was “eine allgemein verwendete Totenpflanze” in Greek lands. For further associations of flowery meadows and death in the Odyssey, see Chapter 8 below.
[ back ] 41. In fact, the Golden Age itself may have carried ambiguous connotations for a Greek audience. It is a time both of unstinting vegetal abundance, as on Calypso’s island, and of barbarous behavior: Cronus, who was then king of the gods, swallowed his own children; see Nieto Hernández 2000.
[ back ] 42. For the importance of agriculture to the value systems of the Homeric poems, see Redfield 1994:189–192, 2009:275–276; Vidal-Naquet 1996; H. P. Foley 2009:197–198.
[ back ] 43. Most other Iliadic similes that describe agricultural labor—of which there are many—do not explicitly allude to structured societies. For such similes, see also Chapter 8 n1.
[ back ] 44. The societies of Iliad 11.67–71 and 18.541–572, however, represent an ideal from which the incompetent leadership of Agamemnon departs: his quarrelling with a subordinate (Book 1), his unwise attempt to test his troops (Book 2), and his readiness to despair (Books 9 and 14) contrast with the orderly, patriarchal governance depicted in the simile and in the scene from the shield.
[ back ] 45. For the associations of the roots φυτο/ε- and ἀρο- in these and other passages, see Chapter 6 below.
[ back ] 46. Critics have associated Goat Island with the colonization of new lands in Ionia: see, for instance, Elliger 1975:143. Clay (1980), however, suggests that it used to be the home of the more civilized Phaeacians, who were the neighbors of the Cyclopes (Odyssey 6.4–6).
[ back ] 47. See also 7.26, where Odysseus professes ignorance of the men who “exploit the fields” (ἔργα νέμονται) of Scheria.
[ back ] 48. We find further indications of the ambiguous status of the vegetation of Scheria on Odysseus’ arrival. At line 5.463, the wild growths of reeds around the river are juxtaposed with the “grain-giving plowland” (ζείδωρον ἄρουραν) that Odysseus kisses on his arrival. See also Ahl and Roisman (1996:97, 100), who argue that the “half-wild and half-cultivated” olive under which Odysseus sleeps when he first arrives in Scheria (5.477) reflects the Phaeacians’ and (at that moment) Odysseus’ ambiguous status, caught between civilization and its opposite.
[ back ] 49. According to de Jong (2001:176), the scene as a whole is focalized by Odysseus.
[ back ] 50. Presumably human labor is required to collect all this produce; and perhaps workers would need to keep pests off the ever-ripening fruit. But such activities are mentioned nowhere in this passage. And the fact remains that the Phaeacian trees, unlike the plantations described in Odyssey 24, would produce fruit whether tended or not. By contrast, the description of orchards on Ithaca in Book 24 focuses on the hard work of Laertes.
[ back ] 51. For the contrasts between Laertes’ orchard and that of the Phaeacians, see Vidal-Naquet 1996:48.
[ back ] 52. On the themes of the human and the divine in the descriptions of the Phaeacian plantations and Laertes’ orchards, see also de Romilly 1993 and Bonnafé 1984–1987, 1:153–155. For the Phaeacians’ closeness to the gods, see also Odyssey 6.203 and 7.201–203.
[ back ] 53. Cf. Prier 1989:84–97 and Iliad 18.466–467, where Hephaestus predicts that mortals will feel wonderment before the Shield of Achilles, which is the product of his divine craftsmanship: οἱ τεύχεα καλὰ παρέσσεται, οἷά τις αὖτε / ἀνθρώπων πολέων θαυμάσσεται … (“he will have beautiful armor, such that any one / of the many mortals will wonder …”). The negative connotations of this wonderment are made clear at Iliad 19.14–15, when none of the Myrmidons can summon the courage to look at the shield.
[ back ] 54. Furthermore, in Books 23–24 Ithaca with its managed trees is set against an agricultural civilization that Odysseus will visit after the events of the Odyssey. At 11.121–128, Tiresias describes the journey that Odysseus must undertake in order to propitiate Poseidon, a prophecy that is repeated by Odysseus himself at 23.266–275, shortly before the description of Laertes’ orchards in Book 24. Odysseus will travel inland, carrying an oar, until he comes to a place where the inhabitants have no knowledge of the sea. They are, however, an agricultural people: they know of the use of winnowing-fans, for which the oar will be mistaken (274–275). This land forms the opposite pole to Ithaca in Odysseus’ second journey, and in Books 23–24 its association with agriculture creates a contrast with the ordered trees of Odysseus’ homeland.
[ back ] 55. On the importance of arboreal imagery to Odysseus’ νόστος, see in general Thalmann 1992:74 and Henderson 1997.
[ back ] 56. As we learn from Odyssey 20.88–90, Penelope imagines Odysseus returning as he was when he left for Troy as a younger man: see Chapter 2 and the discussion below.
[ back ] 57. See H. P. Foley 2009.
[ back ] 58. As we have seen, trees and pillars carry similar associations in Homeric poetry. The description of an olive tree “thick like a pillar” reinforces this sense of an equivalence between the two kinds of image. But in its immediate context the phrase also suggests the dual status of the tree: it is both a natural growth and an architectural feature, like a pillar.
[ back ] 59. Cf. 23.110, where Penelope refers to the hidden σήματα known only to her and Odysseus; also 19.250, where Penelope recognizes the “constant signs” (σήματ’ … ἔμπεδα) that seem to prove that “the beggar” once met Odysseus. On the bed as an image of the stability of Odysseus’ and Penelope’s marriage, see Murnaghan 1987:116, Arthur (Katz) 1991:178, Zeitlin 1995.
[ back ] 60. Minchin (2007:268–269) comments on this theme but not in connection with Odysseus’ and Penelope’s marriage: according to her, Odysseus’ description of his own labor suggests a man’s interest in technical details.
[ back ] 61. For the association of the olive-tree bed with Laertes’ orchards, see Henderson 1997:94, and Vernant and Frontisi-Ducroux 1997:284.
[ back ] 62. For the implications of the lexeme φυτόν, see Chapter 6 below.
[ back ] 63. See Zusanek 1996:108–109.
[ back ] 64. Achilles acknowledges a similar duty and similar regrets towards the end of the Iliad. At Iliad 24.540–541 he recognizes that he is unable to care for Peleus in his old age (οὐδέ νυ τόν γε / γηράσκοντα κομίζω, “nor may I care for him as he grows old”). Achilles, then, employs the lexeme κομίζω to refer to his duty of care to his father. Odysseus uses the same lexeme of the care that Laertes should have enjoyed (cf. Odyssey 24.249, 251).
[ back ] 65. See Arthur (Katz) 1991:178–179, who argues that Odysseus here reenacts the speech with which Laertes passed his inheritance to him many years previously and thus accepted him into the patriarchal lineage of Ithaca. Arthur links this speech of Odysseus with his description of the bed—both are performances of Odysseus’ identity. On the re-establishment of Odysseus as Laertes’ heir through his description of the trees, see also Whitman 1958:304–305.
[ back ] 66. Cf. Pucci 1996 and Henderson 1997. Pucci sees Laertes as hoping that Odysseus, fixed in the soil, will flourish along with his people, like the subjects of the Just King in Odyssey 19. Henderson argues that Laertes’ planting and tendance of trees is as one with his planting and tendance of the young Odysseus, and that his gift of trees to his son constitutes an attempt to anchor the boy in the Ithacan soil and in his paternal inheritance.
[ back ] 67. For these trees as “constant signs” (σήματ … ἔμπεδα), see Henderson 1997. According to him, the adjective suggests signs that are “well-grounded” like the trees themselves (p. 89).
[ back ] 68. Some versions of Odyssey 19.114 have ἐξ εὐεργεσίης (“through his good works”) in place of ἐξ εὐηγεσίης (“through his good leadership”): see Allen 1912–20 ad loc. Such versions associate the flourishing of the Just King’s realm directly with his labor; cf. 24.250, where Odysseus notes that Laertes’ squalid state is not the result of his idleness (ἀεργεσίη).