Brockliss, William. 2019. Homeric Imagery and the Natural Environment. Hellenic Studies Series 82. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_BrocklissW.Homeric_Imagery_and_the_Natural_Environment.2019.
4. Stable Trees and Sudden Blooms: Images of Continuity and Change in the Cosmos
Descriptions of Cosmic Order and Disorder in the Theogony
γῆς ῥίζαι πεφύασι καὶ ἀτρυγέτοιο θαλάσσης.
The roots of the earth and of the harvestless sea have grown.
This passage incorporates two images, both of which would have helped audiences to understand the structure of the cosmos. On the one hand the allusion to a “neck” imagines Tartarus, the lowest region of the Hesiodic cosmos, in terms of a jar or a body.  On the other hand, the image of roots explains the relationship of the earth and the sea with what lies beneath them. Archaic audiences would have been able to gain an appreciation of what is implied by the second image from their observation of roots in the natural environment, particularly the knotted roots of trees. As Martin West puts it, we should “perhaps imagin[e] the clear division between land and sea gradually disappearing in the underworld, as the two elements branch out in roots or veins that are inextricably intertwined with one another.”  Roots tangle with one another below ground but form distinct plants above the ground, just as land and sea are distinct on the earth but (in the Hesiodic conception) are confused with one another below it. 
ἀστεμφὲς ῥίζῃσι διηνεκέεσσιν ἀρηρώς,
Fixed unshakably on continuous roots,
The references in these lines to permanence and fixity (ἀστεμφὲς … ἀρηρώς) suggest one reason for the evocation of roots in the two passages—audiences were to conceive of the compartments of the Hesiodic universe as set in place immovably like plants on a root-stock. That the parts of the cosmos are somehow rooted offers an explanation for their stability in terms of a readily observable fact: the existence of roots below the earth that anchor plants in place. 
Images of Trees, Pillars, and Cosmic Order in Homeric Poetry
νῆσος δενδρήεσσα, θεὰ δ’ ἐν δώματα ναίει,
Ἄτλαντος θυγάτηρ ὀλοόφρονος, ὅς τε θαλάσσης
πάσης βένθεα οἶδεν, ἔχει δέ τε κίονας αὐτὸς
μακράς, αἳ γαῖάν τε καὶ οὐρανὸν ἀμφὶς ἔχουσι.
It is a wooded isle, and a goddess dwells there,
daughter of Atlas of the baleful mind, who knows
the depths of all the sea, and he himself holds the long
pillars, which keep apart the earth and heaven.
Homeric Floral and Arboreal Imagery: Change and Continuity in the Cosmos
ἔλλαχεν ὡς τὰ πρῶτα διάτριχα δασμὸς ἐτύχθη·
τοῖς μεταναιετάει τῶν ἔλλαχε κοίρανος εἶναι.
This honor when first the three-way division occurred;
He dwells with those whose king he is by lot.
Helios appears to be referring to the division of the world between Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, to which the latter alludes in Iliad 15, as he asserts his claim to the sea and to honors equal to those of Zeus: 
Ζεὺς καὶ ἐγώ, τρίτατος δ’ Ἀΐδης ἐνέροισιν ἀνάσσων·
τριχθὰ δὲ πάντα δέδασται, ἕκαστος δ’ ἔμμορε τιμῆς·
Zeus and I, and third Hades, lord of the dead;
All things have been divided in three, and each has a share of honor.
The events of Iliad 15 show that Poseidon’s claim of equality is tendentious: it seems he ultimately has no choice but to accept Zeus’ will. Yet his description of three realms and three broad spheres of influence is not challenged; and we can draw on it to understand Helios’ statement at Hymn to Demeter 85–87.
καλὸν ἄθυρμα λαβεῖν· χάνε δὲ χθὼν εὐρυάγυια
Νύσιον ἂμ’ πεδίον τῇ ὄρουσεν ἄναξ πολυδέγμων …
To seize the lovely toy; the earth of the wide ways gaped
Along the Nysian Plain where the lord who welcomes many rose up …
The speed with which these actions follow one another suggests that Korē’s plucking the flower directly precipitates Hades’ emergence from the land of the dead. The flower creates the necessary passageway for him to travel to the upper world.
κὦζ’ ἥδιστ’ ὀδμή, πᾶς δ’ οὐρανὸς εὐρὺς ὕπερθε
γαῖά τε πᾶσ’ ἐγέλασσε καὶ ἁλμυρὸν οἶδμα θαλάσσης.
And the sweetest smell arose, and all wide heaven above,
And all the earth and the salt swell of the sea laughed.
The narcissus grows from a root (ἀπὸ ῥίζης), i.e., from the realm of Hades below the ground; it blooms above the ground with a hundred heads (ἑκατὸν κάρα ἐξεπεφύκει); its sweet scent (κὦζ’ ἥδιστ’ ὀδμή) causes all heaven, the earth, and the sea to smile. These details suggest the change that has occurred in the relationships between the three realms of the cosmos. The very structure of the flower, which connects roots below the ground to blooms above it, mirrors the new connections that it creates between the upper and lower worlds. And the flower’s growth from beneath the ground suggests the new possibility of movement from the Underworld to the upper world. 
παντοδαποῖς θάλλει, τότ’ ἀπὸ ζόφου ἠερόεντος
αὖτις ἄνει μέγα θαῦμα θεοῖς θνητοῖς τ’ ἀνθρώποις.
Spr[ing] flowers, then again you will rise up
A great wonder to the gods and mortal men.
Korē will rise up like a flower, along with the other blooms of the earth. With this prediction Demeter associates her daughter’s annual re-birth with the annual re-appearance of flowers in the spring. Audiences were thus encouraged to imagine the puncturing of the barrier between the upper and lower worlds that is described in the hymn in terms of the blooming of spring flowers. The change to the cosmos was as great as the change from the winter landscape to that of the spring—a particularly sudden change in Greece.  Conversely, audiences would also have gained a new perspective on the blooms they saw every spring: these sudden irruptions into the Greek landscape reenacted and confirmed the original breach in the structure of the cosmos.
ὅν τε θεοὶ κατὰ δῶμα Διὸς τρομέουσιν ἰόντα·
καί ῥά τ’ ἀναΐσσουσιν ἐπὶ σχεδὸν ἐρχομένοιο
πάντες ἀφ’ ἑδράων, ὅτε φαίδιμα τόξα τιταίνει.
At whose entrance the gods tremble throughout the house of Zeus;
And they all leap up from their seats
As he comes close, when he draws his shining bow.
These opening lines set up the prospect of a violent challenge from the god. And since the action occurs specifically in “the house of Zeus,” they suggest the possibility of a challenge to Zeus’ authority. 
ἥ ῥα βιόν τ’ ἐχάλασσε καὶ ἐκλήϊσε φαρέτρην,
καί οἱ ἀπ’ ἰφθίμων ὤμων χείρεσσιν ἑλοῦσα
τόξον ἀνεκρέμασε πρὸς κίονα πατρὸς ἑοῖο
πασσάλου ἐκ χρυσέου· τὸν δ’ εἰς θρόνον εἷσεν ἄγουσα.
10 τῷ δ’ ἄρα νέκταρ ἔδωκε πατὴρ δέπαϊ χρυσείῳ
δεικνύμενος φίλον υἱόν, ἔπειτα δὲ δαίμονες ἄλλοι
ἔνθα καθίζουσιν· χαίρει δέ τε πότνια Λητώ,
οὕνεκα τοξοφόρον καὶ καρτερὸν υἱὸν ἔτικτεν.
She slackened [Apollo’s] bow and closed his quiver,
And taking his weapon from his mighty shoulders
With her hands she hung it on the pillar of his father
From a golden peg; and leading him she sat him down on a chair.
10 Father Zeus gave Apollo nectar in a golden cup,
And offered a pledge to his dear son; then the other gods
Resume their seats; lady Leto rejoices,
Because she bore a bow-wielding, mighty son.
While the other gods are alarmed and quite literally forced from their proper places, Zeus is unperturbed by Apollo’s arrival. The calmness also of Leto, the only other god to keep her composure, associates her with Zeus and shows her confidence that her son does not, in fact, intend to attack Zeus and the other gods. And Apollo’s menace is finally dissipated when Leto takes his bow and hangs it on a pillar of Zeus’ house (8).
Ϲ βεβρίθει καθορῶσα Διὸς Λητοῦς τε γενέθλην,
Ϲ γηθοσύνῃ ὅτι μιν θεὸς εἵλετο οἰκία θέσθαι
Ϲ νήσων ἠπείρου τε, φίλησε δὲ κηρόθι μάλλον.
• ἤνθησ’ ὡς ὅτε τε ῥίον οὔρεος ἄνθεσιν ὕλης. 
Was burgeoning as it saw the offspring of Zeus and Leto,
In its joy that the god chose it of the islands and mainland
To make his home, and that in his heart he liked it more.
It bloomed as a mountain headland blooms with flowers of the forest.
As scholars have noted, the description of these golden blooms marks the island’s response to Apollo’s divine presence—much as, for instance, the floral growths of Odyssey 5 or the Hymn to Pan respond to the presence of Calypso and Pan (see Chapters 5 and 6 below).  But more remains to be said about this floral image. In particular, we need to take into account its interactions with the natural environments familiar to early audiences and with the hymn’s depiction of change and continuity. We have already seen how the hymn’s descriptions of the date-palm respond to characteristics of the Delian natural environment and interact with allusions in the hymn to the barrenness of Delos. Likewise, in order to get a full understanding of the floral imagery from lines 135–139 we need to consider its relationship with the other vegetation of the hymn and with the Delian landscapes that would have been familiar to early audiences. Unlike the descriptions of flowers in Odyssey 5 and Hymn to Pan, which portray them as constant features of the landscapes inhabited by Calypso and Pan (Chapter 5 below), Hymn to Apollo 135–139 places emphasis on the change that has occurred in the Delian flora. What is more, when we consider the relationship of the golden flowers with their immediate context and with the wider themes of the Delian half of the hymn, it becomes clear that this floral image echoes and reinforces the idea of the significant changes to the Olympian order threatened or actualized by the coming of Apollo.
ὃς ῥα κασιγνήτην ὁμομήτορα Τηθὺν ὄπυιεν.
He who wedded Tethys, offspring of the same mother.
What is more, as Richard Janko points out, the reference at Iliad 14.205 and 305 to the “indiscriminate quarrels” (ἄκριτα νείκεα) of these primordial gods suggests a first stage in a theogony. Such a theogony imagines the original chaotic state of the cosmos in anthropomorphic terms, as a quarrel between two lovers. The introduction of order to the cosmos is then conceptualized as the separation of the squabbling lovers. Perhaps, then, if Hera were somehow able to reconcile these primordial parents, she would return the cosmos to its primeval, undifferentiated state. 
εἰς ἐλάτην ἀναβὰς περιμήκετον, ἣ τότ’ ἐν Ἴδῃ
μακροτάτη πεφυυῖα δι’ ἠέρος αἰθέρ’ ἵκανεν·
ἔνθ’ ἧστ’ ὄζοισιν πεπυκασμένος εἰλατίνοισιν …
Having climbed onto an exceedingly high pine, which then on Ida
Had grown very tall and reached the clear air through the mists; 
There he sat, hidden by the pine branches …
τοῖσι δ’ ὑπὸ χθὼν δῖα φύεν νεοθηλέα ποίην,
λωτόν θ’ ἑρσήεντα ἰδὲ κρόκον ἠδ’ ὑάκινθον
πυκνὸν καὶ μαλακόν, ὃς ἀπὸ χθονὸς ὑψόσ’ ἔεργε.
And the bright earth was sending up fresh grass under them,
Dewy lotus, saffron and hyacinth,
Thick and soft, which kept them on high, away from the ground.
On one level, this floral imagery reflects the erotic themes explored in Iliad 14. While the floral images that we discussed in Chapter 2 are associated with erotic bodies prepared for seduction and deception, the imagery of Iliad 14.346–349 marks the climax of a story of seduction and deception. Αnd it does so with suitably striking imagery: the floral term ὑάκινθος is found nowhere else in the Iliad, and the formula χθὼν δῖα, which evokes the gleam of the fecund earth, is not attested in the nominative in any other passage of Homeric poetry. But these lines also interact with the sorts of cosmic themes introduced by Hera’s speeches. As in the Hymn to Apollo, we have an image of change in the natural environment that helps to illustrate a cosmic change. As in the hymn, an annual phenomenon—the blooming of spring flowers on Mount Ida—is here imagined not as a recurring event but as a unique response to the events of the Διὸς ἀπάτη. The bloom is sudden and miraculous: flowers appear where previously there were none.  This remarkable effusion of flowers suggests the potentially serious implications of the disabling of Zeus at Iliad 14.346–353. At line 353, he lies prostrate, conquered by love and sleep; and his governorship of the cosmos sleeps with him.