Heat and Lust: Hesiod’s Midsummer Festival Scene Revisited

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Appendix 2. On Zephyros (WD 594)

The detail of the west wind Zephyros seems to be well planned as it matches the atmosphere of relaxation and replenishment which WD foresees for this period. In Homer Zephyros can be beneficent towards crops. Odyssey 7.119-122 relates that the wind blows favorably in the paradisal fairyland of Phaeacia, encouraging the eternal growth and ripening of fruit: [1]

… ἀλλὰ μάλ’ αἰεί
Ζεφυρίη πνείουσα τὰ μὲν φύει, ἄλλα δὲ πέσσει.
ὄγχνη ἐπ’ ὄγχνῃ γηράσκει, μῆλον δ’ ἐπὶ μήλῳ,
αὐτὰρ ἐπὶ σταφυλῇ σταφυλή, σῦκον δ’ ἐπὶ σύκῳ.

But Zephyros, always
blowing, makes some fruit grow, while others it ripens.
Pear after pear grows old, apple after apple,
grape cluster after grape cluster, fig after fig.

The burgeoning of crops is an implicit theme of Hesiod’s festival scene. The allusion to Zephyros at WD 594 serves as a pointed reminder that this wind in particular has been instrumental to the success of the cereal harvest; hence the reposing farmer gratefully faces westward. An attitude of thankfulness makes good sense also because an archaic farmer would be well aware of the potentially devastating effects of Zephyros, particularly on the cereal crop:

just as when Zephyros ruffles a thick cornfield with his coming,
rushing on in violence, and the field bends with its stalks,
just so the entire throng moved.

This wind, too, cools the heroic dead (cf. ἀναψύχειν ἀνθρώπους, Odyssey 4.568) in the Elysian fields, and presumably does the same to Hesiod’s farmer at midsummer. [


[ back ] 1. Zephyros’ fertilizing nature may explain why, as the spring wind, he impregnated the Harpy Podargê when she grazed in the guise of a filly near the banks of Okeanos: Iliad 16.149 f. (On this wind’s straightforward erotic associations, cf. Voigt 1971. 306-307 on Alcaeus fr. 327 [LP].) See also Nagy 1979.167-168,196, 204, 206-208.

[ back ] 2. Elsewhere in Homer (Iliad 23.200, Odyssey 5.295, 12.289) the west wind also appears as an unfavorable (δυσαής) storm-wind at sea.

[ back ] 3. On anapsukhein, see also Nagy 1990b. 92. n. 39.