Giesecke, Annette. 2007. The Epic City: Urbanism, Utopia, and the Garden in Ancient Greece and Rome. Hellenic Studies Series 21. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_GieseckeA.The_Epic_City_Urbanism_Utopia_and_the_Garden.2007.
Chapter 2. Greece and the Garden
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.
ἔνθα δέ οἱ πολύκαρπος ἀλωὴ ἐρρίζωται,
τῆς ἕτερον μὲν θειλόπεδον λευρῷ ἐνὶ χώρῳ
τέρσεται ἠελίῳ, ἑτέρας δ᾽ ἄρα τε τρυγόωσιν,
125 ἄλλας δὲ τραπέουσι· πάροιθε δέ τ᾽ ὄμφακές εἰσιν
ἄνθος ἀφιεῖσαι, ἕτεραι δ᾽ ὑποπερκάζουσιν.
ἔνθα δὲ κοσμηταὶ πρασιαὶ παρὰ νείατον ὄρχον
παντοῖαι πεφύασιν, ἐπηετανὸν γανόωσαι·
of four days’ plowing, and around it a fence (herkos) had been run in both directions.
And there large trees grow in profusion,
115 pears and pomegranates and apples bearing bright fruit
and both sweet figs and the flourishing olive.
Never does their fruit spoil, nor is it lacking
either in winter or summer, through all the year, but rather ever
does the blowing Zephyr cause some to grow and others to ripen.
120 Pear after pear mellows, and apple after apple,
also cluster after cluster of grapes and fig after fig.
And there his abundantly productive vineyard (alōē) is established,
on one side of which in a warm spot on level ground
[the harvest] dries in the sun, others, in turn, they are gathering
125 and yet others they trample. And in the foreground are unripe grapes
that have cast off their bloom and others that are darkening.
And there at the bottom of the orchard (orkhos) well ordered herbs
of all sorts grow, green throughout the year.
The garden’s orderliness, mirroring the good order and virtuous constitution of Alkinoos’ household and polis generally, is what makes it so attractive. A fence, herkos, has been driven all around it (περὶ δ᾽ ἕρκος ἐλήλαται ἀμφοτέρωθεν, Odyssey 7.113), and the plantings within are clearly distinguished from one another. There are separate areas for fruit trees and grapevines, and another, adjacent to the grapes, for herbs laid out in beds. Laertes, while neglecting the care of his own person, has spared no effort in tending the plants in his garden. Odysseus tells us so. Still, there is something in the garden that requires an essential repair: the garden wall, so critical for keeping unwanted Nature out, and tamed, subservient Nature in. When Odysseus approaches Laertes’ garden, Dolios and the other servants are nowhere to be seen, having gone in search of stones with which to rebuild the fallen wall:
οὐδέ τινα δμώων οὐδ᾽ υἱῶν· ἀλλ ̓ ἄρα τοί γε
αἱμασιὰς λέξοντες ἀλωῆς ἔμμεναι ἕρκος
οἴχοντ᾽, αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσι γέρων ὁδὸν ἡγεμόνευε.
neither any of his slaves nor his sons. But rather
in order to gather stones to be used for the garden wall ( herkos )
had they gone off, and that old man was leading the way.
For the Ithakan community to thrive again, the power of Nature must be securely harnessed. Laertes’ retreat to the garden, which entails the abandonment of his house in town as well as the implicit refusal to resume control of the state, is really not at all surprising given the fundamental importance of securing the land that will sustain the populace. The garden is where eunomia ‘good order’ in the community begins.
ἠέλιόν τ᾽ ἀκάμαντα σελήνην τε πλήθουσαν,
485 ἐν δὲ τὰ τείρεα πάντα, τά τ᾽ οὐρανὸς ἐστεφάνωται,
Πληϊάδας θ᾽ Ὑάδας τε τό τε σθένος Ὠρίωνος
Ἄρκτον θ᾽, ἣν καὶ Ἄμαξαν ἐπίκλησιν καλέουσιν,
ἥ τ᾽ αὐτοῦ στρέφεται καί τ᾽ Ὠρίωνα δοκεύει,
οἴη δ᾽ ἄμμορός ἐστι λοετρῶν Ὠκεανοῖο.
490 Ἐν δὲ δύω ποίησε πόλεις μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
both the tireless sun and the full moon.
485 And upon it all the stars, those that crown the heavens,
the Pleiades, the Hyades, and mighty Orion,
and the Great Bear, whom people also call the Wagon
and who both revolves in place and keeps an eye on Orion
and alone takes no part in the baths of Ocean.
490 And on it he wrought two cities of mortal men,
Hephaistos has fashioned the four elements, earth, heaven, water, and celestial fire, all bound by concentric figured rings.  Four major constellations also inscribe the heavens. The Cosmos has established a rhythm of fours, and it is in fours that the subsequently detailed cityscapes unfold. The Cosmos, Nature writ large, is the frame for all human action, the scenery against which the human drama transpires. At the same time, the success of the human endeavor embodied by the polis depends directly upon the success of the populace in establishing boundaries to separate it from the natural environment. Put somewhat differently, the ultimate success of the polis depends on observing the ordering principles of the Cosmos and applying them to the physical and spiritual makeup of the city in an effort to control what is deemed dangerous and unpredictable in Nature. The frame, parergon, exerts a considerable degree of control over its ergon. While the Cosmos is, by definition, a frame for the human endeavor, the Homeric texts reveal deep concern, even anxiety, about the very real danger of being overwhelmed by the force of the cosmic frame. It is for this reason that the Homeric political ideal envisages the creation of an intervening frame through human intellect and technical skill, symbolized on the Shield by the ring of youths and maidens dancing hand in hand “around” the cityscapes, contiguous to the streams of Ocean that run along the Shield’s outer rim.  Here collaborative humanity forms a barrier against the elemental.
Laying down arms and establishing a system of justice sets apart human from beast. The City at Peace signifies an essential harmony not only by the wedding, but also by the “containment” of violent crime within the elders’ sacred circle (ἱερῷ ἐνὶ κύκλῳ, Iliad 18.504).  This circle seeks to limit the endless cycle of bloodshed through deliberations centered on boundaries.  The elders are gathered here to establish a peirar ‘limit’ to the penalty of revenge or ransom that can or should be exacted for a particular incidence of homicide. Viewed more broadly, their task is to establish legal limits inherent in a system of justice, the only effective means by which to contain the “beast” within.
χειμάρρῳ, ὅς τ᾽ ὦκα ῥέων ἐκέδασσε γεφύρας·
τὸν δ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἄρ τε γέφυραι ἐεργμέναι ἰσχανόωσιν,
90 οὔτ᾽ ἄρα ἕρκεα ἴσχει ἀλωάων ἐριθηλέων
ἐλθόντ᾽ ἐξαπίνης, ὅτ᾽ ἐπιβρίσῃ Διὸς ὄμβρος·
πολλὰ δ᾽ ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ ἔργα κατήριπε κάλ ̓αἰζηῶν·
in winter, and which, flowing swiftly, has overleapt the embankments,
and neither can closely constructed barriers hold it back
90 nor, indeed, do the walls of the burgeoning vineyard stay it
as it comes on a sudden, when the rain of Zeus falls in abundance,
and many are the lovely works of mortals that are destroyed by it.
Torrential rivers, forest fires, earthquakes, thunderbolts, whirlwinds, dense clouds of dust, thick fog, and snow all appear in the world of the similes. These are all phenomena of the natural world that threaten the precarious security of humans and their hard-won achievements, most of which have been geared towards gaining some sort of control over the hostile world that surrounds them. The Homeric perspective, like Hesiod’s, is that “the Earth and sea are full of ills” (Works and Days 101) difficult for humans to endure, particularly as “the Earth bears no creature more feeble” (Odyssey 18.130–131).  This same sensibility pervades the similes centering on the lives of those who work the fields, tend the flocks, and range the wilderness in search of prey. Goatherds in the mountains shiver and quickly herd their flocks into a cavern when they spy the ominous approach of a cloud sure to bring ill weather (Iliad 4.275–279). Shepherds fear what dangers may be hidden in a mountain mist (Iliad 3.10–12), likely some predatory beast, perhaps a lion so ravenous that it will stop at nothing to penetrate the folds enclosing their flocks (Iliad 12.299–306). Such men must frequent the vast spaces beyond the city walls, where they have occasion to observe animals in their natural habitat. The sight that recurs in every corner of the wilderness is that of hunter and hunted. Accordingly, nearly all the similes located in the animal kingdom represent predator and prey.  Those witnessing the demise of one animal in the jaws of another in the wild would know how easily their flocks, and even they themselves, could be substituted for the predator’s more usual fare. Human prosperity and safety depends on securing the subservience of the natural world, an endeavor bearing inevitably mixed results. As another group of similes demonstrates, humanity is most successful when manipulating things like timber, wool, and metal, which have been derived from the natural environment but are not alive or “immediately” life sustaining. 
κεσσιν ὤς ποτ᾽ ἀελίω
8 δύντος ἀ βροδοδάκτυλος μήνα
πάντα περρέχοισ᾽ ἄστρα· φάος δ᾽ ἐπί-
σχει θάλασσαν ἐπ᾽ ἀλμύραν
11 ἴσως καὶ πολυανθέμοις ἀρούραις·
ἀ δ᾽ ἐέρσα κάλα κέχυται, τεθά-
λαισι δὲ βρόδα κἄπαλ᾽ ἄν-
14 θρυσκα καὶ μελίλωτος ἀνθεμώδης·
8 like rosy-fingered moon after sunset,
surpassing all the stars; its light extends over the salt sea
11 alike and the fields of flowers;
and the dew is spread abroad in beauty, and roses bloom,
14 and tender chervil and flowery melilot:
Sappho has been said to lose herself momentarily within the frame constituted by her hypnotic simile.  This psychic transportation of self would account for the abrupt recollection of, or “reawakening to,” her actual subject, a girl for whom another pines, in the fragmentary lines that follow. Yet, if Sappho does enter the frame, she is quick to retreat from it again. The beloved may in some regards resemble the moon, but she is not, and never will be, the moon. The moon reflects her beauty and suggests the degree to which she sustains the life of the one that loves her, but it does not reflect the whole of the girl’s person. The moon is ultimately more potent, more distant, and “other.” The moon’s distance is not infinite, however, and it is herein that the poet’s ability to harness or limit the powers of Nature resides. As in Homer, the frame must not overpower that which is framed; the framing member’s form and dimensions, the scope of its expressive power, must be controlled. In this fragmentary poem, Sappho has subtly achieved such control by representing the moon as sustaining humanity. The moonlit fall of dew and the bloom of roses, chervil, and clover is not a scene from wildest Nature. Rather, the dew prompts the growth and blossoming of particular flowering plants, all cultivated by the Greeks for specific purposes. Chervil is an herb possessing medicinal properties, and clover a source of honey. The rose, highly treasured in antiquity, was “the only flower to be intensely cultivated” and a regular inclusion in sanctuary gardens.  All of these plants, whether growing in gardens or in the wild, were harvested for the fabrication of garlands and wreaths employed in cultic and other ceremonial contexts.  Taking these observations into consideration, the simile assumes not a cosmic but a human scale.