Saturday, November 14, 2009


A Spirit Protects the Trees

Pseudo-Callisthenes, Alexander Romance 2.36 (tr. Richard Stoneman):
We marched on from there and came to a river. I ordered my men to pitch camp and lay aside their armour in the usual way. In the river there were trees which began to grow at sunrise and continued until the sixth hour, but from the seventh hour they shrank again until they could hardly be seen. They exuded a sap like Persian myrrh, with a sweet and noble aroma. I had cuts made in a few of them, and the sap soaked up with sponges. Suddenly the sap-collectors began to be whipped by an invisible spirit: we heard the noise of the whipping and saw the marks of the blows on their backs, but we could not see those who were beating them. Then a voice was heard, telling them neither to cut the trees nor collect the sap: "If you do not cease," it said, "the army will be struck dumb." I was afraid and gave orders not to cut or collect any more of the sap.
Leif Bergson, Der griechische Alexanderroman: Rezension β (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1965 = Studia Graeca Stockholmiensia, III), p. 129:
Ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναχωρήσαντες ἤλθομεν εἴς τινα ποταμόν. ἐκέλευσα οὖν παρεμβολὴν γενέσθαι καὶ καθοπλισθῆναι τῇ συνηθείᾳ τὰ στρατεύματα. ἦν δὲ ἐν τῷ ποταμῷ δένδρα καὶ ἃμα τοῦ ἡλίουἀνατέλλοντος καὶ τὰ δένδρα ηὔξανον μέχρις ὥρας ἕκτης, ἀπὸ δὲ ὥρας ἑβδόμης ἐξέλιπον ὥστε μὴ φαίνεσθαι ὅλως. δάκρυα δὲ εἶχον ὡς Περσικὴν στακτήν, πνοὴν δὲ πάνυ ἡδυτάτην καὶ χρηστήν. ἐκέλευσα οὖν κόπτεσθαι τὰ δένδρα καὶ σπόγγοις ἐκλέγεσθαι τὸ δάκρυον. αἰφνίδιον οἱ ἐκλέγοντες ἐμαστιγοῦντο ὑπὸ δαίμονος ἀοράτου. καὶ τῶν μὲν μαστιγουμένων τὸν ψόφον ἠκούομεν καὶ τὰς πληγὰς ἐπὶ τῶν νώτων ἐρχομένας ἐβλέπομεν, τοὺς δὲ τύπτοντας οὐκ ἐθεωροῦμεν. φωνὴ δέ τις ἤρχετο λέγουσα μηδὲ ἐκκόπτειν μηδὲ συλλέγειν. "εἰ δὲ μὴ παύσητε, γενήσεται ἄφωνον τὸ στρατόπεδον." ἐγὼ οὖν φοβηθεὶς ἐκέλευσα μήτε ἐκκόπτειν μήτε συλλέγειν τινὰ ἐξ αὐτῶν.
I owe the reference to Albert Henrichs, "'Thou Shalt Not Kill a Tree': Greek, Manichaean and Indian Tales," Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 16 (1979) 85-108 (at 107-108).

Related posts: St. Martin and the Pine Tree; The Geismar Oak; Bregalad's Lament; Petition of a Poplar; Cactus Ed and Arboricide; Views from the Center of Highgate Wood; Artaxerxes and Arboricide; When the Last Tree Falls; The Hamadryads of George Lane; Sorbs and Medlars; So Foul a Deed; Like Another Erysichthon; The Fate of Old Trees; Scandalous Misuse of the Globe; The Groves Are Down; Massacre; Executioners; Anagyrasian Spirit; Butchers of Our Poor Trees; Cruel Axes; Odi et Amo; Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre; Hornbeams; Protection of Sacred Groves; Lex Luci Spoletina; Turullius and the Grove of Asclepius; Caesarian Section; Death of a Noble Pine; Two Yew Trees in Chilthorne, Somerset; The Fate of the Shrubbery at Weston; Willows; Mourning Over Trees; The Trees Are Down; Sad Ravages in the Woods; An Old Saying; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

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