Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Arboricide and Matricide

Zonas of Sardis (Greek Anthology 9.312, tr. W.R. Paton):
Refrain, sirrah, from cutting the oak, the mother of acorns; refrain, and lay low the old stone-pine, or the sea-pine, or this rhamnus with many stems, or the holly-oak, or the dry arbutus. Only keep thy axe far from the oak, for our grannies tell us that oaks were the first mothers.

Ὦνερ τᾶν βαλάνων τὰν ματέρα φείδεο κόπτειν
  φείδεο· γηραλέαν δ' ἐκκεράϊζε πίτυν,
ἢ πεύκαν, ἢ τάνδε πολυστέλεχον παλίουρον,
  ἢ πρῖνον, ἢ τὰν αὐαλέαν κόμαρον·
τηλόθι δ' ἴσχε δρυὸς πέλεκυν· κοκύαι γὰρ ἔλεξαν
  ἁμῖν ὡς πρότεραι ματέρες ἐντὶ δρύες.
A.S.F. Gow and D.L. Page ad loc., in The Garland of Philip and Some Contemporary Epigrams, vol. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 417:
An exhortation to refrain from felling the oak, parent of the human race.

The present epigram alludes to the obscure story underlying such phrases as Hom. Il. 22.126 οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ᾽ ἀπὸ πέτρης, Od. 19.163 οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ δρυός ἐσσι παλαιφάτου οὐδ᾽ ἀπὸ πέτρης; cf. Hes. Th. 35, Plato Rep. 544 D, Cic. Att. 13.28, Virg. Aen. 8.315 gensque uirum truncis et duro robore nata, Ov. AA 2.541, Juv. 6.12 homines qui rupto robore nati, Nonnus D. 48.504. See RE 5.2027.
For more parallels and analysis, see Antonio Ruiz de Elvira, "Prometeo, Pandora y los Origenes del Hombre," Quadernos de Filologia Classica 1 (1971) 79-108 (at 80-83), and Richard Buxton, Forms of Astonishment: Greek Myths of Metamorphosis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 213-214.

Related posts: The Sacrilegious Axe; Arboricide on the Wayne Ranch; The Woods of Bachycraigh; Papadendrion; Papadendrion Again; A Bewilderment of Birds; Ancient Protests Against Deforestation; Illustrations of Erysichthon; Prayer and Sacrifice to Accompany Tree Cutting; A Spirit Protects the Trees; 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; The Trees Are Down; Hornbeams; Sad Ravages in the Woods; Strokes of Havoc; Maltreatment of Trees; Arboricide; An Impious Lumberjack; Erysichthon in Ovid; Erysichthon in Callimachus; Vandalism.

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