Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Aram Nemus Vult (and Vice Versa)
The phrase is apparently original with Pound, but it does accurately reflect the ancient practice of locating sanctuaries in or near groves.
One could slightly alter (pun intended) the phrase to read "ara nemus vult" (the altar wants a grove). In some ancient sanctuaries, where naturally growing trees had disappeared or were absent altogether, pits were cut into rock for the purpose of planting trees. See Maureen Carroll, Earthly Paradises: Ancient Gardens in History and Archaeology (London: British Museum Press, 2003), pp. 66 ff., from which I take this photograph of "Excavated water channels and planting pits for trees in a temple grove at Kition in Cyprus, c. 1300 BC":
For tree planting pits at Nemea, see Darice Birge et al., Excavations at Nemea, Vol. I: Topographical and Architectural Studies. The Sacred Square, the Xenon, and the Bath (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 89-96.