Sunday, October 06, 2013
Where Pausanias or some other ancient author mentions a wood, sometimes there is a wood today, sometimes not. On the borders of Laconia and Arkadia he found 'the whole place full of oaks' sacred to Zeus Skotita, above the shrine of Artemis and the Nymphs at Káryai.20 The site is now a great coppice-wood of deciduous oak (Fig. 11.4). Skotitas is probably the oldest named wood-lot still in existence, and the only surviving European wood harbouring its own god.Fig. 11.4 on the same page:
20 Pausanias III.x.6.
Oliver Rackham, Woodlands (2006; rpt. London: Collins, 2010), p. 135 (footnote omitted):
Reader, go to the remote byways of Mount Párnon in the Peloponnese, above the village whose modern Greek name is Káryai, previously known by the Slavonic name Arachova — both meaning 'nuts'. The sanctuary of Artemis and the Nymphs is now a chapel, with wonderful plane-trees, beside a spring. As far as I know, this is the earliest account of a named wood in Europe. Skotitas Wood was 'rediscovered' by the explorer Jochmus and a local priest in 1834. It is now probably bigger than in Pausanias's time. The dominant tree, as in other ancient woods in the Peloponnese, is the deciduous oak Quercus frainetto. It is a rather open coppice (Fig. 44), with some ancient stools, and a rich flora of shrubs and herbs in glades and newly felled areas. Some of the oaks have been shredded.There is a fuller account in Oliver Rackham, "Observations on the Historical Ecology of Laconia," in Continuity and Change in a Greek Rural Landscape: The Laconia Survey, Vol. I: Methodology and Interpretation (London: British School at Athens, 2002 = Annual of the British School at Athens, Supplementary Volume, 26), pp. 73-120 (at 85-87, 108).
Skotitas, as far as I know, is the only surviving wood in Europe to have its own god.
Pausanias 3.10.6 (tr. W.H.S. Jones):
On the way from the Hermae the whole of the region is full of oak-trees. The name of the district, Scotitas (Dark), is not due to the unbroken woods but to Zeus surnamed Scotitas, and there is a sanctuary of Zeus Scotitas on the left of the road and about ten stades from it.Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. σκοτίτας:
ἰοῦσι δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν Ἑρμῶν ἐστιν ὁ τόπος οὗτος ἅπας δρυῶν πλήρης: τὸ δὲ ὄνομα τῷ χωρίῳ Σκοτίταν τὸ δὲ σκότος οὐ τὸ συνεχὲς τῶν δένδρων ἐποίησεν, ἀλλὰ Ζεὺς ἐπίκλησιν ἔσχε Σκοτίτας, καὶ ἔστιν ἐν ἀριστερᾷ τῆς ὁδοῦ δέκα μάλιστά που στάδια ἐκτραπομένοις ἱερὸν Σκοτίτα Διός.
epith. of Zeus, whether as bringer of dark clouds (cf. κελαινεφής), or as a god of the nether world, or from the dark oak-forest surrounding the shrine (v.l. Σκοτινᾶς ap. St.Byz.), Paus.3.10.6.