Thursday, August 07, 2014
The Grove of Academe
He was the first to beautify the city with the so‑called "liberal" and elegant resorts which were so excessively popular a little later, by planting the market-place with plane trees, and by converting the Academy from a waterless and arid spot into a well watered grove, which he provided with clear running-tracks and shady walks.Plato, Phaedrus 230 b-c (Socrates speaking; tr. Harold N. Fowler):
πρῶτος δὲ ταῖς λεγομέναις ἐλευθερίοις καὶ γλαφυραῖς διατριβαῖς, αἳ μικρὸν ὕστερον ὑπερφυῶς ἠγαπήθησαν, ἐκαλλώπισε τὸ ἄστυ, τὴν μὲν ἀγορὰν πλατάνοις καταφυτεύσας, τὴν δ᾽ Ἀκαδήμειαν ἐξ ἀνύδρου καὶ αὐχμηρᾶς κατάρρυτον ἀποδείξας ἄλσος ἠσκημένον ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ δρόμοις καθαροῖς καὶ συσκίοις περιπάτοις.
By Hera, it is a charming resting place. For this plane tree is very spreading and lofty, and the tall and shady willow is very beautiful, and it is in full bloom, so as to make the place most fragrant; then, too, the spring is very pretty as it flows under the plane tree, and its water is very cool, to judge by my foot. And it seems to be a sacred place of some nymphs and of Achelous, judging by the figurines and statues. [c] Then again, if you please, how lovely and perfectly charming the breeziness of the place is! and it resounds with the shrill summer music of the chorus of cicadas. But the most delightful thing of all is the grass, as it grows on the gentle slope, thick enough to be just right when you lay your head on it.Plutarch, Life of Sulla 12.3 (describing the siege of Athens, 86 BC; tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
νὴ τὴν Ἥραν, καλή γε ἡ καταγωγή. ἥ τε γὰρ πλάτανος αὕτη μάλ᾽ ἀμφιλαφής τε καὶ ὑψηλή, τοῦ τε ἄγνου τὸ ὕψος καὶ τὸ σύσκιον πάγκαλον, καὶ ὡς ἀκμὴν ἔχει τῆς ἄνθης, ὡς ἂν εὐωδέστατον παρέχοι τὸν τόπον· ἥ τε αὖ πηγὴ χαριεστάτη ὑπὸ τῆς πλατάνου ῥεῖ μάλα ψυχροῦ ὕδατος, ὥστε γε τῷ ποδὶ τεκμήρασθαι. Νυμφῶν τέ τινων καὶ Ἀχελῴου ἱερὸν ἀπὸ τῶν κορῶν τε καὶ ἀγαλμάτων ἔοικεν εἶναι. [c] εἰ δ᾽ αὖ βούλει, τὸ εὔπνουν τοῦ τόπου ὡς ἀγαπητὸν καὶ σφόδρα ἡδύ· θερινόν τε καὶ λιγυρὸν ὑπηχεῖ τῷ τῶν τεττίγων χορῷ. πάντων δὲ κομψότατον τὸ τῆς πόας, ὅτι ἐν ἠρέμα προσάντει ἱκανὴ πέφυκε κατακλινέντι τὴν κεφαλὴν παγκάλως ἔχειν.
And when timber began to fail, owing to the destruction of many of the works, which broke down of their own weight, and to the burning of those which were continually smitten by the enemy's fire-bolts, he laid hands upon the sacred groves, and ravaged the Academy, which was the most wooded of the city's suburbs, as well as the Lyceum.These three episodes are depicted, left to right, in a print designed by Gian Francesco Romanelli (1610–1662) and engraved by Johann Friedrich Greuter (1590–1662):
ἐπιλειπούσης δὲ τῆς ὕλης διὰ τὸ κόπτεσθαι πολλὰ τῶν ἔργων περικλώμενα τοῖς αὑτῶν βρίθεσι καὶ πυρπολεῖσθαι βαλλόμενα συνεχῶς ὑπὸ τῶν πολεμίων, ἐπεχείρησε τοῖς ἱεροῖς ἄλσεσι, καὶ τήν τε Ἀκαδήμειαν ἔκειρε δενδροφορωτάτην προαστείων οὖσαν καὶ τὸ Λύκειον.
On this print see Louise Rice, "Pomis Sua Nomina Servant: The Emblematic Thesis Prints of the Roman Seminary," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 70 (2007) 195-246 (at 222-223, 243), from which I borrowed the illustration (figure 19 on p. 222).