Saturday, October 03, 2009


Artaxerxes and Arboricide

Plutarch, Life of Artaxerxes 25.1-2 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
[1] At length he came down to a royal halting-place which had admirable parks in elaborate cultivation, although the region round about was bare and treeless; and since it was cold, he gave permission to his soldiers to cut the trees of the park for wood, sparing neither pine nor cypress. [2] And when they hesitated and were inclined to spare the trees on account of their great size and beauty, he took an axe himself and cut down the largest and most beautiful tree. After this the men provided themselves with wood, and making many fires, passed the night in comfort.

[1] Ἐπεὶ δ' εἰς σταθμὸν κατέβη βασιλικόν, παραδείσους ἔχοντα θαυμαστοὺς καὶ κεκοσμημένους διαπρεπῶς ἐν τῷ πέριξ ἀδένδρῳ καὶ ψιλῷ χωρίῳ, κρύους ὄντος ἐπέτρεψε τοῖς στρατιώταις ἐκ τοῦ παραδείσου ξυλίζεσθαι τὰ δένδρα κόπτοντας, μήτε πεύκης μήτε κυπαρίττου φειδομένους. [2] Ὀκνούντων δὲ καὶ φειδομένων διὰ τὰ κάλλη καὶ τὰ μεγέθη, λαβὼν πέλεκυν αὐτὸς ὅπερ ἦν μέγιστον καὶ κάλλιστον τῶν φυτῶν ἔκοψεν. Ἐκ δὲ τούτου ξυλιζόμενοι καὶ πολλὰ πυρὰ ποιοῦντες εὐμαρῶς ἐνυκτέρευσαν.
See Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire, tr. Peter T. Daniels (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2006), pp. 237-238:
The connection between the king and the foliage was so well known to the soldiers that they did not dare to raise their axes against the trees, despite the king's authorization. This confirms the role of the king as the trees' protector. A paradise had to remain "undisturbed," that is, free from the ravages of war (Quintus Curtius VIII.I.13; cf. Polybius XXXI.29). The felling of the trees in the paradise was considered an affront to the sovereignty and majesty of the Great King. It is quite striking that, according to Diodorus of Sicily (XVI.45), the first hostile act of the revolt by the Phoenicians against Artaxerxes III was "the cutting down and destroying of the royal park in which the Persian Kings were wont to take their recreation." Similarly, under the guise of reprisals, Cyrus the Younger ravaged the paradise of the satrap Belesys, who had sided with Artaxerxes II (Xenophon, Anab. I.4.2), and the Spartan king Agesilaus "ravaged the orchards and the paradise of Tissaphernes" near Sardis (Diodorus XIV.80.2).
Related posts: 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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