Apollo’s Trees

057 Apollo's TreesIn our hectic life we forget about the surrounding environment. We don’t leave time for visiting botanical gardens where one dives into a magical flora kingdom full of known and many more unknown species whose names they even don’t know. I myself have visited only our botanical garden in the town of Balchik at the Black Sea coast and Orto Botanico of the University of Padua. Otherwise, I always try to catch up with some knowledge on trees on the go when I travel. The major and most fascinating way for me to learn more about flora species are through the legends and myths retold by guides or local friends of mine while seeing in real all of the trees and bushes in question.

For instance, when I am at the Mediterranean Sea I enjoy the presence of ‘the rose of the sea’. Do you get it? Of course, I mean rosmarino (“rosemary”). Apart from being an inevitable ingredient of the Italian cuisine, as most of us relate it to, it grows near the sea and is part of the Mediterranean flora and flower world. The latter is indicated in its name as well. The name is of Latin origin and derives from the two words ros (“dew”) and marinus (“sea”), or literally translated rosemary is the “dew of the sea”. Sometimes we also use its name “anthos” whose origin is ancient Greek and means a “flower”.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that when I pass through the heart of Tuscany, I am really amazed with the green views of the Mediterranean cypresses arranged like soldiers everywhere there. I can bet that few of you know about these giants and their connection with the ancient Greek God – Apollo. Yes, a Kyparissos (or Cyparissus) was a young and very handsome boy who lived in a valley named Carte on the island of Keos (also known as Ceos or Chios). That youth was strongly loved by Apollo who gave the boy a present – the most beautiful and gracious stag that was also protected by the nymphs. Cyparissus loved having long walks with the sacred deer in the green meadows and along the springs with cool crystal-clear water. But it happened one day in summer. The sacred stag was extremely tired from the unbearable rays of the sun and laid down in some bushes. At that very moment the young boy went out to hunt and saw the giant antlers covered with leaves somewhere there and shot at them thinking that they belonged to an ordinary deer. Unfortunately, it was his beloved stag. After having realized what he had just done, his heart filled up with enormous sorrow and Cyparissus’s only wish was to die along with the stag and his tears never to stop. That’s why he asked Apollo to help him. Unwillingly the God fulfilled his wish. The young boy’s thick hair became dark green foliage while his slim body got covered with bark and it pierced the sky and heavens like Apollo’s arrows. In other words, Cyparissus turned into Apollo’s tree, i.e. into a majestic cypress tree and all this was an expression of Apollo’s love for the young lad.

Another flora species, i.e. laurel tree, is also connected with that God and it became sacred to him. This time Apollo messed up with the nymph Daphne. And the legend goes like this. Apollo mocked the God of love Eros while the latter was preparing his bow and arrows. Eros got furious and threw a lead arrow at the God of light and the sun. It was well known that a golden arrow meant shared love between two partners but if the God of love chose to throw a lead arrow at someone, they would fall in love but the other side would resist. So, the lead arrow made Apollo fall madly in love with Daphne but unfortunately, she even abhorred him. He wanted her crazily and started chasing her when they reached Tempi. Daphne was desperate and asked Gods and her father (the River God Peneus) in particular, to help her either by opening the earth to enclose her or by changing her form. And at that very moment she turned into a laurel tree. Thin bark covered her breasts, her shiny hair turned into leaves, her gentle legs and feet became roots while her arms – branches, and her face of an angel got lost in the canopy. Apollo could only make a laurel wreath which the victors in the contests in Delphi were crowned with without having been able to have Daphne even for a second.

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8 thoughts on “Apollo’s Trees

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