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by Archaeology Newsroom

Plants in nature and civilization

We have purposely chosen Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus as a significant example of concise syllogism on the plant world and the impression it created on the social environment of Classical Athens. In this play not only do certain phases of the drama take place in the boundaries between virgin nature and human intervention, but there are also mentioned all the elements which Sophocles has employed to picture the land of Attica.Gods, animals, birds, trees, valleys, flowers, are all unique features of his homeland. Therefore, the choice of plants is not accidental, but serves the description scheme and religious cycles to which the plants referred to owe their symbolism (ivy-Dionysus, narcissus and crocus – modest godesses, olive tree -Athena). All plants are spontaneous, even the olive tree in its natural form, a quality emphasized by Sophocles in verse 698. In addition, all can be economically exploited or, at least, have certain properties that can be utilized by people. In historic terms, all belong in one way or another to some kind of “collective” activity, but without any evolutionary or chronological significance. At the same time, all plants bear a secondary, but nevertheless powerful symbolism.