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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 541: IV International Symposium on New Floricultural Crops

FLOWERS IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY

Author:   N.S. Margaris
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2000.541.1
Abstract:
The Greek term for flora is chloris. It is derived from the name of the Chloris, the goddess of vegetation, in Greek mythology, reasonably so, if we consider the great number of mythological tales linked to flowers of the Greek flora. The name of the flower known as ‘iris’ is derived from Iris, messenger of the gods. Her role was to accompany souls to places of eternal peace, via the ‘road’ marked by the rainbow – which is comprised of Iris’s colours. Narcissus, son of the river god Cephisus and a forest nymph, was exceptionally handsome. However, even though all the nymphs desired him (for obvious reasons) he loved only himself. One day, as he was – yet again – admiring his own image in a pool formed by the River Elikon, the gods decided to punish him for his impudence. He ‘fell’ in the pool and drowned. There remained only a flower – the narcissus or daffodil – bearing a golden crown, which to this day bows over the waters of lakes and rivers. There are countless myths linked to the name Adonis. According to one such, Zeus had decreed that Adonis must spend two thirds of the year on earth with Aphrodite (Venus) and one third with Persephone in the Underworld. Then, it came to pass that a boar killed Adonis. Upon learning the news, Aphrodite shed as many tears as the blood drops that had fallen from Adonis’s body. A rose bush grew from each one of Aphrodite’s tears, and a plant of that name from each drop of blood. The use of flowers was widespread in Greece from time immemorial, since flowers are so important to us from the moment we are born. Today, we know a lot about the significance of flowers in the everyday life of the Ancient Greeks, who had established special festivals, such as the Anthestiria, a flower festival held in early spring in honour of Dionysus and reminiscent of our modern May Day festivities. They also held the Anthesforia, to commemorate Persephone’s abduction by Pluto.

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