The Poetry of Trees in Ancient Greece and Rome

The people of ancient Greece and Rome valued trees and forests not merely as sources of timber for construction but also as a major element in their religious beliefs and mythology.

This evening’s talk will explore the way trees played a role in ancient belief systems, from early prehistory until the Roman empire. From the mysterious ‘tree cult’ of Minoans Crete to Silvanus, the Roman god of the woods, the archaeological and literary evidence for trees in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds will be explored.

Among the examples discussed are the story of Daphne and Apollo, and the reason why he is shown with a wreath of laurel in his hair, the reason why there is an olive tree growing outside the temple known as the Erechtheion on the Athenian Acropolis and the depiction of oak leaves as a symbolic element of the Roman corona civica, awarded for saving the life of another.

Dr Gina Muskett is an Honorary Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Liverpool and Honorary Research Associate (Classical Antiquities) at National Museums Liverpool.

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