Gli olivi di Demetra: alcune riflessioni su un "locus vexatus" alla luce del folklore

Tommaso Braccini


Line 23 of the Homeric hymn to Demeter has presented quite a puzzle for scholars and philologists. Mentioning the desperate cries of Persephone abducted by Hades, it is said that no one heard her, neither human, nor god, "nor olives bright with fruit" (aglaokarpoi elaiai). Mention of olives alongside humans and gods has induced more than one brow to raise: thence the many proposals for emendation. Nevertheless, the lectio tradita has not lacked for defenders, generally considering the olive tree as a symbol of the Mediterranean nature. Yet a small step forward may be possible considering the relevance of the olive tree as informer and delator, as attested in popular historiolae from Late Medieval and Modern Greece. The reference to the unhelpfulness of the olives in the Hymn to Demeter could be a very early reference (e contrario) to a tradition of this kind; or, on the other hand, the text elaiai could be a scribal mistake fostered by the very knowledge of these narratives by the scribe of the only, late manuscript handing down the text.

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