I pioppi e l' "immatura mors" dei figli di Ecale (Call. "Hec". fr. 48. 7 H.)

Damiano Fermi


In "Hec". fr. 48. 7 H., Callimachus likens the quick growth of Hecale's sons to aspen trees (kerkides), which grow fast and straight. The use of the term kerkis is further proof of Callimachus' botanical knowledge, manifested in other fragments. The simile, moreover, not only emphasizes the children's fast development in terms of their height; the vegetative comparatum reveals that Hecale's sons are fated to meet an untimely death. This interpretation is confirmed by two considerations: 1) young people doomed to immatura mors are often compared to trees or shoots in bloom – e.g. Homeric heroes fallen in battle or, in funerary epigrams, children who die before their parents; 2) the poplar tree, in ancient Greece, is associated with death, the underworld and mourning, as some passages – mostly concerning the myth (Herakles, nymph Leuke, Heliades) – show.

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