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The Wedding Gifts in Catullus 64
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TheWedding Gifts in Catullus 64 Judith L. Sebesta University ofSouth Dakota In Catullus 64, of all the divinities attending die union of Peleus andThetis on Mt. Pelion, only Chiron and Penios bring gifts. According to Homer and Apollodorus, in addition to Chiron's gift of an ash spear, Poseidon gave immortal horses, and die odier gods presented armor and weapons.1 These divine gifts of warfare anticipate die extraordinarywarriordiatAchilles , die son ofPeleus andThetis, will grow to be. In his poem, however, Catullus has Chiron and Penios bring gifts of flowers and trees (64.279—93), unique gifts that are attested in no odier sources, and seemingly inappropriate for the future warrior: advenit Chiron portans silvestria dona: nam quoscumque ferunt campi, quos Thessala magnis montibus ora créât, quos propter fluminis undas aura park flores tepidi fecunda Favoni, hos indistinctis plexos tulit ipse corollis, quo permulsa domus iucundo risit odore. confestim Penios adest, viridantiaTempe, (Tempe, quae silvae cingunt super impendentes) Horn. IL 16.143, 24.61, 16.381, 17.443, 18.34, and Apollod. 3.13.5. 128SYLLECTA CLASSICA 1 1 (2000) fMinosim linquensf crebris celebranda choréis, non vacuus: namque ille tulit radicitus altas fagos ac recto proceras stipite laurus, non sine nutanti plátano lentaque sorore flammati Phaethontis et aërea cupressu. haec circum sedes late contexta locavit, vestibulum ut molli velatum fronde vireret. Chiron came carrying gifts of the forest: for whatever flowers grow in the meadows ofthe Thessalian peaks or, nourished by the West Wind, line the river-banks, these he carried, woven into mixed festoons; the whole house smiled, caressed by their fragrance. Right after him came Penios, from green Tempe (Tempe, which overhanging woods embrace), leaving it for the daughters ofThessaly to honor with their frequent dances. He came not empty-handed, for he carried, plucked from their roots, tall beeches, and laurels whose trunks rise tall and straight, the swaying plane-tree, the pliant tree that was the sister of flaming Phaëthon, and the cypress rising aloft. These trees he placed around the pulvinar making them into a screen, so the vestibule might be a shaded, concealed bower.2 I argue that Chiron's and Penios' unusual gifts are intended to porten< certain events in the life of Achilles, who will be engendered in th wedding bower.3 In describing the wedding bower of Peleus and Thetis, Catullu took as his model the wedding bower, made offronds ofdill, ofAdoni and Aphrodite thatTheocritus describes at Idyll 15.119-20.4 In Helle 2 Catullus uses velatum, which means both "shaded" and "concealed." This las meaning is particularly appropriate for the sacred marriage bed (pulvinar) ofa god dess. On the use of curtains in the sacral tableaux and epiphanies, see Sebesta. Ac cording to mythological tradition, the sisters of Phaëthon were transformed inti poplar trees, weeping tears ofamber sap. On Catullus' variations from the tradition seeWheeler 125, and Bramble, who suggests (30) that Penios may be cited by Catullu to give or reinforce the geographic location ofthe marriage. 3 Merrill (154) takes the view diat "die wooded banks ofthe Penios make trees hi most natural gift," but does not explain Penios' selection ofthese particular five trees Konstan (89-90) sees a connection between Chiron's flowers and Penios' gift oftrees the flowers represent the virginity ofthe bridewhile Penios' trees are phallic symbols 4 For Catullus' modeling the wedding ceremony ofThetis and Peleus on the Helle nistic marriage ceremony, see Sebesta. SEBESTA: THE WEDDING GIFTS IN CATULLUS 64129 nistic marriage rites and other ceremonies flowers and greenery played an important role. Athenaeus notes that at the wedding ofCaranos, the guests wore chaplets made from all sorts of flowers (4.128). He also states that die floor ofthe grand symposium tent ofPtolemy Philadelphus was strewnwith so manyflowers thatitseemed to be a rich meadow land, and that the tent itselfwas roofed with laurel, myrtle, and other "suitable" (?tt?t?dß??) greenery (5.196).5 The symbolism ofparticular flowers and greenery determined which plants were selected for the occasion . Dill was appropriate in the bower ofAdonis in Idyll 15 because it easily resowed itself year after year and so symbolized rebirth after death and continuing life.6 As part ofthe rites ofAdonis, dill and other quick-growingherbs andplants such as fennel, lettuce, barley, andwheat were sown in clay pots in spring. When the plants died in the summer's heat and aridity, the withered stalks and pots were thrown into a river alongwith images ofAdonis, an act that both symbolizedhis earlydeath and ensured rainfall in the next season.7What, therefore, is the symbolism ofChiron's flowers and Penios' trees in forming this wedding bower for Thetis and Peleus? In Greek ceremonies flowers and redolent plants symbolized the presence ofa deity. For example, the flowers associated with Dionysus in the Anthesteria were evidence ofhis epiphany. In the grand procession ofPtolemy Philadelphias, the canopyshading the image ofDionysus was composed ofplants, including laurel and myrtle, that emphasized 5 Athenaeus does not explain why myrde and laurel, interalia, were suitable for the occasion, presumably because such was general knowledge. The symbolism and attributes oflaurel will be described later in the text ofthis article. Sacred to Aphrodite, myrde represented youth, beauty and love. It blessed unions, private and civic. At Athens it was carried by magistrates and orators who spoke at public assemblies. A myrde tree was planted at Rome byT. Quirinus to symbolize the union ofthe orders. See Macr. 3.20.2—3; Saglio, "InfelixArbor"; Andrépassim. 6 See Huson 49. 7 On these short-lived container gardens, otherwise known as the "Gardens of Adonis," see Ashin 33. Lloyd thinks that it is possible that the Adonea in Rome had a garden planted with vine bowers. These would parallel, in terms ofsymbolism, the s???de? Theocritus mentions. Moschos (3.99—104) compares the transitoriness of human life to the eternal re-blooming year after year ofdill and parsley. 130SYLLECTA CLASSICA 1 1 (2000) his divinity and were sacred to him.8 In Catullus' poem, therefore, d flowers Chiron brings indicate the presence ofthe immortal guests wl follow him and the presence ofthe goddess Thetis.9 Flowers, moreover, play a symbolic role in a number ofrituals ar ceremonies that celebrate life's transitional stages of birth, marriag death, and the rebirth ofthe soul.10 These stages include the intima acts ofwedded love and the hoped-for fertility of the sexual union. Homer pictures the marital union ofZeus and Hera on a soft bed ? new grass, lotus, crocus, and hyacinths (//. 14.347—49). Moreover, d profusion offlowers in spring was a natural symbol offertility. In th passage ofCatullus' poem, Chiron's flowers not onlyallude to the sexu union of Peleus and Thetis, but also to the heroic offspring that the will engender. In addition toAchilles' conception, Chiron's flowers allude to oth< stages ofthe hero's life. Known as a teacher ofmusic, gymnastics, hun ing, and prophecy, Chiron was also renowned for his skill with healin plants, such as the root of the peony for soothing pain, and foxglove used in antiquity for heart ailments.12 Chiron's gift ofunnamed flowei may therefore allude to his future instruction ofAchilles in the healin arts, a skill the hero is shown practicing on a wounded Patroclus in th interiorofared-figure cup.13Additionally, because theirbeautyis fleeting flowers are a symbol ofthe transitory nature oflife and, particularly, c premature death. By comparing the collapse ofPriam's fatallywounde son Gorgythion to a poppy drooping under the weight ofits full bios som made heavywith spring rain, Homer emphasizes the poignancy o 8 See Rice 60. On laurel and myrde, see RE 13.1440; and Saglio "Arbores sacrae.' 9 Though "present" in the house, Thetis remains "unseen" in Catullus' poem. 10See Frese, "Flowers." 11ibid. 360. Thus flowers were important decorations at Caranos' wedding as men tioned earlier in this paper. 12The name "peony" means in Greek"healer" (tta????a).The root containsso potent drugthat die peony should be considered poisonous. The foxglove produces digitalis. 13Tondo ofa cup bythe Sosias Painter (Berlin-Charlottenburg F2278) c. 500 B.C.E SEBESTA: THE WEDDING GIFTS IN CATULLUS 64131 theyoungwarrior's death in the "flowerofhisyouth" (//. 8.305). Catullus employed this simile ofHomer's in another poem (c. 1 1), in which the simile ofa drooping, dying flower makes visual the idea ofa fragile love that ends prematurely. Thus, Chiron's flowers probably allude to Achilles ' premature death atTroy in the "flower" ofhis youth. Lasdy, because they bloom again after winter's death, flowers symbolize the rebirth of the soul and may also suggest here Achilles' life in the underworld. Just as Chiron's floral bouquet, therefore, hints at the important stages ofAchilles' life, so does Penios' "arboreal bouquet." His trees can do so because in religious imagery, generally speaking, trees represent "life and sacred continuityofthe spiritual, cosmic, andphysicalworlds," a symbolism akin to that offlowers.14 While Chiron's bouquet is composed ofunspecifiedflowers mixed together, Catullus specificallynames five kinds oftrees brought by Penios, all ofwhich have distinct connections with events in Achilles' life. The beech, the first tree Catullus specifies, was one of those the Romans called arboresfelices, i.e. fruitbearing .15 As the beech was sacred to Jupiter, it recalls Jupiter's consent to the marriage ofPeleus andThetis, and the fact that it will be a fruitful union.16 Penios' second tree, the laurel, protected and strengthened those who wore or used it. The Romans planted laurel before their houses (especially the Regia and thehouses oftheflamines) orhung its branches at the entrances of these houses to prevent and turn away illness and bad influences.17 Versnel (378-380) has argued that the original reason 14Frese and Gray 26. 15Macr. 3.20.2: aitenim Veranius de verbispontificalibusfelices arboresputanturesse ...fagus . . . ("forVeranius comments that according to the pontifical sayingsblessed, fruitful trees are thought to be the beech ..."). See also Plin. Nat. 15.3. 16An early sacellum ofJupiter was located in a grove ofbeech trees on the western spine ofthe Esquiline Hill; seeFestus 87L. Seealso Richardson,i.f."Fagutal." Catullus' conjoining Jupiter's consent to the fruitfulness ofthe marriage is ironical, for it was thepredestined fruitfulness ofThetis that had dissuadedJupiter fromweddingThetis herself: she was fated to bear a son who would be greater than his father, which Jupiter interpreted as a son who would supplant him as king ofgods and men. 17Plin. Nat. 1 5.7, Ogle 293, Saglio "Infelix arbor." 132SYLLECTA CLASSICA 1 1 (2000) that laurel was used in triumphs was due to its protective and strengthening nature. Noting that the Roman people presented the new consuls with laurel as they took office on January first, Versnel suggests (378— 80) that the laurel's original function among the Romans was to bestow felicitas as a means of increasing and protecting a person's strength, be he new consul or triumphator.18This bestowal offelicitas lies behind the explanation ofFestus, who states that one reason Romans used laurel in religious ceremonies was that "it flourishes in everyseason, so that similarly the Republic may flourish" (quod omni tempore viret, ut similiter respublicafloreat, 104L).19 Consequentlythe laurel in Catullus is appropriate for the wedding bower both as a source of sexual strength and fertility for the couple, and of physical strength for the son they will beget under its leaves. The laurel, however, was also sacred to Apollo. Visitors to the Delphic oracle donned laurel crowns as they approached the oracle. This custom was likewise observed by the Romans: Fabius Pictor, for example , crowned himselfwith laurel when he visited the Delphic oracle, and upon his return to Rome, crowned himselfagain with laurel when hevisited theTemple ofApollo (Livy 23.1 1.5). As it is Apollo who aids Paris to shoot the arrow that brings death to Achilles, Penios' gift ofthe laurel tree has an ironical implication.20 The third tree, the plane, is included among Penios' gifts owing to its associations with events connectedwith theTrojan War. Just outside the Arcadian city ofCaphyae, according to Pausanias (8.23.4), were a 18Versnel likewise argues that die conserving power ofthe laurel underlies die Spartan soldiers' custom ofcrowning themselves with laurel before batde (PIu. Lye. 22.4) and diat the custom ofOlympic victors wearing laurel wreaths was due to dieir need not for purification but for strength to honor dieir cities. 19Festus' explanation is a variant on the medical concept ofsimilia similibus, "likes are cured by likes," itself one aspect ofs?µtt??e?a. According to this medical doctrine , a disease is cured by those remedies diat produce effects that resemble the disease itself. In die case of die Republic and die laurel tree, the doctrine becomes "likes are influenced by likes," that is, in the case ofany two items that are seen as alike in some way(s), what happens to the one will also happen to die odier. 20His aid is predicted in Horn. TZ. 22.358-60. I wish to thank an anonymous reviewer ofdiis article for pointing out the irony. SEBESTA: THE WEDDING GIFTS IN CATULLUS 64133 spring and a plane-tree planted by Menelaus when he mustered the Greek army for Troy.21 At Aulis, Iphigeneia was sacrificed near a plane tree (9.19.7).22 Here the Greek heroes sacrificed before sailing to Troy and were given an omen that foretold the war would last ten years (//. 2.307—30). The plane tree also is associated with Helen, the cause of theTrojanWarandthe ultimatecause ofAchilles' death, andwithAchilles himself. At Idyll 18.40—48, Theocritus gives an etiological explanation for an otherwise unknown cult of Helen of the Plane Tree that is connected with bridal ritual.23 Pausanias notes that at Sparta there was a sanctuary dedicated to Achilles on the road to Arcadia (3.20.8). Here all fully-grown boys would sacrifice to Achilles before they engaged in the fighting thatwas part oftheir manhood rite ofpassage.24This ritual fightwas conducted at a near-bygrove oftall plane trees thatgrew close together, called the Platanistas (3.14.8).25 Thus connected with rites of passage for both sexes, the plane tree may hint at a closer connection between Helen andAchilles, for the inhabitants ofCrotona and Himera told a story ofAchilles marrying Helen.26 21Pausanias says that the locals call both the spring and aie tree "Menelais." 22Pausanias saw the remains ofthis tree preserved in the temple ofAulis. 23This Idyll is in the form of an epithalamium for Helen. The maidens sing that they will on the morrow make garlands to hang on a shady plane tree. After they have anointed the plane tree with oil, they will carve on its bark a command that all should venerate the tree as Helen's. See also Kaibel 249. Equally remarkable, the flowes they bring are attested in no other sources. 24Pausanias also states that this sanctuary was built by Achilles' great-great-grandson , Prax. The cult ofAchilles in Laconia was widespread. 25This grove was surrounded by water and was accessible only by bridges. 26Pausanias (3.19.13) says that this story originated with Leonymos, a general of Crotona. After he was wounded in batde, Leonymos was told by the Pythia to go to a place calledWhite Island, in the mouth ofthe Ister, in order to be cured. Upon his return, Leonymos claimed, inter alia, that he had seen a number of heroes of the Trojan War there, including Achilles, who had married Helen, and that Helen had commanded him to sail to Himera to tell Stesichorus that in anger at his slanderous poem, she had blinded him. Stesichorus (fl. 7tl76th century B.C.E.) had written a poem lampooning Helen as the cause ofthe Trojan War. 134SYLLECTA CLASSICA 1 1 (2000) Catullus' periphrasis for the poplar connects it with die untimely deadi of die young Phaëdion, diereby foreboding die early death of Achilles on die plains ofTroy. The poplar's bi-color leaves—dark green on top, white below—symbolized, according to Servius (A. 5.134, EcI. 7.61), die labor performed in the Upper- and Under-worlds by Hercules , who crowned himselfwidi poplar when he brought Cerberus up from Hades. In the Odyssey (10.510), Homer mentions the grove of black poplars and willows that marks one ofthe entrances into Hades. The Romans used the poplar in their ludifúnebres because ofits sterility .27 For that reason, Pliny the Elder says, it was considered unlucky and under a curse (infelices autem existimantur damnataeque religione, "for they are thought to be unfruitful and condemned by religion," Nat. 16.108). Its symbolism amongPenios' gifts is clearlythatofdeadi.28 The symbolism ofPenios' fifth tree is more complex. Though it has been viewed as connoting deadi and grief,29 the cypress is a tree with positive associations.30 In the classical period, the cypress seems to have been regarded as aTree ofLife. Orphic poems (from southern Italy and Crete) that date to no later than die fourth century B.C.E. warned die deceased not to approach the sacred spring located to die left of the House ofHades, for by this spring stood a white cypress that was, according to E. O. Jones (87-88), "in all probability a miraculous chthonian Tree ofLife." The symbolism ofthe cypress as aTree ofLife is connected widi its remarkable ease ofpropagation and its abilityto regenerate. Pliny comments that in warm climates the cypress would spontaneously regenerate from its roots and adds diat on Crete the cypress would, in fact, 27As the poplar produces no flowers or seeds, the Greeks and Romans thought it a sterile plant. It can be propagated only through cuttings and shoots. 28On the poplar, see also Plin. Nat. 16.35-37. 29Bramble 30-31 and 31 note 2. He calls the odier trees ofPenios "innocuous." 30In many cultures ofthe Mediterranean, the cypress was viewed as a Tree ofLife. The most extensive study is that ofLajard. See also Piacente (387-90), who argues that die Christians made a connection between the cypress' straight-rising shape and their aspiration to eternal life. For the cypress used with other positive associations, see Horn. Od. 5.64;Theoc. 18.30; Verg. G. 1.20. SEBESTA: THE WEDDING GIFTS IN CATULLUS 64135 spring upwhenever anyone stirred the earth.31 The abilityofthe cypress to regenerate after destruction is what lies behind its appearance in an omen that connects Vespasian with the survival and prosperity of the empire after the Civil War that ensued upon Nero's death. Suetonius (Ves. 5) recounts that on the farm ofVespasian's grandfather a cypress tree was found uprooted and hurled to the ground, though there had been no severe wind. By the following day it had rerooted and became greener and stronger than formerly. Behind this particular omen lies the knowledge of the cypress' tenacity of life and its ability to regrow under the most adverse conditions: thus it is, in terms ofomen, a suitable tree to represent the rebirth, reflourishing, and continuation of Rome even after the convulsions of a civil war. The cypress in Catullus 64 has been interpreted as a tree ofmourning and death because later Roman poets often associated it with grief and cemeteries.32Yet, prior to Catullus' poem all citations ofthe cypress 31Vergil's invocation of Silvanus at the beginning of the Georgics (1.20) pictures him bringing a slip ofcypress for planting, a detail that refers to the easypropagation ofthe tree. The ability ofthe cypress to propagate and regenerate itselfis dependent, however, upon climate. Meiggs (46) notes that though the cypress needs less rainfall than other conifers do, it does prefer warmth. Hadfield (12) comments that it is "easily raised from seed in a suitable climate, or under glass in a cool one." The climates ofcentral and northern Italy evidendy were not ideal for the cypress, for Pliny (Nat. 16.139—42) and Cato (Agr. 151.1) both state that the cypress was difficult for the Romans to rear in these regions. This difficulty lies behind Festus' explanation (56L): cupressimortuorum domibusponebanturideo, quiahuiusgenerisarborexcisa non renascitur, sicut ex mortuo nihil iam est sperandum, quam et ob causam in tuteL· Ditispatris esseputabatur ("cypresses were put before the homes ofthe dead because it is the kind oftree which, once cut down, does not regrow; just so, there is no hope ofreturn to life for the dead person which is why he is thought to be in the guardianship offather Dis"). Servius (A. 3.64) repeats this explanation: atraque cypresso nigra, funesta: nam inferís consecrata est, quia caesa numquam revirescit ("the cypress, dark, black, funereal: for it is consecrated to the gods below, because once cut down it never regrows"). 32Bramble 31. Hor. Carm. 2.14.23 invisuy, Ov. Tr. 3.13.21 firalis; Petr. 120.75 feralis; Sil. l0.5i4firaU decus, maestas ad busta cypressos. (Silius Italicus' phrase suggests the Mediterranean association of cypresses with graveyards.) In the Metamorphoses Ovid explains how mourning came to be associated with the cypress through the story ofCyparissos, a handsome boy loved by Apollo. When Cyparissos accidentally killed his pet deer, he refused to be comforted, but rather wished to cry forever. In pity, Apollo transformed Cyparissos into a cypress saying, "For you will I mourn, 136SYLLECTA CLASSICA 1 1 (2000) inclassicalpoetryarein positivecontexts diat emphasizethetree's height and slenderness and/or its contribution of beauty and pleasantness in creating a locus amoenusP Examination of citations of die cypress in classical poetry reveals that tiiose citations prior to Catullus' poem 64 emphasize the tree's height and slenderness and/or its contribution of beauty and pleasantness—whether ofscent or form or shade—in creating a locus amoenus. Catullus' choice ofepithet, aeria ("rising aloft"), makes his passage fall into this group ofpositive citations. The funereal associations ofdie cypress first occur inVergil'sAeneid, where it is termedatra ("dark, gloomy"),funérea ("funereal"), andferalis ("belonging to die dead").34 That some unhappy event involving the cypress occurred between die time when Catullus wrote his poem 64 andVergil hisAeneidwouldseema reasonable cause for the volte-faceof its poetical associations. That unhappy event may be the initial use of die mausoleum of Augustus. The mausoleumwas completed in 28 B.C.E., afterVergil had publishedhis Georgics (inwhichhis mention ofdiecypress has no funereal epithet or association35) and had begun his Aeneid. In 25 B.C.E. Augustus' popular heir, Marcellus, died at Baiae, and his ashes were the first to be placed in die mausoleum. Baiae is near Cumae, whereAeneas discovered die bodyofMisenus andconducted his funeral. In theAeneid but you will mourn over others and you will be present wherever there is mourning" ("lugebere nobis, I lugebisque alios aderisque doUntibua" [10.141—42]). This etiology also explains why the cypress symbolizes rebirth and continuation: Cyparissos receives his wish, dies in his human form, and is reborn as the cypress. Isidore (Orig. 17.34) explains that cypresses were used to make funeral pyres because the pleasant scent ofdieir burning wood prevailed above the odor ofthe burning cadavers. 33Horn. Od. 5.64 where the "sweet-smelling" cypress is one ofthe trees that forms the luxuriant wood sheltering Circe's cave; Theoc. 18.30 in which Helen is likened to a "tall" cypress in a pleasant garden, and 1 1.45 where the "slender" cypress adorns the Cyclops' cave. Ennius, the first Latin poet who mentions the cypress, likewise emphasizes the cypress' heightand slenderness: Ungiquecypressistantrectisfoliis (Ann. 7.223) and rectosque cupressos (fr. 511 [Skutsch]). 34Verg. A. 3.64, 4.507 and 6.216. Though the cypress is not specified in 3.64, the epithet has generally been taken to be a periphrasis for the tree. 35G. 1.20: teneram ... Cyparissum ("the delicate ... cypress"). SEBESTA: THE WEDDING GIFTS IN CATULLUS 64137 (6.215-16), Vergil describes Misenus' pyre as having darkbranches (atris Jrondibus) entwinedandcoveringits sides,withfunerealcypresses (ferialis ante cupressos) set in front ofit. In describing Misenus' pyre Vergil may have had in mind the pyre ofMarcellus. Certainly Vergil's description ofthe tomb at Troy as adorned by ancient cypresses makes it resemble the mausoleum ofAugustus which, it is generally believed, was planted with cypresses.36 If cypresses did adorn Augustus' mausoleum, it would be due to their being a Tree ofLife that symbolized the survival ofthe soul after death.The griefandpain ensuing upon a loved one's death are naturally associated with any funerary object, even one with a positive symbolism .37As a symbol oflife after death, the cypress, togetherwith the pine and laurel, frequendy occurs on sarcophagi ofthe second century CE. and later as a motifofthe survival ofthe soul (Olck 1936). Images of cypresses—along with the pine and laurel, trees that are not generally regarded as funerary—are often found on Mithraic monuments, because they remain green when other trees and plants die and thus symbolize the continuation oflife through death.38 In Penios' "bouquet" of 36The tomb at Troy: A. 2.714. Strabo (5.236) says only that the mausoleum of Augustus was walled and planted with evergreen trees, which have generally been interpreted as cypresses. Richardson (s.v. "Mausoleum Augusti") has proposed that these trees should be understood as low-growing evergreens, such as junipers, arguing that cypresses would in time grow too large, obscuring the pyramidal shape of the mausoleum and damaging its fabric with their roots. It can be counterargued that the Romans certainly practiced topiary; cypresses kept shaped and small would not obscure the oudine ofthe mausoleum, nor do the roots ofsmall trees spread like those oflarge ones. Moreover, Roman gardeners routinely pruned roots with special instruments. I express my gratitude for this suggestion and information to Dr. Karen Koster, Associate Professor ofBiology, University ofSouth Dakota. On Roman agricultural implements, see White 50 and 65; on the Romans producing dwarf plane trees by planting and lopping, see Pliny, Nat. 12.13. 37Thus the myth ofCyparissos and his transformation into the cypress should be understood as a post hoc explanation of the cypress' association with death; on Cyparissos, see RE 12.1.51. 38Cumont 219. In note 7 (506), Cumont suggests that these trees may refer to the planetary spheres that the immortal soul must travel through as it ascends to heaven. He comments (487) that on sarcophagi ofthe second century and later, the deceased may be shown with a crown oflaurel, the "crown oflife" for the immortal soul. 138SYLLECTA CLASSICA 1 1 (2000) trees, therefore, the cypress refers not only to Achilles' death, but also to his life after death as a hero honored in many sanctuaries in the Greek world.39 Catullus had a specific reason in making Chiron and Penios bring botanic gifts offlowers and trees to the wedding ofPeleus and Thetis, gifts diatwere unique in the poetic tradition. He selected diese specific gifts because ofdieir symbolic ability to refer to the transitional stages in Achilles' life and to prefigure important events and persons in that life. 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