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Homer's Asphodel Meadow Ἀσφοδελόσ / Σφοδελόσ

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Chapter Summary

Homer's 'asphodel meadow', 'where the spirits of the dead dwell', has throughout western literary history been envisioned as a pleasant and even desirable place. This was the impression among many of the ancient Greek poets and Homeric commentators, who understood the adjective to mean 'flowery,' 'fragrant,' 'fertile,' and 'lush,' and who even referred to the asphodel meadow as a 'paradise'. Some modern scholars have tried to resolve the disjunction of a 'flowery Hades' by portraying the asphodel as a foul-smelling, unattractive plant that grows only on poor and desolate ground and so, among all the specimens of the botanical world, uniquely suited for the barren topography of Hades. But the ancients' poets, botanists, physicians, and Homeric commentators alike speak of the asphodel with high praise, fragrant to the smell, lovely to the sight, nutritious, satisfying, and sweet to eat.

Keywords: flowery; fragrant; Greek poets; Homer's asphodel meadow; lush; paradise

10.1163/ej.9789004174412.i-416.59
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