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"A tree named for friendship: reading Homer’s phylia"

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Lunch Talk


December 2, 2022

Event Subtitle / Short Description

To attend in person please RSVP by Tuesday, November 29th to Eileen Robinson, [email protected]

Click here for the Zoom registration link 


Speaker & Affiliation

Tim Whitmarsh, University of Cambridge


12:00 pm - 1:20 pm
East Pyne 161 and Zoom


In Odyssey 5, our hero lands on Scheria, and crawls into a bush, formed half of olive-tree and half of a mysterious plant called phylia. Modern readings take this as wild olive, and thus read the bush symbolically, as an emblem of Odysseus’ liminal state between nature and culture. But any identification of the phylia is nothing more than guesswork, and what it ‘means’ remains up for grabs. This paper considers a creative reinterpretation of the episode from late antiquity, arguing that it offers a surprisingly perceptive reading, which promises to change our angle of vision not just on the bush but on the wider episode of Odysseus’ arrival on Scheria.