The burial mound at Amphipolis, near Thessaloniki in Greece, has been very much in the news recently but now that an ancient skeleton has been found the excitement has reached peak levels. Thanks to modern science we’re accustomed to the fact that age, sex, height of skeletal remains can be determined, but it’s astonishing that scientists fully expect to learn details such as colour of hair and eyes of the person buried in this tomb. He or she was certainly of great importance as indicated by the splendour of the burial chambers, though the tomb has unfortunately long since been looted.
The pomegranate – known since antiquity
The mosaic floor is of superb quality. Only imagine the skill and expertise required to carry out the back-breaking work of assembling the scene. I wonder if the pebbles were collected and sorted for the artist by helpers? One would think so. This National Geographic article gives a brief description of the mosaic.
Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, featured prominently in Greek mythology, though the concept of a goddess responsible for the rebirth of plant growth in the spring has a history which predates the latest versions of the Greek myths; birth and death have always preoccupied Man’s mind.
Needless to say, after all the skulduggery and trauma of being dragged underground, Persephone was more than a little anxious to return to her mother from the Underworld. In one version of the Greek myth, Hades agreed to free her if she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything while in his underground kingdom.
Winter fruits: Apples and pomegranates are frequently mentioned in the Greek myths
But he tricked her, of course – Greek myths are big on tricks and treachery!
He fooled her into eating some pomegranate seeds, with the result that her freedom came with certain conditions: six months on Earth, six months with him as Queen of the Underworld. Thus did the ancient Greeks explain the seasons.
Some years ago I knitted my friend a shawl in what has become my signature style, using many colours and textures of yarn; the original shawl is featured in my first book (2000).
Jason’s quite cosy in warm winter colours
We were photographing this one in late Fall before Aeolus, that normally nimble god of the wind, had dispersed all the Bougainvillea blooms, and together with a bowl of pomegranates on the table – the colours were irresistible. So much fun setting up the pictures!
Persephone is a lovely classical name, not often heard nowadays; Persa is the common pet name. Persephone, a favourite subject of artists and sculptors, is frequently depicted delicately draped in floating wraps and shawls.
Highlighting the colours
Worn by an antique olive jar
Did she knit brightly coloured shawls to cheer her through the dark dismal days in Hades?
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Tagged Aeolus, antique, apples, Bougainvillia, Centaurs, colours, Demeter, Greece, Greek, Hades, Jason, knitting, olive jar, Persephone, Pounda Paou, seeds, shawl, Thessaloniki, Underworld, winter
Such an abundance of apples! Hera would have loved winter here in Pelion when the apple trees are laden with fruit, but the gods only came during the summer to disport themselves on the beaches and relax in the cool shady forests of Mount Pelion. Zeus of the ever-roving eye must have had a grand old time chasing nymphs through the glades, while Hera seethed and sulked. She was probably only too glad to get him back to Mount Olympus for the winter, though by all accounts that didn’t cramp his style.
The sweet, red Starking apples are my favourite. Freshly picked and with a little cheese, they’re a treat worthy of the gods; did Hera ever try them like this? I often buy too many, but apples are so easy to prepare in all manner of ways that there’s no need for any to go wasted.
My apple cake is very quick and easy – it has to be for I’m not known for my culinary skills – and came about one day when friends called, asking if they could drop in later for coffee. I needed to rustle up something sweet, but what? I had apples a-plenty, didn’t feel inclined to make pastry, so decided to fall back on my Mother’s 2-4-6-8 standby cake, and hope for the best. The results were better than I’d expected, so here’s what I do if you’d like to try it.
Topped with flaked almonds
2 eggs, 4 oz butter, 6 oz sugar, 8 oz self-raising flour.
That’s it, and very useful has this basic mix been to me over the years. You can add some cocoa, vanilla essence, almond essence, etc. to the mixture. This is truly a very basic recipe you can fling together in a hurry, and liven up as you choose.
For this cake, you need apples, obviously, which you either cook yourself or use canned apples.
To prepare the apples:
Core and quarter the apples, peeled or unpeeled as you prefer; I no longer peel mine. – the skins are good for you.
Place in a pot, cover with water and add sugar to taste.
Bring to the boil for a few minutes – you don’t want them too soft.
Drain and spoon into a greased baking dish or pan.
I like to use a square or rectangular one as I find it easier to cut even pieces.
Preheat your oven to 375 degF while you mix the cake.
To prepare the basic 2-4-6-8 cake topping:
Cream 4 oz butter and 6 oz sugar
Beat in 2 eggs and mix well
Gradually beat in the flour
Add a little vanilla essence
Stir in some milk if the mixture seems too stiff
To complete the cake:
Toss some raisins or sultanas over the apples if desired
Sprinkle with cinnamon
Spread the cake mixture evenly over the apples
Sprinkle flaked almonds over the top
Bake at 375 degF until nicely browned (about 30 mins)
This is very tasty served as is, hot or cold.
Ice cream or cream makes it really yummy!
I was once asked what this apple cake is called.
“Oh, it’s really a very slapdash thing,” I replied, and that’s what we call it.
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Tagged almonds, apples, beaches, cake mixture, centaur, cinnamon, cream, dish, flaked, Hera, ice cream, Mount Olympus, Mount Pelion, nymphs, raisins, rectangular, Slapdash, square, sugar, sultanas, summer, vanilla, water, Zeus
Apples feature in several of the Greek myths, as they do in the mythologies of many cultures.
Hera was given a wedding gift of apple trees from the Earth Mother, Gaia, when she married Zeus. Theirs was what you might call a tricky courtship for Zeus deceived her into marrying him.
The wedding planner did them proud and although the occasion was a most splendid affair, quite over the top, with gods and goddesses in attendance, lavish gifts, out-of-this-world food, including streams of ambrosia bubbling about, the relationship went rapidly downhill from there. Truly the stuff of tabloids and trashy TV.
Hera, who had a pretty good background of her own and was quite the career woman, became the goddess of marriage once their unhappy union was sealed. The Greek myths tell of Hera’s jealous rages, for Zeus was not the poster boy for fidelity, and their thundering rows on Mt Olympus struck fear into many a trembling mortal, so one wonders if brides of the time were all that eager to have her blessing?
Hera’s golden apples grew in a garden guarded by a dragon, together with nymphs who flitted about day and night on patrol, for the fruits were much prized. Hercules was charged with obtaining these apples as one of his twelve labours; much mayhem ensued as a result of his efforts.
Sweet, juicy, organically grown
Frankly, I am in awe of the ancient storytellers whose wondrous imaginations gave us these tales. How on earth did they remember all the minute details of each myth?
An apple a day? Not me!
I’m hard pressed to recall who are the Twelve Gods, never mind all the demi-gods and various other hangers on, whose exploits are so varied and enthralling. Got to hand it to those who first dreamed up the gods and made them mortal in their foibles.
The Greek myths have held people spellbound for centuries. They’ve been told and retold in countless versions, discussed, debated and dissected in every conceivable forum, with even the apples coming under scholarly scrutiny. Were these apples, described as golden, in fact oranges?
Oranges, or golden apples?
Were they not apples at all, as believed today by some classicists? Others disagree, arguing that oranges came from the East and were not known in Ancient Greece. The dispute continues enthusiastically among those for whom the fascination of these fables never fades.
Jason steadfastly refuses to comment.
Do I want an orange? No thanks!
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Tagged Ancient Greece, apples, blessing, centuries, classicists, cultures, demi-gods, dispute, dragon, East, fables, gifts, gods, golden apples, Greek, Hera, Jason, marriage, mayhem, mortal, Mt Olympus, mythologies, myths, oranges, rages, scholars, storytellers, tabloids, thundering, tricked, TV, Twelve Gods, wedding, wedding planner, Zeus