Celery Near Calypso's Cave

The following excerpt from Homer's Odyssey describes what Hermes (or Mercury) saw as he approached Calypso's cave. He came to tell her that she must release Odysseus so that the Greek warrior could finish his journey home to Ithaca from Troy where he had been the brain behind the Greek operation which finally captured the city.

He (Hermes) found her (Calypso) at home. There was a large fire burning on the hearth. One could smell from afar the fragrant odor of burning cedar and sandal wood. As for herself, Calypso was busy at her loom, shooting her golden shuttle through the warp and singing beautifully. Round her cave was a thick wood of alder, poplar, and sweet smelling cypress trees. Therein were all kinds of great birds which had built their nests - owls, hawks, and chattering sea gulls whose business is in the waters. A vine loaded with grapes was trained and grew luxuriantly about the mouth of the cave. There were also four running rills of water in channels cut pretty close together. They were turned hither and thither to irrigate the beds of violets and luscious herbage, including wild celery, over which they flowed. Even a god could not help being charmed with such a lovely spot. So Hermes stood motionless and looked at it. When he had admired it sufficiently, he went inside the cave.

This is one of the earliest mentions of celery (about 800 B.C.) - or as the Greeks called it, selinon. At the time and for many centuries thereafter, celery was used as a medicinal herb, sometimes as a flavoring, but seldom eaten as a vegetable as we often use it today.

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Interesting Fact:

According to Homer in the Odyssey Ulysses was held for seven years by Calypso. Other sources have her bearing him children.

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