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The Mulberry tree

Posted on May 18, 2017 by Administrator

The Mulberry tree

Mulberry trees are very common on Crete. The fruit provides a beautiful sweet food, the tree provides very welcome shade for people and animals during the hot summers, while the tree also provides very necessary greens to eat for the animals when everything else has stopped growing. And, last but not least, the tree provides wood for furniture making and firewood. 

Usually associated with Japan and silk, the Mulberry tree has been establsihed on Crete for such a long time that it is mentioned in one of the great Greek mytholgical drama's, the story of Pyramos and Thisbe. 

The story, as told by the Greeks, does however have a much older origin which was confirmed by the find of a 2nd century mosaic in Nea Paphos on Cyprus which depicts the much older story. Let’s stick with the Greek version, as it really is worth telling…

Many, many moons ago, before time was ever invented, there lived two important families in the city of Mopsuestia in the area of Κιλικία Πεδιάς (flat Cilicia). Both families were second in importance to the king only. The families were fierce rivals in everything they did, and despite living next to each other their children were forbidden to play together or talk to each other.

One family had a handsome son named Pyramos, the other family had a beautiful daughter of the same age, named Thisbe. The young people fell in love but their parents refused to give the youngsters permission to get married and tried to end the relationship by locking the lovers up in their respective homes. Do parents ever learn?

Of course, love always finds a way, and the love between Pyramos and Thisbe was no different.  The two lovers found a crack in the wall which separated their homes, and through this crack they whispered sweet nothings to each other and exchanged messages proclaiming their undying love and devotion.

One day both sets of parents were ordered to come to the court of the king to once again try and settle one of their many disputes, and the young lovers saw their chance. They arranged to elope, and agreed to meet up in the mountains by the tomb of the legendary Babylonian king Ninus, under the solitary Mulberry tree which grew there.

Impatient and fuelled by love, Thisbe arrived a little earlier than agreed and was confronted by a hungry lion looking for a suitable lunch. Having no intention of meeting this particular need of the lion, Thisbe ran and hid in the Mulberry tree, dropping her scarf in the process. When she reached the safety of the tree, Thisbe startled a goat also hiding in the tree from the lion. The goat scampered, and became lunch…

A little later Pyramos arrived and saw the bloody mouthed lion wondering off, licking its lips in complete satisfaction. He also spotted the bright coloured scarf which he knew to be Thisbe’s on the ground in the distance, and assumed that she had fallen prey to the lion. Thisbe, guessing what was going to happen next, but overcome with emotion, could not shout her presence to him and was unable to prevent the subsequent drama from unfolding before her eyes.

Devastated by his perceived loss, Pyramos, like a true man, threw himself on his sword and died instantly. His blood splashed up in a huge fountain and stained the white fruit of the Mulberry tree dark red. Thisbe, also covered in his blood, jumped out of the tree and begged the Gods not to let their love be in vain before pulling her dead lover’s dagger from his side and killing herself with the weapon. Her blood mingled with his and formed a small rivulet of blood running down the mountian

The Gods, thoroughly entertained by this drama, heard her cries and granting her request for eternal recognition, changed the body of Thisbe into a fresh water spring while the body of her dead lover was changed into a river, known by the ancient Greeks as the Πύραμος (Pyramos) river. The Mulberry tree, growing at the spring, would from then on give blood red fruit to remember the drama of Pytamos and Thisbe.

Today, the Pytamos river is known as the Ceyhan River which finds its origins in the Taurus Mountains, the site of ancient Κιλικία, and enters the Mediterranean Sea on the Turkish south coast. The river delta is a huge mud flat and home to millions of sea birds. It is also a known breeding ground for sea turtles. 


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