Ancient Greek legends tell of brazen sailors embarking on long and perilous voyages to the remote land of Cilicia, where they traveled to procure what they believed was the world’s most valuable saffron. The best-known Hellenic saffron legend is that of Crocus and Smilax: The handsome youth Crocus sets out in pursuit of the nymph Smilax in the woods near Athens; in a brief dallying interlude of idyllic love, Smilax is flattered by his amorous advances, but all too soon tires of his attentions. He continues his pursuit; she resists. She bewitches Crocus: he is transformed—into a saffron crocus. Its radiant orange stigmas were held as a relict glow of an undying and unrequited passion. The tragedy and the spice would be recalled later:

Crocus and Smilax may be turn’d to flow’rs,
And the Curetes spring from bounteous show’rs
I pass a hundred legends stale, as these,
And with sweet novelty your taste to please.
—Ovid, Metamorphoses.

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story involving trade in a precious spice.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your favorite flower and what it means to you.

Art Prompt: Crocus and Smilax

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the history of saffron.

Photo Credit: Chris Alban Hansen on Flickr

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