The Metaphorical Use of the Cave in Greek Literature: A Semiotic Approach
This paper briefly explores the metaphorical significance of the cave in ancient Greek authors, such as Homer, Sophocles and Plato, in which the cave is connected with grief and lament, love and death. It then proceeds to analyse the semiotic use of the cave in Modern Greek poetry and prose, with special reference to the works of Alex. Papadiamantis, Str. Doukas, G. Seferis, O. Elytis, R. Galanaki, etc. In most works, as in many cultures and religions, the cave symbolises a secret, dark and often hostile space, a long, tortuous intellectual journey from darkness to light, utopia to reality, ignorance to knowledge, etc. In most references, the cave has two entrances: one facing the light (hope) and the other facing the darkness (death). The sea is often visible from the cave, with various semiotic connotations. The heroes either enter the cave or abandon it. The entrance of the hero into the obscure cave constitutes an exploration of his personal labyrinth, a journey to the dark kingdom of death and a return to the ancient uterus with rebirth following. Into the cave, the hero fights with evil and his conscience. In poetry especially, the cave has erotic connotations: entering the cave means succumb to instinct, which counterbalances the instinct of death. Abandoning the cave may mean meeting either life or death.
Keywords: Cave, Hostile Space, Darkness, Light, Love and Death, Labyrinth, Knowledge, Evil, Instinct
Dr Agathi Georgiadou
Teacher of Classics, Ministry of Education, Pedagogical Institute of Greece