greekmythology

Adonis Greek Mythology

adonisAdonis was the most beautiful of young men, he was the son of king Cinyras of Cyprus and his daughter Myrrha. The gods turned Myrrha into a tree, and out of its trunk Adonis was born. Because of the fact that he was the result of incest, he was hidden in the underworld and looked after by Persephone.

When Aphrodite saw him she fell desperately in love, and when he was killed while hunting by a wild boar, she pleaded with Zeus to bring him back to life. Zeus agreed to get the young man back, but he had to stay in the underworld during winter and be with Aphrodite in summer, thus making the vegetation die in winter and blossom in summer.

The cult of Adonis was the first important cult in ancient Greece. It has been suggested that Adonis was a semitic god, since his name seems to be a grecian for of adon – the lord. The myth also resembles the Babylonian story of the god Tammuz death: here, it is Ishtar who laments him and brings him back to the world.

Especially the ancient Greek women would worhip Adonis, and womens’ laments were sometimes called Adoniscries. The so-called Adonisgardens were pots with flower seeds in them surrounding a statue of the god. In summer the flowers would grow and in winter wither, symbolizing the myth above.This makes Adonis a god of vegetation as well.

In spring there would be Adonis festivals where wild celebrations of joy would take place, and in autumn there would be mourning processions.

The myth of Adonis was localised and his rites celebrated with much solemnity at two places in Western Asia. One of these was Byblus on the coast of Syria, the other was Paphos in Cyprus

. Both were great seats of the worship of Aphrodite, or rather of her Semitic counterpart, Astarte; and of both, if we accept the legends, Cinyras, (or Theias) the father of Adonis, was king.

Of the two cities Byblus was the more ancient; indeed it is claimed to be the oldest city in Phoenicia, and to have been founded in the early ages of the world by the great god El, whom Greeks and Romans identified with Cronus and Saturn respectively.

One day, whilst out hunting, Adonis was gored by a wild boar and died of his wounds in the arms of a weeping Aphrodite.
The story of Adonis provides the basis of many legends about flowers. The mythical origin of myrrh is said to come from the tears of Myrrh, the red rose is said to have originally been white but turned red from the blood of Aphrodite who pricked her foot on a thorn as she ran to help her wounded lover.

The anemone flower is said to have come about due to the mingling of her tears and his blood as they touched the earth. In honour of Adonis, Aphrodite established a funeral feast, the Adonia festival commemorating his tragic death. This was celebrated each spring by women in Syria and every midsummer by women in Greece.

During this festival, in both countries, women would plant “gardens of Adonis”, small pots containing fast-growing plants, which they would set on top of their houses in the hot sun. The plants would sprout, but soon wither and die. Then the women would mourn the death of Adonis, tearing their clothes and beating their breasts in a public display of grief.