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[4] And Adonis, while still a boy, was wounded and killed in hunting by a boar through the anger of Artemis.1 Hesiod, however, affirms that he was a son of Phoenix and Alphesiboea; and Panyasis says that he was a son of Thias, king of Assyria,2 who had a daughter Smyrna. In consequence of the wrath of Aphrodite, for she did not honor the goddess, this Smyrna conceived a passion for her father, and with the complicity of her nurse she shared her father's bed without his knowledge for twelve nights. But when he was aware of it, he drew his sword and pursued her, and being overtaken she prayed to the gods that she might be invisible; so the gods in compassion turned her into the tree which they call smyrna ( myrrh).3 Ten months afterwards the tree burst and Adonis, as he is called, was born, whom for the sake of his beauty, while he was still an infant, Aphrodite hid in a chest unknown to the gods and entrusted to Persephone. But when Persephone beheld him, she would not give him back. The case being tried before Zeus, the year was divided into three parts, and the god ordained that Adonis should stay by himself for one part of the year, with Persephone for one part, and with Aphrodite for the remainder.4 However Adonis made over to Aphrodite his own share in addition; but afterwards in hunting he was gored and killed by a boar.


1 Compare Bion i; Cornutus, Theologiae Graecae Compendium 28; Plut. Quaest. Conviv. iv.5.3, 8; Athenaeus ii.80, p. 69 B; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 831; Aristides, Apology, ed. J. Rendel Harris (Cambridge, 1891), pp. 44, 106ff.; Prop. iii.4(5) 53ff., ed. F. A. Paley; Ov. Met. 10.710ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 248; Macrobius, Sat. i.21.4; Lactantius, Divin. Inst. i.17; Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum 9; Augustine, De civitate Dei vi.7. There are some grounds for thinking that formerly Adonis and his Babylonian prototype Tammuz were conceived in the form of a boar, and that the story of his death by a boar was only a misinterpretation of this older conception. See Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, ii.22f.; C. F. Burney, The Book of Judges (London, 1918), pp. xviiff., who refers to “the brilliant discovery of Ball (PSBA. xvi.1894, pp. 195ff.) that the Sumerian name of Tammuz, DUMU.ZI (Bab. Du' ûzu, Dûzu) is identical with the Turkish dōmūz ‘pig,’ and that there is thus an ‘original identity of the god with the wild boar that slays him in the developed legend.’” W. Robertson Smith, as Professor Burney points out, had many years ago expressed the view that “the Cyprian Adonis was originally the Swine-god, and in this as in many other cases the sacred victim has been changed by false interpretation into the enemy of the god” (Religion of the Semites, New Edition, London, 1894, p. 411, note). The view is confirmed by the observation that the worshippers of Adonis would seem to have abstained from eating swine's flesh. See W. W. Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun (Leipsig, 1911), p. 142, quoting SS. Cyri et Joannis Miracula, in Migne's Patrologia Graeca, lxxxvii.3, col. 3624.

2 According to Ant. Lib. 34, Smyrna, the mother of Adonis, was a daughter of Belus by a nymph Orithyia. Tzetzes mentions, but afterwards rejects, the view that Myrrha, the mother of Adonis, was a daughter of Thias (Scholiast on Lycophron 829, 831). Hyginus says that Cinyras, the father of Adonis, was king of Assyria (Hyginus, Fab. 58). This traditional connexion of Adonis with Assyria may well be due to a well-founded belief that the religion of Adonis, though best known to the Greeks in Syria and Cyprus, had originated in Assyria or rather in Babylonia, where he was worshipped under the name of Dumuzi or Tammuz. See Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 3rd ed., i.6ff.

3 As to the transformation of the mother of Adonis into a myrrh-tree, see Scholiast on Theocritus i.107; Plut. Parallela 22; Ant. Lib. 34; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 829; Ov. Met. 10.476ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 58, 164; Fulgentius, Mytholog. iii.8; Lactantius Placidus, Narrat. Fabul. x.9; Serv. Verg. Ecl. 10.18 and Aen. v.72; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 60 (First Vatican Mythographer 200). The drops of gum which oozed from the myrrh-tree were thought to be the tears shed by the transformed Myrrha for her sad fate (Ov. Met. 10.500ff.).

4 According to another version of the story, Aphrodite and Persephone referred their dispute about Adonis to the judgment of Zeus, and he appointed the Muse Calliope to act as arbitrator between them. She decided that Adonis should spend half the year with each of them; but the decision so enraged Aphrodite that in revenge she instigated the Thracian women to rend in pieces Calliope's son, the musician Orpheus. See Hyginus, Ast. ii.6. A Scholiast on Theocritus (Id. iii.48) reports the common saying that the dead Adonis spends six months of the year in the arms of Persephone, and six months in the arms of Aphrodite; and he explains the saying as a mythical description of the corn, which after sowing is six months in the earth and six months above ground.

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