AskDefine | Define Adonis

Dictionary Definition



1 any handsome young man
2 annual or perennial herbs [syn: genus Adonis]
3 (Greek mythology) a handsome youth loved by Aphrodite, the goddess of love

User Contributed Dictionary


Proper noun

  1. taxonomic genus, within tribe Ranunculeae - known as pheasant's eye or bloddrops


Proper noun

  1. 'Άδωνις ('Adonis): A beautiful young man loved by Aphrodite.
  2. In the context of "rare": A given name


the young man loved by Aphrodite
male given name
  • Italian: Adone


Adonis ( Adonises)
  1. A beautiful man.


beautiful man

Extensive Definition

Adonis (, also: Άδωνις) is a figure of West Semitic origin, where he is a central cult figure in various mystery religions, who enters Greek mythology in Hellenistic times. He is closely related to the Egyptian Osiris, the Semitic Tammuz and Baal Hadad, the Etruscan Atunis and the Phrygian Attis, all of whom are deities of rebirth and vegetation.
Adonis is one of the most complex cult figures in classical times. He has had multiple roles, and there has been much scholarship over the centuries concerning his meaning and purpose in Greek religious beliefs. He is an annually-renewed, ever-youthful vegetation god, a life-death-rebirth deity whose nature is tied to the calendar. His cult belonged to women: the cult of dying Adonis was fully-developed in the circle of young girls around Sappho on Lesbos, about 600 BCE, as a fragment of Sappho reveals. His name is often applied in modern times to handsome youths.

Origin of the cult

Adonis was based very heavily on Tammuz. His name may be Semitic, a variation on the word "adon" meaning "lord" that was also used, as "Adonai", to refer to Yahweh in the Old Testament. When the Hebrews first arrived in Canaan, they were opposed by the king of the Jebusites, Adonizedek, whose name means "lord of Zedek" (Justice). Yet there is no trace of a Semitic cult directly connected with Adonis, and no trace in Semitic languages of any specific mythemes connected with his Greek myth; both Greek and Near Eastern scholars have questioned the connection (Burkert, p 177 note 6 bibliography). The connection in cult practice is with Adonis' Mesopotamian counterpart, Tammuz:
"Women sit by the gate weeping for Tammuz, or they offer incense to Baal on roof-tops and plant pleasant plants. These are the very features of the Adonis cult: a cult confined to women which is celebrated on flat roof-tops on which sherds sown with quickly germinating green salading are placed, Adonis gardens... the climax is loud lamentation for the dead god." —Burkert, p. 177.
When the cult of Adonis was incorporated into Greek culture is debated: Hesiod made him the son of Phoinix, eponym of the Phoenicians, and his association with Cyprus is not attested before the classical era. W. Atallah suggests that the later Hellenistic myth of Adonis represents the conflation of two independent traditions. Adonis was worshiped in unspoken mystery religions: not until Imperial Roman times (in Lucian of Samosata, De Dea Syria, ch. 6 does any written source mention that the women were consoled by a revived Adonis. The third century BCE poet Euphorion of Chalcis in his Hyacinth wrote "Only Cocytus washed the wounds of Adonis". Women in Athens would plant "gardens of Adonis" quick-growing herbs that sprang up from seed and died. The Festival of Adonis was celebrated by women at midsummer by sowing fennel and lettuce, and grains of wheat and barley. The plants sprang up soon, and withered quickly, and women mourned for the untimely death of the vegetation god (Detienne 1972).

Birth and death of Adonis

Adonis' birth is shrouded in confusion for those who require a single, authoritative version. The resolutely patriarchal Hellenes sought a father for the god, and found him in Byblos and Cyprus, faithful indicators of the direction from which his cult had come to them. In Cyprus, the cult of Adonis gradually superseded the cult of Cinyras . Walter Burkert questions whether Adonis had not from the very beginning come to Greece with Aphrodite (Burkert 1985, p. 177)
Multiple versions of the birth of Adonis exist: The most commonly accepted version is that Aphrodite urged Myrrha to commit incest with her father, Theias, the King of Smyrna or Syria (which helps confirm the area of Adonis' origins). Myrrha's nurse helped with the scheme, and Myrrha coupled with her father in the darkness. When Theias at last discovered this deception by means of an oil lamp, he flew into a rage, chasing his daughter with a knife. Myrrha fled from her father, and Aphrodite turned her into a myrrh tree. When Theias shot an arrow into the tree — or alternately when a boar used its tusks to rend the tree's bark — Adonis was born from the tree. This myth fits both Adonis' nature as a vegetation god and his origins from the hot foreign desert lands where the myrrh tree grew. (It was not to be seen in Greece.)
  1. Pseudo-Apollodorus, (Bibliotheke, 3.182) considered Adonis to be the son of Cinyras, of Paphos on Cyprus, and Metharme.
  2. Hesiod, in a fragment, believes he is the son of Phoenix and Aephesiboea.
As soon as Adonis was born. the baby was so beautiful that Aphrodite placed him in a closed chest, which she delivered for security to Persephone, who was also entranced by his unearthly beauty and refused to give him back. The argument between the goddess of love and the goddess of death was settled, either by Zeus or Calliope, with Adonis spending four months with Aphrodite, who seduced him with the help of Helene, her friend, four months with Persephone and four months of the years to himself. Some say Aphrodite eventually seduced Adonis into spending his four months alone with her.

See also



Adonis in Arabic: أدونيس
Adonis in Bosnian: Adonis
Adonis in Breton: Adonis
Adonis in Bulgarian: Адонис
Adonis in Catalan: Adonis
Adonis in Czech: Adónis
Adonis in Danish: Adonis
Adonis in German: Adonis
Adonis in Estonian: Adonis
Adonis in Modern Greek (1453-): Άδωνις
Adonis in Spanish: Adonis
Adonis in Esperanto: Adoniso
Adonis in Persian: آدونیس
Adonis in French: Adonis (mythologie)
Adonis in Galician: Adonis
Adonis in Korean: 아도니스
Adonis in Croatian: Adonis
Adonis in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Adonis
Adonis in Italian: Adone (mitologia)
Adonis in Hebrew: אדוניס
Adonis in Georgian: ადონისი (მითოლოგია)
Adonis in Lithuanian: Adonis (mitologija)
Adonis in Hungarian: Adónisz
Adonis in Malayalam: അഡൊണിസ്
Adonis in Dutch: Adonis (mythologie)
Adonis in Japanese: アドーニス
Adonis in Norwegian: Adonis
Adonis in Polish: Adonis (mitologia grecka)
Adonis in Portuguese: Adônis
Adonis in Romanian: Adonis
Adonis in Russian: Адонис
Adonis in Serbian: Адонис
Adonis in Serbo-Croatian: Adonis
Adonis in Finnish: Adonis
Adonis in Swedish: Adonis
Adonis in Turkish: Adonis (mitoloji)
Adonis in Ukrainian: Адоніс
Adonis in Urdu: ایڈونس
Adonis in Chinese: 阿多尼斯
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