Reader's Encyclopedia

Adonis

In Greek mythology, a beautiful youth, a parallel character to the Babylonian Tammuz. He was the result of an incestuous union between Myrrha and her father, Cinyras. Aphrodite fell in love with Adonis and hid him in a chest, which she gave to Persephone for safekeeping. When Persephone opened the chest and discovered this most beautiful young man, she too fell in love with Adonis and refused to give him up to Aphrodite. Zeus judged the case and ordered that Adonis spend half the year on earth with Aphrodite and half in the underworld with Persephone. According to a different legend, Adonis was killed by a boar, which some versions identify as Aphrodite's jealous lover Ares in disguise, and it was when he entered the underworld that Persephone fell in love with him.

The myth is one of many in which a young god dies and is resurrected, symbolizing the cycle of growing seasons. Part of the cult of Adonis included the planting of "gardens of Adonis" -- seeds sown in shallow soil that withered as quickly as they sprouted. The name of the god is derived from the Phoenician adon ("lord"), which appears in the Hebrew adonai, used as a substitute for the name Yahweh (Jehovah).

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