Today I would like to talk about the Greek myth of Adonis. He was a very beautiful young man who gained the attention of Aphrodite. Eventually he was killed, and this is actually the story of the invention of the red rose. When Adonis was killed Aphrodite pricked her finger on a thorn of a rose, all of which were originally white, and her blood turned it red!
Adonis’ story began with a curse. His mother was a very beautiful young woman named Myrrah, whose father had stupidly boasted was more beautiful than Aphrodite herself. This led to Aphrodite cursing Myrrah to lust after her own father, thus conceiving Adonis! Curses such as this were not uncommon in Greek myth (for those who had offended a God or Goddess). This particular story of curse ended up with a very beautiful youth being born (and fought over by Goddesses). After the conception the gods transformed Myrrah into a Myrrh tree (to save her from being murdered by her father), and it is in this form she birthed Adonis.
Aphrodite gave him over to Persephone, Queen of the Underworld (and wife of Hades) to be raised. Persephone and Aphrodite both became enamoured of the beautiful young man when he grew up! The two Goddesses had a feud over this man, that had to be settled by Zeus. This led to an ironically similar situation to the one that kept Persephone bound to the Underworld in the first place. Zeus would decree that Adonis would get to spend a third of the year with Aphrodite, a third of the year in the Underworld with Persephone, and the final third of the year he would get to choose.
Adonis chose to spend that final third of the year with Aphrodite! Adonis was one of Aphrodite’s most important romantic relationships. She loved and supported him in many ways, as well as cared for him. They were a happy couple, who had two children together. One day while with Aphrodite, Adonis was gored by a boar. In some versions of the myth the boar was controlled by a very jealous Ares, who wanted Adonis out of the way. Other versions have the boar was controlled by Artemis, who was jealous of Adonis’ hunting prowess! Aphrodite’s tears are said to have mixed with Adonis’ blood to form the anemone flower. In other versions of the myth, as I mentioned in the beginning, Aphrodite pricked her finger while rushing to her lover turning white roses red! Across most of the various tellings, Adonis died in Aphrodite’s arms. This would lead to Aphrodite declaring a festival called Adonia, to honor his tragic death!
His name has, of course, become synonymous with a beautiful man! Many a good looking guy is called an “Adonis.” I hope that you have enjoyed learning a bit about this interesting Greek mythological figure. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the page is a painting of Aphrodite and Adonis. I found the image on http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com.
- Mythology by Edith Hamilton
- Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch