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Useful weblinks: Adonis and Aphrodite

Myrrha and Adonis

  • This website gives an overview of the story starting with Myrrha/Smyrna and ending with Adonis’ death. In most versions of the tale, which teachers should be aware of in terms of appropriateness for their learners, Myrrha conceives an incestuous lust for her own father and Adonis is the product of their forbidden union.
  • There are several types of anemone, of which Adonis was probably transformed into the Anemone Sylvestris, which generally appear in clusters in late spring and early summer and are very delicate.

Gods

  • Artemis, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Eros, Hades and Persephone, Hermes, Zeus, Poseidon, Ares and Apollo all appear in this myth! Find biographies for all of these gods and goddesses on this site.

Eros and his Arrows

  • Eros is still very popular in modern culture. For instance, in 2009 the band Golden Silver released this track: ‘Arrows of Eros’. Eros/Cupid is especially popular around Valentine’s day, where he has become a standard part of the iconography for the day dedicated to lovers. There are even several soft toys made in his image!
  • A more sinister side of Eros can be seen in this bronze statue, where he has just shot an arrow.
  • Sebastiano Ricci painted this painting of Venus and Eros. His mother is directing him here to shoot someone of her choosing, as is the case, for instance, in the tale of Demeter and Persephone.

Hades

  • This site gives a comprehensive look at the Underworld/Hades, including sections on Tartarus and Elysium, and includes a lot of quotes from ancient sources.
  • Map of Hades
  • This drawing of Hadesmakes it seem red, dark and desolate.
  • In contrast, this view of the entrance to Hades is clear and cultured, with warm lighting and an entrance that would be fitting for a mansion.

The argument

  • Ask students how they would have resolved the argument. Who, if either, of the goddesses has the better case for ‘keeping’ Adonis?
  • It’s clear that Venus is jealous of the relationship that Persephone has built with Adonis, even though the queen of Hades loves the mortal in a different way (maternally rather than physically). Jealousy is generally seen as being a negative, destructive emotion but some people see it as a positive affirmation of love. Have students take a look at these quotes and decide for themselves what they think about jealousy.

Hunting

  • In Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book 15, Pythagoras gives a speech in which he criticises people for killing animals for food (and pleasure). He says that the only time it is acceptable to kill animals is if they are dangerous and threatening your life. This could be a fruitful discussion topic for students - some more ideas and stimulus materials below:
    • BBC Hunting: A general overview of hunting in the UK, including moral arguments for and against the practice. Which side of the argument do your students agree with and why?
    • Gov.uk Hunting: The (brief!) official laws on when, what and how to hunt in the UK.
    • This mosaic, from Macedonia in the 4th century BC, is an example of ancient Greeks hunting with dogs. These two wield a sword and an axe but spears and bows and arrows were also used.

Wild boar

  • Hunting wild boar was a popular sport in antiquity (see also the Calydonian Boar Hunt tale) but they still exist now and are sometimes cooked and eaten, especially in small-town festivals.
  • There is a short passage about wild boars on the BBC website.
  • Obelix, in the comic-book series Asterix, is a huge fan of eating wild boar: ‘Dinner!

Modern influence

  • In modern culture, a very attractive, youthful male is often called an ‘Adonis’. The term is often linked closely to pride and an interest in one’s own looks. Hence the mental disorder ‘Muscle dysmorphia’, characterised by a preoccupation with appearance and musculature and by a fear of being small and weak, is often called the ‘Adonis complex’.
  • Shelley wrote the long poem Adonais for John Keats after his death and uses the myth as an extended metaphor for Keats’ death. She cycles through mourning for the dead and ends with wishing to join him.
    One of the most relevant passages to this myth is quoted below:

"O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert,
  Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men
  Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart
  Dare the unpastur'd dragon in his den?
  Defenceless as thou wert, oh, where was then
  Wisdom the mirror'd shield, or scorn the spear?
  Or hadst thou waited the full cycle, when
  Thy spirit should have fill'd its crescent sphere,
  The monsters of life's waste had fled from thee like deer.
XXVIII
  "The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
  The obscene ravens, clamorous o'er the dead;
  The vultures to the conqueror's banner true
  Who feed where Desolation first has fed,
  And whose wings rain contagion; how they fled,
  When, like Apollo, from his golden bow
  The Pythian of the age one arrow sped
  And smil'd! The spoilers tempt no second blow,
  They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low.

Art

  • Venus and Adonis by Titian.
  • Adonis by Francois Lemoyne.
  • A sculpture of the lovers.
  • A picture of Adonis from Disney’s Hercules. He is one of the major characters, who appears in a lot of the episodes as a proud prince. However, his relationship with Aphrodite is never touched upon in the series.
  • Attic red-figure lekythos depicting Aphrodite and Adonis.
  • The death of Adonis sculpture by Giuseppe Mazzuoli.
  • This funeral monument shows Adonis as he is dying.
  • Tod des Adonis by Luca Giordano shows many women fussing over the dead Adonis. Who might the other women be? Attendants of Aphrodite?
  • The famous sculptor Auguste Rodin also chose to portray Adonis’ death, with Aphrodite sprawled over him in grief. It almost looks as if, in death, Adonis is fusing with the ground he lies on! 

Obsession and Greed

  • The other gods in this tale looked down on Aphrodite’s greedy wish to have Adonis for more than her apportioned time with him and her subsequent lifestyle, hunting and forgetting her role as a goddess.
  • Take a look at the quotes below and these two opposing quotes about greed: for and against.
  • Ivan Boesky, an American stock market trader who was sent to prison for insider trading, famously defended greed in his commencement address at the UC Berkeley’s School of Business Administration, in which he said, “I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself”.
  • This speech inspired the 1987 film Wall Street, in which Gordon Gekko, a character based in part on Ivan Boesky says “greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
  • Questions for students: What do you think about greed? Is it a positive driving force or a destructive desire?