"Adonis" by Antonio Corradini in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hephaestus, the jealous husband of Aphrodite, killed Adonis while the youth was hunting in the Lebanon Mountains.

The emperor Julian, the half-brother of Constantine I (Constantine the Great) and the successor of Constantius II, is called the "Apostate" because he attempted to revive the ancient religions of the Roman Empire after Christianity had become the state religion. In February of the year 363 Julian led the Imperial Army eastward from Constantinople toward the Sassanid Persian capital of Ctesiphon in an attempt to consolidate the eastern border. He arrived at the city of Damascus in March in the early evening while the planet Venus was visible above the western horizon. The city that he saw in the valley below him almost appeared to be on fire, for black smoke from hundreds of funeral pyres filled the night sky. Julian and his army could hear the sound of wailing as thousands of mourners walked in the streets in funeral processions. The priestesses of the temples of Aphrodite had shaved their hair and eyebrows in lamentation and covered themselves in black cloaks as they led the processions. This was the Adonia, the ritual celebration of the death of Adonis. It was considered a grave omen that Julian had entered Damascus during the Adonia, and he lost his life in the Persian campaign. After his death the emperor Jovian reinstated Christianity.

The Adonia was but one part of the cultus or religion of Aphrodite and Adonis. The sacred day of the Adonia was observed in the Mediterranean lands for hundreds of years, especially in the east where Greek was spoken. Its importance in the life of the people rivaled that of Good Friday among Christians today.

Today we use the term "Adonis" to indicate a man with a handsome face and physique. The "Adonis Effect" is a system for muscle building to achieve a specific waist to chest proportion in terms of body measurements. I wish to redeem the name of Adonis. The modern use of the name is blasphemous, for the true Adonis was in no way distinguished by a muscular physique. He did not live the glamorous life of a Hollywood actor at Gold's Gym. The Greek vision of existence was not glamorous but tragic, and the inner life of Adonis was commensurate with this vision.

Certainly we can imagine that the original Adonis was not handsome and did not have an impressive physique, for if he were outwardly impressive and extroverted women would have been attracted to him. The real Adonis must have been a poor and lonely shepherd who withdrew into himself and discovered the goddess in his visions and dreams. Perhaps if he lived today our modern "priests", our psychiatrists, would say that he had a mental illness. Adonis was known for his beauty, but it was not a physical beauty.

My first blog on PaganSpace, "The goddess who mourns", can be found at http://www.paganspace.net/profiles/blogs/the-goddess-who-mourns.

My interpretation of the myth might seem at first to be excessively somber, but in Greek culture the tragedies of Aeschylus were balanced by the comedies of Aristophanes in the way that Jewish comedians somehow "balance" the unfortunate and tragic history of their people. In my future posts on PaganSpace I will attempt to recreate the religion of Aphrodite and Adonis, and thereby enshrine my love for the goddess.

This is an ancient portrayal of Aphrodite in mourning.

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