The Gardens of Adonis – Trifling Pleasures

Erasmus, Adagia 1.4:

Ἀδώνιδος κῆποι, that is ‘the Gardens of Adonis’ used to be said of trifling and unprofitable things which were suited only to the brief pleasure of the moment. Pausanius notes that the gardens of Adonis were once among the little delights, teeming with lettuce and fennel, in which seeds used to be placed in a pot, and for that reason it came to be used proverbially against worthless and trifling fools who were born for insipid pleasures. Included in thus bunch are singers, sophists, bawdy poets, gluttons, and others of that sort. There were however two gardens sacred to Venus on account of Adonis, her love who was snatched away at the first bloom of his youth and turned into a flower. Plato makes mention of these in his Phaedrus: :

Ὁ νοῦν ἔχων γεωργός, ὧν σπερμάτων κήδοιτο καὶ ἔγκαρπα βούλοιτο γενέσθαι, πότερα σπουδῇ ἂν θέρους εἰς Ἀδώνιδος κήπους ἀρῶν χαίροι θεωρῶν καλοὺς ἐν ἡμέραισιν ὀκτὼ γιγνομένους, ἢ ταῦτα μὲν δὴ παιδιᾶς τε καὶ ἑορτῆς χάριν δρώῃ ἄν, ὅτε καὶ ποιοῖ,

that is ,

‘will a farmer in his right mind, who has concern for his seeds and wants them one day to bear fruit, sow them with zeal in the gardens of Adonis during the summer, and does he rejoice to see them made beautiful within the space of eight days, or will he do those things (if ever) rather as a joke, for the sake of merriment?’

Similarly, Plutarch, in his commentary entitled Περὶ τοῦ βραδέως ὑπὸ θείου τιμωρουμένου, that is, ‘About One Punished Late by the Gods,’

Ἀλλὰ μικρός τις καὶ κενόσπουδος ὁ θεός ἐστιν ὥστε μηδὲν ἡμῶν ἐχόντων θεῖον ἐν αὑτοῖς μηδὲ προσόμοιον ἁμωσγέπως ἐκείνῳ καὶ διαρκὲς καὶ βέβαιον, ἀλλὰ φύλλοις, ὡς Ὅμηρος ἔφη, παραπλησίως ἀπομαραινομένων παντάπασι καὶ φθινόντων ἐν ὀλίγῳ, ποιεῖσθαι λόγον τοσοῦτον, ὥσπερ αἱ τοὺς Ἀδώνιδος κήπους ἐπ᾿ ὀστράκοις τισὶ τιθηνούμεναι καὶ θεραπεύουσαι γυναῖκες, ἐφημέρους ψυχὰς ἐν σαρκὶ τρυφερᾷ καὶ βίου ῥίζαν ἰσχυρὰν οὐ δεχομένῃ βλαστανούσας, εἶτα ἀποσβεννυμένας ἀεὶ ὑπο τῆς τυχούσης προφάσεως,

that is

‘He is a capricious god concerned with trifles who (though we have nothing divine in us nor anything which approaches his image and which might remain fixed and unchanged forever, but instead after the manner of leaves – as Homer says – droop in every respect and die in a short time) has such care for us, much as women who tend the gardens of Adonis which flourish for a few days and minister to the souls which endure for a brief period in our weak flesh, receiving no solid root of life and soon snuffed out by any chance accident.’

Theophrastus recounts in Idyll 8

Πὰρ δ᾿ ἁπαλοὶ κᾶποι πεφυλαγμένοι ἐν ταλαρίσκοις,

Ἀργυρέοις,

that is,

‘There are soft gardens preserved in shining baskets.’

The proverb is also given this way,

Ἀκαρπότερος τῶν Ἀδώνιδος κήπων,

that is,

‘Less fruitful than the gardens of Adonis.’

In a not dissimilar mode, Isaeus, mentioned in Philostratus, calls juvenile pleasures Ταντάλου κήπους, ‘the gardens of Tantalus’, because they are so similar to shades and dreams, and do not fill up the human mind, but rather provoke it. Similarly, Pollux used to call the speech of the sophist Athenodorus ‘the gardens of Tantalus’ because it was so juvenile and trifling, making a large pretense to be something when it was in fact nothing.”

The Gardens of Adonis (1888) by John Reinhard Weguelin

Adonis Horti.iv

Ἀδώνιδος κῆποι, id est Adonidis horti, de rebus leviculis dicebatur parumque frugiferis et ad brevem praesentemque modo voluptatem idoneis. Pausanias testatur Adonidis hortos olim in deliciis fuisse, lactucis potissimum ac feniculis frequentes, in quibus semina haud aliter atque in testa deponi consueverint, eoque rem in proverbium abiisse contra futiles ac nugones homines et voluptatibus ineptis natos ; cujusmodi sunt cantores, sophistae, poetae lascivi, cuppediarii atque id genus alii. Erant autem ii horti Veneri sacri propter Adonidem ejus amasium primo aetatis flore praereptum atque in florem conversum. Horum mentionem facit Plato in Phaedro : Ὁ νοῦν ἔχων γεωργός, ὧν σπερμάτων κήδοιτο καὶ ἔγκαρπα βούλοιτο γενέσθαι, πότερα σπουδῇ ἂν θέρους εἰς Ἀδώνιδος κήπους ἀρῶν χαίροι θεωρῶν καλοὺς ἐν ἡμέραισιν ὀκτὼ γιγνομένους, ἢ ταῦτα μὲν δὴ παιδιᾶς τε καὶ ἑορτῆς χάριν δρώῃ ἄν, ὅτε καὶ ποιοῖ; id est Num agricola qui sapiat semina quae curae haberet quaeque cuperet aliquando fructum adferre, aetatis tempore summo studio in Adonidis hortos mittet gaudetque spectare eos intra dies octo jam pulchros effectos, an ea quidem per lusum ac festi gratia faciet, si quando tamen fecerit ? Item Plutarchus in commentario, cui titulus Περὶ τοῦ βραδέως ὑπὸ θείου τιμωρουμένου, id est De eo, qui a numine sero punitur : Ἀλλὰ μικρός τις καὶ κενόσπουδος ὁ θεός ἐστιν ὥστε μηδὲν ἡμῶν ἐχόντων θεῖον ἐν αὑτοῖς μηδὲ προσόμοιον ἁμωσγέπως ἐκείνῳ καὶ διαρκὲς καὶ βέβαιον, ἀλλὰ φύλλοις, ὡς Ὅμηρος ἔφη, παραπλησίως ἀπομαραινομένων παντάπασι καὶ φθινόντων ἐν ὀλίγῳ, ποιεῖσθαι λόγον τοσοῦτον, ὥσπερ αἱ τοὺς Ἀδώνιδος κήπους ἐπ᾿ ὀστράκοις τισὶ τιθηνούμεναι καὶ θεραπεύουσαι γυναῖκες, ἐφημέρους ψυχὰς ἐν σαρκὶ τρυφερᾷ καὶ βίου ῥίζαν ἰσχυρὰν οὐ δεχομένῃ βλαστανούσας, εἶτα ἀποσβεννυμένας ἀεὶ ὑπο τῆς τυχούσης προφάσεως, id est Immo morosior quispiam et levicularum rerum curiosus est deus, qui cum nihil habeamus divinum in nobis, neque quod ullo modo ad illius similitudinem accedat quodque constet ac stabile perpetuumque sit, quin magis foliorum ritu, quemadmodum ait Homerus, undequaque marcescamus intereamusque brevi, tantam nostri curam habeat non aliter quam mulieres, quae Adonidis hortos ad dies pauculos vernantes in testulis quibusdam nutriunt foveatque animas brevi duraturas in carne tenera et solidam vitae radicem non recipiente suppullulantes ac mox ad quamvis occasionem interituras. Meminit et Theocritus Idyllio Θ :

Πὰρ δ᾿ ἁπαλοὶ κᾶποι πεφυλαγμένοι ἐν ταλαρίσκοις,

Ἀργυρέοις,

id est

Adsunt et teneri calathis candentibus horti,

Servati.

Effertur paroemia etiam hoc modo, Ἀκαρπότερος τῶν Ἀδώνιδος κήπων, id est Infructuosior Adonidis hortis. Non dissimili figura Isaeus apud Philostratum juveniles voluptates appellat Ταντάλου κήπους, quod umbris ac somniis persimiles sint nec expleant hominis animum sed irritent potius. Similiter Pollux sophistae Athenodori dictionem appellabat Tantali hortos, quod juvenilis esset ac levis, speciem prae se ferens, quasi esset aliquid, cum nihil esset.

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