The Gardens of Adonis, A Proverb

The following passages refer to a part of the Adonia of ancient Athens.

Zenobius, Cent. 1.49

“You are more infertile than the gardens of Adonis”. A proverb which is applied to those who are able to produce nothing true. Plato brings this up in the Phaedrus. The gardens of Adonis are planted in clay pots and grow until they turn green only. Then they are carried out with the dying god and tossed into springs.”

᾿Ακαρπότερος εἶ ᾿Αδώνιδος κήπων: ἐπὶ τῶν μηδὲν γενναῖον τεκεῖν δυναμένων εἴρηται ἡ παροιμία· μέμνηται αὐτῆς Πλάτων ἐν Φαίδρῳ. Γίνονται δὲ οὗτοι οἱ κῆποι τοῦ ᾿Αδώνιδος εἰς ἀγγεῖα κεράμεια σπειρόμενοι ἄχρι χλόης μόνης· ἐκφέρονται δὲ ἅμα τελευτῶντι τῷ θεῷ καὶ ῥιπτοῦνται εἰς κρήνας.

Diogenianus, 1.14

“The gardens of Adonis: a proverb applied to things that are out of season and without roots. As the myth goes, Adonis, Aphrodite’s lover, died before adolescence. The people who celebrate his rites plant gardens in pots. They grow quickly and then die because they do not take root. They call these Adonis’ plants.”

᾿Αδώνιδος κῆποι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀώρων καὶ μὴ ἐῤῥιζωμένων. ᾿Επειδὴ γὰρ ῎Αδωνις ἐρώμενος ὢν, ὡς ὁ μῦθος, τῆς ᾿Αφροδίτης, προήβης τελευτᾷ, οἱ ταύτῃ ὀργιάζοντες, κήπους εἰς ἀγγεῖά τινα φυτεύοντες ἢ φυτεύουσαι, ταχέως ἐκείνων διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐῤῥιζῶσθαι μαραινομένων ᾿Αδώνιδος αὐτοὺς ἐκάλουν.

Plato, Phaedrus 276b

“Would a farmer of any sense, when he cares about some seeds and wants them to grow to fruit, seriously plant them in some gardens of Adonis during the summer and then take pleasure in seem them growing beautifully only eight days later and would he do this thing only as a game or for sake of some distraction when he did it? Wouldn’t he apply the art of farming to those matters in which he was serious and plant his seeds in the ground and then be delighted when everything he planted reached full size in the eighth month?”

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 δρῴη ἄν, ὅτε καὶ ποιοῖ· ἐφ᾿ οἷς δὲ ἐσπούδακε, τῇ γεωργικῇ χρώμενος ἂν τέχνῃ, σπείρας εἰς τὸ προσῆκον, ἀγαπῴη ἂν ἐν ὀγδόῳ μηνὶ ὅσα ἔσπειρεν τέλος λαβόντα;

Fragment of a red-figure wedding vase

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