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

The ‘Homeric’ War of Frogs and Mice, Part 1: The Proem (1-8)

As I begin from the first page, I pray that the chorus
comes from Helikon for the sake of the song
I have just set down on the tablets at my knees;
a song of limitless strife–the war-rousing work of Ares–
because I hope to send to the ears of all mortal men
how the mice went forth to best the frogs
in imitation of the deeds of the earth born men, the giants.
Or so the tale went among men. It has this kind of beginning.

1 ᾿Αρχόμενος πρώτης σελίδος χορὸν ἐξ ῾Ελικῶνος
2 ἐλθεῖν εἰς ἐμὸν ἦτορ ἐπεύχομαι εἵνεκ’ ἀοιδῆς
3 ἣν νέον ἐν δέλτοισιν ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ γούνασι θῆκα,
4 δῆριν ἀπειρεσίην, πολεμόκλονον ἔργον ῎Αρηος,
5 εὐχόμενος μερόπεσσιν ἐς οὔατα πᾶσι βαλέσθαι
6 πῶς μύες ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀριστεύσαντες ἔβησαν,
7 γηγενέων ἀνδρῶν μιμούμενοι ἔργα Γιγάντων,
8 ὡς λόγος ἐν θνητοῖσιν ἔην• τοίην δ’ ἔχεν ἀρχήν.

The Batrakhomuomakhia is a mock-epic from antiquity–dated variously from the late Archaic age to the Hellenistic period. Using a pastiche of Homeric style and surprising subject (a battle between tribes of frog and mice), this parody is at once highly ‘literary’ and baldly silly. Of course, we love it.

We love it so much that we’ve been working on the text, a translation, and something of a commentary.  Since we’re already having fun with other oddities and obscurities like the history of Apollonius of Tyre, it made sense to start putting some of the work on the Batrakhomuomakhia here.  Look for more fun as the friendship of a mouse and frog ends in a sudden tragedy compounded by an interspecies blood-feud and the callous machinations of the gods.

A limerick in the spirit of Palaiophron:

The Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice
is not really Homer but it’s still quite nice.
You needn’t suffer to learn
that there’s kleos to earn
And you may find yourself reading it twice.