The Gardens of Adonis

The Gardens of Adonis : Spices in Greek Mythology

By (author) Marcel Detienne , Introduction by Jean-Pierre Vernant , Translated by J. Lloyd

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Rich with implications for the history of sexuality, gender issues, and patterns of Hellenic literary imagining, Marcel Detienne's landmark book recasts long-standing ideas about the fertility myth of Adonis. The author challenges Sir James Frazer's thesis that the vegetation god Adonis - whose premature death was mourned by women and whose resurrection marked a joyous occasion - represented the annual cycle of growth and decay in agriculture. Using the analytic tools of structuralism, Detienne shows instead that the festivals of Adonis depict a seductive but impotent and fruitless deity - whose physical ineptitude led to his death in a boar hunt, after which his body was found in a lettuce patch. Contrasting the festivals of Adonis with the solemn ones dedicated to Demeter, the goddess of grain, he reveals the former as a parody and negation of the institution of marriage. Detienne considers the short-lived gardens that Athenian women planted in mockery for Adonis's festival, and explores the function of such vegetal matter as spices, mint, myrrh, cereal, and wet plants in religious practice and in a wide selection of myths. His inquiry exposes, among many things, attitudes toward sexual activities ranging from 'perverse' acts to marital relations.

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  • Paperback | 250 pages
  • 137.16 x 210.82 x 15.24mm | 249.47g
  • 04 Apr 1994
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey
  • English
  • 2nd Second with a New Afterword by ed.
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0691001049
  • 9780691001043
  • 1,386,215

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Rich with implications for the history of sexuality, gender issues, and patterns of hellenic literary imagining, Marcel Detienne's landmark book, first published in 1972, recast long-standing ideas about the fertility myth of Adonis. The author challenges Sir James Frazer's thesis that the vegetation god Adonis - whose premature death was mourned by women and whose resurrection marked a joyous occasion - represented the annual cycle of growth and decay in agriculture. Using the analytic tools of structuralism, Detienne shows instead that the festivals of Adonis depict a seductive but impotent and fruitless deity - whose physical ineptitude led to his death in a boar hunt, after which his body was found in a lettuce patch. Contrasting the festivals of Adonis with the solemn ones dedicated to Demeter, the goddess of grain, he reveals the former as a parody and negation of the institution of marriage. Detienne considers the short-lived gardens that Athenian women planted in mockery for Adonis's festival, and explores the function of such vegetal matter as spices, mint, myrrh, cereal, and wet plants in religious practice and in a wide selection of myths. His inquiry exposes, among many things, the way sin which women of various martial statuses were regarded and attitudes toward sexual activity ranging from "perverse" acts to marital relations.

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