An Account of the Syrian Worship of Adonis

Lucian, The Syrian Goddess 6-9

But I did see in Byblos a great temple of Aphrodite of Byblos, in which they perform ceremonies in honor of Adon; and I learned about the ceremonies. They say, at any rate, that the deed that was done to Adon by the boar occurred in their land, and in memory of that misfortune every year they beat their breasts and mourn and perform the ceremonies, making solemn lamentations throughout the country. And when the breast-beating and weeping is at end, first they make offerings to Adon as if to a dead person; and then, on the next day, they proclaim that he is alive and fetch him forth into the air, and shave their heads as the Egyptians do when Apis dies. And all women who will not let themselves be shaved pay this penalty: that for a single day they proffer themselves for sale of their beauty; but the market is open only to all foreigners, and the payment becomes an offering to Aphrodite. Nonetheless, there are some inhabitants of Byblos who say that Osiris of Egypt lies buried among them, and the mourning and the ceremonies are all made in honor of Osiris instead of Adon. And I shall tell you the reason why this seems to be true to them. Each year a head comes from Egypt to Byblos, making a sea journey of seven days, and the winds drive it, by guidance of the gods, and it does not turn aside in any direction, but comes only to Byblos. And this is wholly marvelous. It befalls every year, and happened the time that I was in Byblos, and I saw the head that is of Byblos. And in the land of Byblos is another marvel, a river flowing out of Mount Lebanon into the sea, which is called the Adon. Every year it becomes blood-red, losing its natural hue, and when it flows into the sea, it reddens a large part of it; and this is a signal for mourning to the inhabitants of Byblos. For they say that on those days, Adon is being wounded up on Mt. Lebanon, and his blood as it comes into the water alters the river and gives the stream his name. Thus say common folk. But a certain man of Byblos, who I believe to be telling the truth, recounted to me another cause of the phenomenon. This is his account: “The River Adon, o stranger, runs through Lebanon, and the soil of Lebanon is quite ruddy. Therefore, when strong winds arise on these days, depositing the earth in the river, the earth that is completely ruddy makes it blood-red. So this change is not because of blood, as people say, but the soil.” This is the account of the man of Byblos; but even if he spoke truly, still it seems to me quite marvelous that the wind arises at the right time. Then I went up onto the Lebanon from Byblos, one day’s journey, because I learned that an ancient sanctuary of Aphrodite which Cinyras founded was there; and I saw the temple and it is an ancient one.


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