The Adonia as the Greeks called the annual festivals which commemorated the death of Adonis, were the most beautiful of Phoenician festivals and were celebrated immediately after the harvest. Saglio described them in outline as follows: ‘It seems that nothing was lacking which normally took place at funerals: neither the oiling and toilet of the dead, nor the exhibition of the body, funeral offerings and communal repasts. Images of Adonis in wax and terracotta were placed before the entrance or on the terraces of houses.

Women crowded round them or carried them through the town, wailing and beating their breasts with every sign of the deepest grief. They danced and chanted dirges to the strident sound of short flutes – called giggros or giggras – which the Phoenicians use for their funeral ceremonies.’ This picture must be completed by Theocritus’s description of the festival celebrated with oriental pomp at Alexandria in the palace of Arsinoe, wife of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Under an arbour of greenery in which cupids flutter, the beautiful adolescent Adonis lies on a silver bed, covered with rich purple tissue. Venus is beside him. Around him are arranged vases full of perfumes, fruits, honey, cakes, and finally silver baskets containing what were called ‘gardens of Adonis’. It was the custom to sow in vessels, normally not so valuable as the vases found in Arsinoe’s palace, but in earthenware pots, in bottoms of cups, sherds, sometimes in baskets, all kinds of plants which germinate and grow rapidly, such as fennel, barley, wheat, and especially lettuce, which played a part in the legend of Adonis. (It was said that Venus had laid the body of her lover on a bed of lettuce.)

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