Smyrna/Myrrha and Adonis (page 730)

Chapter 18: Other Myths

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Panyasis 27 PEG – Poetae Epici Graeci 1, p. 185, ed. A. Bernabé. Leipzig 1987.

Antoninus Liberalis 34 – Mythography Graeci 2.1, ed. E. Martini. Leipzig 1896.

SMYRNA: On Mount Lebanon Thias son of Belus and Orithyia, one of the nymphs, had a daughter, Smyrna, Because of her beauty many came from many a city as her suitors. She devised numerous tricks to deceive her parents and to put off the day of decision, because a dreadful lust, for her father, had driven her mad. At first she hid this fever through shame. But as her passion spurred her on, she told the whole story to her nurse Hippolyte who promised to find her a remedy for this inordinate passion. She went to Thias with the message that a girl of exalted parentage desired to lie with him, but secretly. Thias, who had no idea what was being devised against him, welcomed the proposal. In the dark of the night he waited on his bed for the girl. Then the nurse led in Smyrna with her clothes swathed over her. For a long time this disgraceful and unlawful activity was carried on undiscovered. When Smyrna became pregnant, Thias felt an urge to learn who the mother of his child was. He hid a light in his quarters and, when Smyrna came to him, she was revealed as the light was suddenly brought out, Smyrna gave birth prematurely to her child and she raised up her arms and prayed that she might no more be seen among the living, nor among the dead. Zeus changed her into a tree which was called the Smyrna after her name. It is said that each year the tree weeps tears from the wood as its fruit. Thias, father of Smyrna, did away with himself for this unlawful act. By desire of Zeus the child was brought up and he was called Adonis. Aphrodite fell utterly in love with him because of his beauty.  Greek Text

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.298-514

The royal Cinyras was sprung from her;
and if he had been father of no child,
might well have been accounted fortunate—
but I must sing of horrible events—
avoid it daughters! Parents! shun this tale!
But if my verse has charmed your thought,
do not give me such credit in this part;
convince yourself it cannot be true life;
or, if against my wish you hear and must
believe it, then be sure to notice how
such wickedness gets certain punishment.

And yet, if Nature could permit such crimes
as this to happen, I congratulate
Ismarian people and all Thrace as well,
and I congratulate this nation, which
we know is far away from the land where
this vile abomination did occur.

The land we call Panchaia may be rich
in balsam, cinnamon, and costum sweet
for ointment, frankincense distilled from trees,
with many flowers besides. All this large wealth
combined could never compensate the land
for this detestable, one crime: even though
the new Myrrh-Tree advanced on that rich soil.

Cupid declares his weapons never caused
an injury to Myrrha, and denies
his torches ever could have urged her crime.—
one of the three bad sisters kindled this,
with fire brand from the Styx, and poisoned you
with swollen vipers.—It is criminal
to hate a parent, but love such as hers
is certainly more criminal than hate.  Continue Reading  Latin Text

Scholion bT at Homer, Iliad 5.385 – Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem 3, pp. 248-49, ed. W. Dindorf and E. Maass. Oxford 1877.

Greek Text

Hyginus, Fabulae 58

SMYRNA: Smyrna was the daughter of Cinyras, King of the Assyrians, and Cenchreis. Her mother Cenchreis boasted proudly that her daughter excelled Venus in beauty. Venus [Aphrodite], to punish the mother, sent forbidden love to Smyrna so that she loved her own father. The nurse prevented her from hanging herself, and without knowledge of her father, helped her lie with him. She conceived, and goaded by shame, in order not to reveal her fault, hid in the woods. Venus later pitied her, and changed her into a kind of tree from which myrrh flows; Adonis, born from it, exacted punishment for his mother’s sake from Venus.  Latin Text

Servius, Scholion at Vergil, Eclogues 10.18 – Servii Grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii Bucolica et Georgica Commentarii, pp. 121-22, ed. G. Thilo. Leipzig 1881.

Latin Text

ApB 3.14.4 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

In consequence of the wrath of Aphrodite, for she did not honor the goddess, this Smyrna conceived a passion for her father, and with the complicity of her nurse she shared her father’s bed without his knowledge for twelve nights. But when he was aware of it, he drew his sword and pursued her, and being overtaken she prayed to the gods that she might be invisible; so the gods in compassion turned her into the tree which they call smyrna ( myrrh). Ten months afterwards the tree burst and Adonis, as he is called, was born, whom for the sake of his beauty, while he was still an infant, Aphrodite hid in a chest unknown to the gods and entrusted to Persephone. But when Persephone beheld him, she would not give him back. The case being tried before Zeus, the year was divided into three parts, and the god ordained that Adonis should stay by himself for one part of the year, with Persephone for one part, and with Aphrodite for the remainder. However Adonis made over to Aphrodite his own share in addition; but afterwards in hunting he was gored and killed by a boar.  Greek Text

Hyginus, De Astronomia 2.7.3

Some also have said that Venus and Proserpina came to Jove for his decision, asking him to which of them he would grant Adonis. Calliope, the judge appointed by Jove, decided that each should posses him half of the year. But Venus, angry because she had not been granted what she thought was her right, stirred the women in Thrace by love, each to seek Orpheus for herself, so that they tore him limb from limb. His head, carried down from the mountain into the sea, was cast by the waves upon the island of Lesbos. It was taken up and buried by the people of Lesbos, and in return for this kindness, they have the reputation of being exceedingly skilled in the art of music. The lyre, as we have said, was put by the Muses among the stars.  Greek Text

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Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, March 2022.

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