A Greek mythological hero, Adonis was one of the most complex figures in classical times. He had multiple roles and there has been much scholarship over the centuries of his meaning and purpose in the Greek religious beliefs. His Semitic counterpart is Tammuz. His Etruscan counterpart was Atunis. He is a life-death-rebirth deity.
Adonis' birth is shrouded in confusion. Multiple versions exist.
- The most commonly accepted version is that Aphrodite urged Myrrha or Smyrna to commit incest with her father, Theias, the King of Assyria. Myrrha's nurse helped with the scheme. When Theias discovered this, he flew into a rage, chasing his daughter with a knife. The gods turned her into a myrrh tree and Adonis eventually sprung from this tree.
- It was also said that Myrrha fled from her father and Aphrodite turned her into a tree. Adonis was then born when Theias shot an arrow into the tree or when a boar used its tusks to tear the tree's bark off.
- Apollodorus considered Adonis to be the son of Cinyras and Metharme.
- Hesiod believes he is the son of Phoenix and Aephesiboea
Adonis was often worshipped in mystery religions. His name is frequently used as an allusion in reference to an extremely attractive, youthful male, often with a connotation of immature vanity.