Bronze Figure of Adonis / Tammuz (?)

Roman Syria
100–200 AD

Height 43 cm



The Greeks adopted not only individual myths but also deities from their eastern neighbours. Thus both the goddess of love, Aphrodite, and the boyishly beautiful Adonis had their origins in the Syrian-Phoenician region. The inventive Greek mind turned the oriental god of fertility into the tragic victim of a love story. Driven by jealousy, the war god Ares changes himself into a raging wild boar and kills Adonis, hence destroying the love between Aphrodite and the beautiful youth. The violence is accompanied by a delicately poetic image: the earth soaked with the blood of the dying youth brings forth anemones (the “Adonis flower”).

Through Alexander the Great’s conquests and cultural policies, the Orient had become a vibrant melting pot of East and West. It is therefore not surprising that, during the period that followed—the so-called Hellenistic age—, Greek workshops developed the image of a Greek god in eastern costume.

The large bronze figure in the Liebieghaus represents a very finely worked later example of this type: the oriental fertility god wears a fringed garment fastened with a knot in front. Standing in an elegant pose, he turns his gaze in the direction of his extended right hand. The head, with classically cut features, is surrounded by splendidly luxuriant curls.