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Why Athenian women annually joined with prostitutes in a disorderly celebration of Adonis, and why Athenian men tolerated their excesses, are questions that have never been satisfactorily answered. The argument of this paper is that the women found, in this imported cult, a ritualized expression of their concern for sons who left them to enter the world of active heterosexuality. Youths of 17 or 18 years, banished from the women's quarters through fear of incest, with no access to citizen females and at least a dozen years to wait for marriage, would normally frequent prostitutes. Ideally, such frequentation would be joyous, healthy, brief, and unfruitful, and such was the symbolic burden of the Adonia, with its "gardens" that sprouted only to wither, and its mixture of obscenity and mourning.