The Greek bucolic poet Bion (BI-uhn) was born in the village of Phlossa, near Smyrna, and later moved to Sicily. Almost nothing else is known of his life, and even the approximate times of his birth and death are based upon metrical analysis of his few surviving poems. He is often referred to as Bion of Smyrna to distinguish him from the philosopher Bion of Borysthenes. A verse epitaph to Bion was traditionally attributed to Moschus, a pastoral poet who was writing at about 150 b.c.e., but this poem is now considered to be later in origin.

Bion’s “Lament for Adonis,” his only surviving work to have had any appreciable influence on later poets, was written to celebrate the first day of the festival of Adonis, an important figure in Greek mythology. A handsome young man loved by the goddess Aphrodite, Adonis died in a hunting accident. According to one version of the myth, the gods, in order to comfort the broken-hearted Aphrodite, agreed to permit Adonis to leave Hades for six months of each year. Thus Adonis came to represent the cyclical nature of the cosmic order, and his death was associated with the annual change of seasons. The annual Athenian festival in his honor was held in late summer. Aside from Bion’s “Lament for Adonis,” some other works dealing with this myth are the fifteenth Idyl of Theocritus, the third book of The Library, by Apollodorus (second century

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Edmonds, J. M., ed. and trans. The Greek Bucolic Poets. New York: Macmillan, 1912. An excellent and accessible English translation of Bion’s work; also provides a good introduction to Bion and to Greek pastoral poetry in general.

Gow, A. S. F., trans. The Greek Bucolic Poets. 1953. Reprint. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1972. Prose translations selected from Theocritus, Moschus, and Bion.

Lambert, Ellen Zetzel. Placing Sorrow: A Study of the Pastoral Elegy Convention from Theocritus to Milton. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976. Criticism dealing with the conventions of pastoral poetry and discussing the influence of Bion.

Reed, J. D., ed. Bion of Smyrna: The Fragments and the Adonis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Translations of Bion’s works with an introduction and commentary by Reed. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.

Rosenberg, D. M. Oaten Reeds and Trumpets: Pastoral and Epic in Virgil, Spenser, and Milton. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1981. Criticism dealing with the conventions of pastoral poetry and discussing the influence of Bion.