Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism
by Thomas Inman, M.D. (1874)
Pagan and Christian symbolism
Figure 81 is copied from Lajard, Culte de Venus, plate xix., fig. 11, The origin of this, which is a silver statuette in that author's possession, is unknown. The female represents Venus bearing in one hand an apple; her arm rests upon what seems to be a representative of the mystic triad (the two additions to the upright stem not being seen in a front view) round which a dolphin for 'womb' is entwined, from whose mouth comes the stream of life. The apple plays a strange part in Greek and Hebrew mythology. The story of "the apple of discord," awarded by Paris to Venus, seems to indicate that where beauty contends against majesty and wisdom for the love of youth, it is sure to win the day. We learn from Arnobius that a certain Nana conceived a son by an apple (Op, Cit., p. 286), although in another place the prolific fruit is said to have been a pomegranate. Mythologically, that writer sees no difficulty in the story, for those who affirm that rocks and hard stones have brought forth. In the Song of Solomon, apples and the tree that bears them are often referred to; and we have in Ch. ii. 5 the curious expression, "Comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love."
We are familiar with the account of Eve being tempted by the same fruit. Critics imagine that as the apple in Palestine is not good eating, the quince is meant; if so, we know that a leaf of that tree is to be seen in every amorous picture found in Pompeii, the plant having been supposed to increase virile power. Others imagine that the citron is intended, whose shape makes it an emblem of the testis. However this may be decided, it is tolerably clear, from all the tales and pictures in which a fruit like the apple figures, that the emblem symbolised a desire for an intimate union between the sexes. The reader will doubtless remember how, in Genesis xxx, Leah is represented as purchasing her husband's company for a night by means of mandrakes, the result being the birth of Issachar; and in the well-known story of the Creation we find that the apple gives birth to desire, as shown in the recognition for the first time of the respective nudity of the couple, which was followed immediately, or as soon as it was possible afterwards, by sexual intercourse and the conception of Cain.