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'Paradise Lost': How The Apple Became The Forbidden Fruit

Some 350 years ago, Milton's epic chronicled the Fall of Man, wrought by the red fruit. Except that it might've been a fig or peach or pear. An ancient Roman made a pun – and the apple myth was born.

This month marks 350 years since John Milton sold his publisher the copyright of Paradise Lost for the sum of five pounds.

His great work dramatizes the oldest story in the Bible, whose principal characters we know only too well: God, Adam, Eve, Satan in the form of a talking snake — and an apple.

Except, of course, that Genesis never names the apple but simply refers to "the fruit." To quote from the King James Bible:

And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"

"Fruit" is also the word Milton employs in the poem's sonorous opening lines:

Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Of that Forbidden Tree

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