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Aphrodite

Ἀφροδίτη

Goddess of Love

Aphrodite

The Birth of Aphrodite
Aphrodite and the Argonauts
Aphrodite and Anchises
The Judgment of Paris
Aphrodite in the Trojan War
Aphrodite and Ares
Aphrodite and Hermes
Aphrodite and Adonis
The Daughters of Pandareos
The Curse of Tyndareus
Names of Aphrodite
Factoids
Hymns to Aphrodite
The Kypria
Text References
Images of Aphrodite
Immortals Index
Previous Page

The Birth of Aphrodite

The birth of Aphrodite was not a simple matter ... the creation of the goddess of love was the result of sheer brutality and desperation. To understand Aphrodite's birth, we must return to the creation of the primal goddess, Gaia [Earth].

Gaia was one of the first Immortals to be born from Chaos ... Gaia, Tartaros [the Pit] and Eros [the primal god of love] were all created from Chaos. Gaia became the progenitor of almost all succeeding Immortals. She gave her first child Ouranos the Heavens as his province ... she also took him as her consort ... from them, the Titans were born.

Ouranos became too concerned with the affairs of Gaia and aggressively tried to encroach on her authority. In desperation, Gaia begged her Titan children to stop Ouranos but only Kronos was willing to step forward and help his mother. Gaia created slate and formed a sickle for Kronos to use as a weapon ... Kronos attacked Ouranos with the slate sickle and castrated him. From the blood of Ouranos's injury were born a race of Giants, the Eumenides [Furies], and the Nymphs of the Ash Trees [the Meliae]. When the immortal flesh of Ouranos mingled with the water of the sea, a circle of white foam formed ... from this foam, Aphrodite was created.

The name Aphrodite literally means Foam-Born. As if to ensure her destiny, she was attended by Eros and Himeros [Desire] so that when she stepped ashore on the island of Kypros [Cyprus] she was a modest and lovely goddess, since known as the Lady of Kypros, or simply, Kypros. Her gentle domain was intended to be the sweetness of love and the whispering of girls but her adventures and exploits caused as much misery and bloodshed as any of the Immortals except for Ares [god of war] and the Grim Goddess, Athene.

Aphrodite and the Argonauts

The Quest for the Golden Fleece took place one generation before the Trojan War, i.e. circa 1280 BCE. A golden ram flew from Greece to the eastern edge of the Black Sea to a place known as Kolchis. The retrieval of the ram's Golden Fleece was one of the most important events in Greek prehistory.

An exceptional young man named Jason assembled the greatest heroes in Greece to help him retrieve the Golden Fleece from Kolchis ... the sailors were called Argonauts after their ship, the Argo. The goddess Hera took a personal interest in Jason and eagerly rallied other Immortals to give assistance to the Argonauts when obstacles and dangers arose as they pursued their quest.

One of the first stops for the Argonauts was the island of Lemnos. Before the Argonauts arrived, the women of Lemnos had been cursed by Aphrodite because they failed to honor her ... Aphrodite turned the passions of their husbands to foreign women. The men of Lemnos had been in the habit of raiding the mainland cities ... they began to consort with the women of the cities they raided and after this became a comfortable situation, they brought the foreign women to Lemnos and shunned their wives. The neglected wives exacted their revenge by killing their husbands as well as the foreign women.

By the time Jason and the Argonauts arrived on Lemnos, Aphrodite had forgiven the women and demonstrated her mercy by putting desire in their hearts for the new arrivals to their island. Since the Argonauts were some of the finest specimens of manhood to ever step ashore on Lemnos, they were exactly what the women needed ... and also exactly what Aphrodite intended ... the Argonauts stayed on Lemnos long enough to father children.

As the Argonauts ventured on, they stopped near Mysia in northern Asia Minor. A young man named Hylas went ashore for fresh water at the Spring of Pegae, which was the spring that the flying horse Pegasos created by striking her hoof on the earth. The local Nymphs were gathering to dance to hymns sung for the goddess Artemis as Hylas approached the spring. When Hylas was dipping water from the spring, a Naiad Nymph [Water Nymph] was rising to the surface ... she was captivated by his youthful beauty, which was enhanced by the light of the rising moon. In her confusion she could scarcely gather her spirit back to her. Aphrodite made her feel faint and in that distracted frame of mind, the Nymph reached up to embrace Hylas ... she put her left hand behind his neck and rose to kiss him ... she placed her right hand on his elbow and pulled him into the water. Hylas married the Nymph and was never seen upon the earth again.

Before the Argonauts reached Kolchis, they encountered a seer named Phineus who had been blinded for crimes he committed against his sons ... he had blinded his sons and was thus blinded by the Immortals as a fitting punishment. To add to his torment, the winged women known as the Harpies would steal most of Phineus's food and then defile the scraps they didn't take.

The Argonauts were the guests of Phineus on the island of Thynia ... he treated them with hospitality even though he was wracked with hunger and sadness. Several of the Argonauts were especially moved by the old man's plight and fought with the Harpies until the goddess Iris intervened and promised that Phineus would no longer be troubled by the "hounds of mighty Zeus." As a seer, the most obvious way for Phineus to repay the Argonauts for their kindness was to give them a prophecy ... he told them that they could not complete their Quest for the Golden Fleece unless they received help from Aphrodite. Without understanding exactly what Phineus meant, they sailed on thinking that they would more likely need the help of Ares because the Golden Fleece was under the protection of King Aietes of Kolchis and it seemed likely that he would not surrender the Golden Fleece without a fight.

When the Argonauts finally reached Kolchis, Hera and Athene were watching and worrying ... they were sure that Jason could not retrieve the Golden Fleece without their support. They decided that the best way to help Jason would be to ask Aphrodite for her assistance ... their convoluted plan required Aphrodite to persuade Eros to shoot King Aietes's daughter Princess Medeia with an arrow of irresistible love for Jason. Eros was one of the original Immortals born from Chaos at the dawn of time ... he is the primal god of love and has never lost his childlike nature ... he is often called Aphrodite's son in much the same way that Aphrodite is called Zeus's daughter when she is in fact many years his senior.

Athene reminded Hera that she had no personal knowledge of love and therefore should not speak to Aphrodite ... Hera agreed to do all the talking. They found Aphrodite on Mount Olympos in the palace of her husband Hephaistos ... she looked upon the two goddesses and mockingly invited them to sit, and asked them why two such important goddesses would visit her. Aphrodite's crafty words were not lost on Hera but she let them go unchallenged ... she told Aphrodite of her sincere desire to help Jason and the Argonauts.

Aphrodite was surprised to see Hera so humble and plaintive ... she and Hera had never been allies or confidants but now it was clear that Hera needed help ... Aphrodite changed her mocking tone to one of sympathy ... she offered to help Hera in any way she could. Hera's request was simple ... she wanted Aphrodite to go to "her son" Eros and persuade him to shoot Princess Medeia with an arrow of irresistible love for Jason. Aphrodite explained that she and Eros were not on the best of terms and suggested that it would be better if Hera spoke to him ... Aphrodite reasoned that Eros would not dare defy the queen of the Immortals. Hera insisted that Aphrodite should go to Eros ... she urged Aphrodite to be patient and not provoke his anger ... Aphrodite agreed to try.

Aphrodite found Eros on Mount Olympos playing dice with a young cup-bearer named Ganymedes ... she scolded Eros for cheating Ganymedes but quickly softened her tone. She knew that he would help her if she offered him a gift so she promised him a ball that had once been the plaything of Zeus when he had been a child. "All of gold are its zones and round each, double seams run in a circle; but the stitches are hidden, and a dark blue spiral overlays them all. But if you should cast it with your hands, lo, like a star, it sends a flaming track through the sky." She told him that he could have the ball as soon as Medeia was smitten.

Jason was unsure as to how to deal with King Aietes ... should he use persuasion or force? He asked the Argonauts for their advice and as they were debating the issues, a dove fell from the sky and landed in Jason's lap ... the dove had been in the clutches of a hawk but managed to escape ... when the hawk swooped down after the dove it was impaled on the stern-ornament of the Argo. An Argonaut named Mopsos, a seer, correctly interpreted the omen as the fulfillment of Phineus's prophecy and that they could not complete the Quest for the Golden Fleece without the help of Aphrodite, symbolized by the dove.

With a cloak of mist provided by Hera, Jason secretly proceeded to King Aietes's palace. Medeia was in attendance when Jason entered the king's hall ... Eros shot her and she nearly fainted ... she became pale, then red ... she was in love. Jason's trust in Medeia's love helped him steal the Golden Fleece from King Aietes ... even though courage and mortal combat were necessary to complete their quest, the Argonauts were saved by Aphrodite's blessing.

The Argonauts had many trials to face before they were safely home ... when they sailed past the island of the Sirens, Aphrodite saved an Argonaut named Boutes from drowning. The Sirens are bird-like goddesses who sing to sailors with such hypnotic melodies, the seamen lose their senses and either crash their ships on the rocky shore or jump in the water and drown in the surf. As the Argo sailed within range of the Sirens, Boutes lost his mind and jumped from the ship before his shipmates could stop him ... Aphrodite swooped down and plucked him from the eddies and placed him in northern Africa on "the Lilybean height" ... he was unable to rejoin the Argonauts but he was safe.

Aphrodite and Anchises

Aphrodite can cast a spell of irresistible love on all mortals and every type of beast ... with the exception of three goddesses, the Immortals are also subject to her charms ... Athene, Histia and Artemis cannot be tempted by Aphrodite ... their chastity is inviolate. Aphrodite's enchantments are usually welcome but she sometimes uses her powers to embarrass the other Immortals ... she made Zeus share the bed of several mortal women against his better judgment. In order to humble the goddess so that she could not deride the other Immortals whom she caused to fall in love with mortals, Zeus made Aphrodite fall in love with a mortal man named Anchises.

Under the spell of Zeus, Aphrodite dressed in her finest clothing and adorned herself with beautiful jewelry ... enshrouded in an aura of enchantment, she went to the glades of Mount Ida near Troy to seduce Anchises. When she arrived on the mountain, the beasts of the forest paid her homage ... the wolves fawned on her ... lions, bears and leopards became docile and followed her ... she put desire in their hearts and they began to mate.

When Aphrodite arrived at Anchises's humble home he was as helpless as the woodland beasts in her presence. He marveled at her fine clothing and her exquisite form ... he had never seen a mortal woman who was so beautiful. He suspected that she was a goddess and asked if she was Leto or Athene or Themis or Aphrodite or one of the Graces or a Nymph ... Aphrodite denied her divinity and convinced Anchises that she was a mortal maiden who had been sent to him by the will of the Immortals.

Aphrodite told Anchises that she had been taken from her home in Phrygia by the messenger-god Hermes and left on Mount Ida ... she said that she had been dancing at the rites of Artemis with other marriageable girls and that Hermes had snatched her up so that she could become the wife of Anchises and bare him many fine children. Anchises noticed that the fascinating young woman at his door spoke with the same regional accent he used ... Aphrodite brushed his concerns aside by saying that she had been raised by a Trojan nurse and learned Greek from her.

Anchises willingly believed the lies because she was irresistible ... he took her into his house and made love to her. While Anchises was sleeping in the afterglow of love, Aphrodite arose and put aside all pretense ... she called to Anchises and woke him from a sound sleep ... when he looked upon her, he trembled in fear ... he saw her for the goddess she was and there was no doubt in his mind that he would be punished for having loved her. Aphrodite told him not to be afraid and that he would not be harmed ... she told him that he would become the father of a noble prince of the Trojans who would sire many fine heirs. She informed him without apology that their son would be given to the Nymphs of Ida to be raised and would not be given to Anchises until the boy reached a suitable age. Also in complete honesty, Aphrodite told Anchises that their son would be named Aineias, meaning Awful, because Zeus had forced her to love a mere mortal and, even though Anchises was a righteous and handsome man, she found their union to be offensive and beneath her station.

The Judgment of Paris

The roots of the animosity between the Greeks and the Trojans might be traced to one defining moment ... that incident has become known as The Judgment of Paris but a more appropriate name would have been The Judgment of Alexandros.

Prince Alexandros of Troy was sometimes called Paris in the Iliad but now the name Alexandros has been forgotten ... the name Paris has supplanted that of Alexandros because modern artists and poets seem to prefer the name Paris for its simplicity and uniqueness.

The Judgment of Paris

The Judgment of Alexandros took place on the slopes of Mount Ida just prior to the Trojan War, i.e. prior to 1250 BCE ... the occasion was the marriage of the Nereid Thetis and a mortal man named Peleus. Being allowed to marry a goddess was a reward for Peleus because of his undying devotion to the gods on Mount Olympos. Being forced to marry a mortal was a punishment for Thetis because she had refused the amorous advances of Zeus ... she was being taught a lesson in humility.

The goddess Hera made sure the wedding was well attended. One of the most notable Immortals at the wedding was the goddess of discord and strife, Eris. She did not come to celebrate ... she came to cause trouble ... she was very good at causing trouble. Eris tossed down a golden apple in the midst of the goddesses ... the inscription on the apple said, 'For the most beautiful one.' Naturally, Hera, Athene and Aphrodite all assumed that the prize was for them and when the intended conflict arose, Hermes escorted the three goddesses to Mount Ida so that Prince Alexandros, also known as Paris, could make the final decision as to which goddess deserved the golden apple. Alexandros was placed in a very difficult position but that's exactly what Zeus intended.

The drama that was unfolding at the wedding of Thetis and Peleus was simply the first step in a coordinated series of events that would culminate with the Trojan War. Zeus was using Aphrodite and the other Immortals to help him rid the earth of the demigods, i.e. the children created from the union between Immortals and mortals. His own daughter Helen was used to help perpetuate his plan but she was not sacrificed in the war or its aftermath. Aphrodite's son Aineias also survived the Trojan War ... presumably he was allowed to live as a reward for his mother's invaluable assistance to Zeus in starting the war.

Alexandros could not escape his destiny ... he had to choose the most beautiful goddess but which one should he choose? Hera has always been the most beautiful goddess on Mount Olympos ... he could not ignore the fact that she was the sister/wife of Zeus ... she seemed like an obvious choice. Athene is the virgin goddess of Wisdom and even though she is sometimes called the Grim Goddess, she is quite beautiful by any mortal standard. Aphrodite is the goddess of love ... her charms and enchantments were legendary ... Alexandros should have chosen Aphrodite for those reasons alone but his choice was based on greed and desire ... beauty had nothing to do with it. Aphrodite told Alexandros that if he selected her, she would give him the most desirable woman in the world ... she would give him the daughter of Zeus ... she would give him Helen of Sparta.

Alexandros naively thought that he understood what that meant. Helen's beauty was beyond compare ... when poets sang about her, she was always compared to a goddess ... and rightly so. Even when she was a young girl, her grace would make men to swoon. When her father let it be known that he was seeking a husband for Helen, suitors came from all over the civilized world ... not just ordinary men ... Helen's suitors were kings, princes, and heroes. Her father made them all take a solemn oath that they would peacefully abide by his choice and more importantly, they would all come to Helen's defense if she should ever be taken from her husband. Helen's father knew all too well the hypnotic effect she had on men.

Alexandros chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess because he wanted Helen ... he could not resist the thought of possessing her because Aphrodite had placed the desire in his heart. As part of her plan, Aphrodite arranged for her son Aineias to accompany Alexandros to Sparta. Also at Aphrodite's contrivance, Helen's husband, King Menelaos, was called away from the city on business. With her husband out of the way, Helen was easily enchanted and agreed to leave Sparta and return to Troy with Prince Alexandros ... a thousand ships sailed to Troy to bring her back.

By choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess, Alexandros rebuffed Hera and Athene ... two goddesses no mortal man could insult and expect to live. Hera was indeed beautiful but she was also very dangerous ... Athene was not called the Grim Goddess for nothing. By the time the Trojan War ended, Alexandros, his family, his friends and allies were all killed or enslaved. When he was called upon to make his infamous judgment, Alexandros really had no choice in the matter ... there was no way for him to make a choice that would not have resulted in death and destruction.

There was more than one reason that Helen was selected for Alexandros's passions. Helen's father, King Tyndareus had offended Aphrodite and her wrath would eventually disgrace all three of his daughters and kill his wife, Leda.

Even though Aphrodite used Alexandros in the most callous and selfish way, she still seemed to have genuine affection for the handsome young man. When the Achaean Greeks arrived at Troy to tear down the walls, Aphrodite gave whatever comfort she could to Alexandros ... even though she knew full well that he was doomed.

Aphrodite in The Trojan War

The Trojan War was, of course, not Aphrodite's fault but her participation in The Judgment of Alexandros was only her first contribution to the bloodshed that followed. Her son Aineias fought for the Trojans and his pride always propelled him into the thick of the fighting ... Aphrodite did her best to protect him. She also protected Alexandros ... he too was a proud man ... he did not deny the fact that his impulsive behavior brought the Achaean Greeks to Troy but he would not surrender Helen and thus stop the war ... nor would he shirk his responsibilities as a warrior.

Aphrodite and Eros

The Iliad begins in the tenth and final year of the Trojan War ... the Greeks and the Trojans are weary of the fighting so a truce is called and the commanders agree to a man-to-man fight between Menelaos and Alexandros. We must remember that Menelaos was allowed to marry Helen because he was one of the ablest and wealthiest men in Greece ... Alexandros was able to abduct Helen because of the enchantments of Aphrodite ... Alexandros was a capable fighter but Menelaos was more so.

As the two men fought, Menelaos quickly gained the advantage ... he knocked Alexandros to the ground, grabbed the plume of Alexandros's helmet and began to drag him through the dirt. Aphrodite restrained herself as long as she could but when she saw that Alexandros was seconds away from death, she swooped down invisibly and cut the helmet chinstrap ... Menelaos lost his hold on Alexandros ... she covered Alexandros in a mist, whisked him from the battlefield and put him safely in his bedchamber.

The Greeks and the Trojans were amazed at what they had witnessed ... they all knew that Alexandros's disappearance was the work of one of the Immortals but that did not diminish the awe-factor. Menelaos was obviously the victor ... or was he? Athene didn't wait for a debate to decide the matter ... with her prompting, a Trojan archer loosed an arrow, which wounded Menelaos ... the war resumed with all its gruesome glory.

With Alexandros safely in his bedchamber, Aphrodite donned the disguise of an old woman and went to Helen, who had been watching the fight from the city walls ... the goddess urged Helen to go to Alexandros and comfort him. Helen recognized Aphrodite's divinity and asked why she was trying to beguile her. She berated the goddess for her meddling and told her to take Alexandros for herself if she cared so much for his happiness. Aphrodite was not accustomed to being questioned or disobeyed by a mortal ... she threatened Helen with her divine hatred if her commands were not obeyed at once. Helen trembled in fear because she realized that her life could in fact get much more painful if she continued to taunt such a powerful goddess. Helen humbly went to Alexandros as she had been ordered.

As the fighting continued, Aphrodite kept her son Aineias from harm. Watching the battles from Mount Olympos, Zeus rebuked Hera and Athene for not protecting Menelaos and the other Achaeans as fiercely as Aphrodite protected Aineias. Athene was not pleased to hear that Zeus thought Aphrodite was more warlike than she was ... she flew to Troy and chose one of the best Achaean soldiers to do her bidding ... she chose Diomedes. She lifted the mist from his eyes so that he could see the otherwise invisible Immortals on the battlefield. She told him to avoid all of the Immortals except Aphrodite ... if he encountered Aphrodite he was to stab her.

Diomedes saw Aphrodite in the thick of the fighting ... she was again protecting Aineias. Diomedes lunged at Aphrodite with his pitiless bronze spear and tore through the robe the Graces had carefully woven and cut the flesh of Aphrodite's palm. The ichor [Immortal blood] of the goddess poured darkly on her perfect skin. The goddess Iris assisted Aphrodite as she withdrew from Diomedes ... he was taunting Aphrodite and bragging of his prowess. Aphrodite and Iris found Ares ... he too was fighting for the Trojans. Aphrodite begged Ares for the use of his chariot ... he willingly let her have it. She and Iris flew to Mount Olympos where the goddess Dione tended to Aphrodite's wound. Athene was smug about Aphrodite's situation and asked if she had cut herself on a golden needle while attending the Trojan women. Zeus was sympathetic and told Aphrodite, "No, my child, not for you are the works of warfare. Rather concern yourself only with the lovely secrets of marriage." That was good advice but it was not a commandment ... Aphrodite soon returned to the fighting.

The Immortals were divided as to which side they supported during the Trojan War but they did manage to cooperate when they were away form the fighting. Hera was an ardent supporter of the Achaeans whereas Aphrodite fought for the Trojans. Hera approached Aphrodite on Mount Olympos and asked for her assistance in seducing Zeus. Aphrodite readily agreed to help ... she made a love-charmed corset that Hera could conceal beneath her robe. It's odd that Aphrodite would help Hera in that way because Hera's intention was to distract Zeus so the god Poseidon could rampage through the Trojan defenses ... this could potentially threaten Aineias or Alexandros.

Wearing Aphrodite's love charm, Hera found Zeus on the highest peak to Mount Ida watching the fighting at Troy. Hera pretended to be disinterested in the progress of the war and causally lingered until it was obvious that Zeus was falling under the enchantment of the love charm. He began to brag about his romantic conquests, comparing the each of his lovers to Hera. Finally, overcome with desire, Zeus made love to Hera and then collapsed into an exhausted slumber. He was awakened by the bellowing of Poseidon on the battlefield ... Zeus was furious. He did not blame Aphrodite ... he blamed Hera.

The fighting at Troy escalated to new levels of brutality ... the battlefield was awash with Immortals and Achilles was on his blood-quest for Trojan Prince Hektor. Athene attacked Ares and knocked him to the ground ... Aphrodite tried to assist Ares and that enraged Hera ... she called Aphrodite a dog-fly and urged Athene to attack her ... Athene struck Aphrodite in the breast and again knocked Ares to the ground ... she gave them both a stern warning not to help the Trojans. Even though she was injured, Aphrodite helped Ares from the battlefield.

After Achilles had brutally killed Prince Hektor, Aphrodite tended Hektor's body so that it would not be disgraced ... she drove the dogs from the corpse and anointed the body with immortal oils so that it would not be torn as Achilles dragged the lifeless body behind his chariot.

When the war ended, most of the Trojans and their allies were either killed or enslaved ... Aphrodite's son Aineias was one of the few exceptions. The Romans believed that Aineias fled Troy and eventually made his way to Italy where he laid the foundations of what would eventually become the Roman Empire.

Aphrodite and Ares

Ares is the god of war ... he is the least favorite son of Zeus and considerably younger than Aphrodite ... regardless, Aphrodite and Ares had an interesting relationship.

During the Trojan War, Aphrodite and Ares both fought with the Trojans even though they had different reasons for fighting at Troy. Aphrodite was there to protect her son Aineias ... Ares was there because war, any war, is his province.

Harmonia, Phobos and Deimos

Aphrodite and Ares had three children ... Harmonia, Phobos and Deimos ... Harmony, Panic and Fear.

Harmonia became very important in the development of Greece and the city of Thebes in particular. Phobos and Deimos are, as the saying goes, "sons of their father" ... their presence is heralded by the names they so accurately represent.

Harmonia married Prince Kadmos of Tyre after he settled in Boeotia and founded the city of Thebes. Kadmos had been led to Thebes by a prophecy from Apollon so the city was blessed and therefore destined to achieve greatness. Harmonia had four daughters and one son ... Ino, Agaue, Autonoe, Thyone [a.k.a. Semele] and Polydoros.

When Kadmos married Harmonia, Aphrodite gave her a necklace designed and crafted by Hephaistos ... it was called The Necklace of Harmonia until its reputation became tainted ... it was then derisively called The Necklace of Eriphyle.

Harmonia gave the necklace to her son Polydoros ... it was passed from father to son until it came into the possession of Polyneikes, the son of Oedipus. Polyneikes gave the necklace to Eriphyle as a bribe so that she would persuade her husband Amphiaraus to join Polyneikes's army in an attack on Thebes. Amphiaraus died during the battle at Thebes ... the necklace was then called The Necklace of Eriphyle.

The necklace eventually found its was to the temple of Apollon at Delphi but was allegedly stolen by a tyrant of Phokis ... after that, the priceless artifact that Aphrodite gave to Harmonia was lost from the historical record.

Hephaistos

While Aphrodite and Ares were enjoying each others company and having children, Aphrodite was actually married to another god, Hephaistos. In the Odyssey by Homer, the singer Demodokos tells the story quite eloquently.

It seems strange that Hephaistos would be unaware of Aphrodite's infidelity but he had no idea of what was happening until Helios [Sun] told him of the affair. When he found out, Hephaistos immediately began plotting his revenge. As the master of mechanisms, Hephaistos could build structures and devices that seemed to have a life of their own. He went to work with his usual application of practicality and attention to detail, and devised clever fastenings that would enclose his bed and thus ensnare the lovers in an unbreakable trap. Aphrodite and Ares suspected nothing ... they were trapped before they knew what was happening ... try as they might there was no escape. Hephaistos called the other Olympians to witness the scene ... as reimbursement for Aphrodite's infidelity he demanded that his gifts of courtship be returned.

An agreement was reached where Ares promised to pay Hephaistos for his role in the adultery ... Ares's uncle Poseidon offered to pay the adulterer's damages if Ares defaulted. Satisfied that he would be paid for his embarrassment, Hephaistos released the shamed lovers from their bonds. Aphrodite fled to the island of Kypros [Cyprus] where she was bathed by the Graces ... Ares went to Thrake.

Among the assembled Immortals, Apollon and Hermes watched the spectacle with more than a little amusement. Apollon asked Hermes how he would feel in such a situation. Hermes answered that he would suffer thrice the number of bonds if only he could share the bed of Aphrodite the Golden. Hermes did in fact share the bed of Aphrodite and their son was both masculine and feminine ... his name was Hermaphroditus.

Aphrodite and Hermes

Since Aphrodite and Hermes are the quintessential female and male Immortals, it only stands to reason that their child would be endowed with the characteristics of both sexes. Hermaphroditus is both female and male ... he has a body, which is beautiful and delicate like that of a woman, but has the masculine quality and vigor of a man.

Hermaphroditus

Hermaphroditus

Aphrodite and Hermes have earned reputations that engender fear as well as respect ... for that reason the acceptance and adulation of their son Hermaphroditus seems prudent.

In modern medicine, the term Hermaphrodite [taken from the combination of the names Hermes and Aphrodite] refers to someone born with the same physical attributes as Hermaphroditus.

Aphrodite and Adonis

There are conflicting stories about the life and death of Adonis but every story revolves around Aphrodite.

A young woman named Myrrha, or perhaps Zmyrna, offended Aphrodite in what must have been a very serious way ... we are not told exactly what Myrrha did but her punishment was so extreme that we can only assume that her offence was horrific.

Aphrodite caused Myrrha and her father, King Kinyras of the island of Cyprus, to engage in carnal activities ... Adonis was the result of their union.

Adonis

At this point, the story of Adonis is unclear, either:

1) Myrrha was turned into a myrrh tree and Adonis was born from this tree. He grew to be a beautiful young man and Aphrodite fell in love with him; or

2) Aphrodite put Adonis in a chest and sent him to the Underworld. When Zeus discovered Adonis's fate, he had sympathy for the beautiful young man and allowed him to live half of the year with the goddess Persephone in the Underworld and the other half with Aphrodite on the earth's surface; or perhaps

3) Adonis was raised by Nymphs and met Aphrodite while he was hunting. Her affection for him was short lived because he was killed by a wild boar sent by Ares ... from Adonis's blood sprang the red rose.

The Daughters of Pandareos

Of the countless kind and loving things Aphrodite has done for young women, she was unable to help Kameiro and Klytie, the daughters of Pandareos.

Pandareos was overindulgent to such an extent that the Immortals killed him and his wife, leaving their daughters Kameiro and Klytie as orphans. Regardless of Pandareos's crimes, his daughters were innocents and their plight did not escape the notice of the more sympathetic Immortals. Aphrodite fed the girls cheese, honey and wine ... Hera gave them beauty and wisdom above all other women ... Artemis gave them stature, and Athene schooled them in works that befit women.

In order for the young women to have happy marriages, Aphrodite ascended Mount Olympos to ask Zeus to bless them ... during Aphrodite's absence, Kameiro and Klytie were carried off by the Snatchers [Ἃρπυιαι - spirits of the whirlwind] and given to the Furies. The plight of the young women turned out to be the opposite of what Aphrodite intended.

Aphrodite

The Curse of Tyndareus

The family of King Tyndareus paid a bitter price when he incurred the wrath of Aphrodite.

There were many trials that King Tyndareus of Sparta had to suffer but it seems that he brought most of his troubles upon himself. His woes began when he neglected Aphrodite while sacrificing ... after that, a series of misadventures plagued his life.

King Tyndareus was married to a beautiful woman named Leda but she was also the consort of Zeus. With Zeus, Leda had three children ... Kastor, Polydeukes and Helen. With Tyndareus, Leda had two daughters ... Klytemnestra and Timandra.

Kastor and Polydeukes were wild and adventurous but compared to their sisters, they were exemplary young men ... they were commonly called the Dioskuri, i.e. the sons of God.

Helen was of course the scapegoat for the Trojan War but Klytemnestra and Timandra became notorious by their own machinations. Klytemnestra was one of the most hated women in Greece because she murdered her husband, Agamemnon. Her betrayal and infidelity were legendary ... when she was murdered by her son Orestes, he was not only forgiven, he was honored. Timandra was not as infamous and her sisters but the desertion of her husband King Echemos of Arkadia was disgraceful.

The final element of Aphrodite's curse on Tyndareus was the suicide of his wife Leda ... we are not told exactly how her death was accomplished but we can assume that the disgraceful behavior of her daughters became too much to bear.

Names of Aphrodite

Surnames:

Surnames are important because they define specific aspects of the immortal gods and goddesses. Surnames are placed after the proper name to be indicative of the temperament or influence of each Immortal ... for example, Aphrodite Pandemos is literally Aphrodite of All the People but is usually translated simply as Aphrodite Common.

Aphrodite Akraea - Of the Height

Aphrodite Alosedne - Sea-Born

Aphrodite Ambologera - Postponer of Old Age

Aphrodite Amphipolos - The Busy One

Aphrodite Amyklaean - Of the people of Amyklai

Aphrodite Anadyomene - From the Sea

Aphrodite Apostrophia - Rejecter

Aphrodite Areia - Warlike

Aphrodite Doritis - Bountiful

Aphrodite Epistrophia - She who turns men to love

Aphrodite Erykine - Restrainer

Aphrodite Euploia - Fair Voyage

Aphrodite Kataskopos - Spy

Aphrodite Limenia - Of the Harbor

Aphrodite Machanitis - Devisor

Aphrodite Melainis - Of the Black Night

Aphrodite Migonitis - Physical Union

Aphrodite Morpho - Shapely

Aphrodite Nikephoros - Bringer of Victory

Aphrodite Nymphia - Bridal

Aphrodite Olympian - Of Olympos

Aphrodite Ourania - Heavenly

Aphrodite Pandemos - Common [of all the people]

Aphrodite Pontia - Of the Deep Sea

Aphrodite Praxis - Action

Aphrodite Symmachia - Ally

Place Names:

Aphrodite was sometimes referred to as the primary inhabitant of the place where she was worshipped ... for example, on the island of Cyprus [Kypros] she may be called, The Kyprian or simply Kyprian.

Cretan - Of Crete

Ephesian - Of Ephesus

Erykinian - Of Mount Eryx

Knidian - Of Knidos

Koliad - Of Kolias

Kyprian - Of Kypros

Kytherean - Of Kythera

Paphian - Of Paphos

Persian - Of Persia

Syrian - Of Syria

Tauropolian - Of Tauris

Foreign Names:

Alitta - Aphrodite's Arabian name

Mitra - Aphrodite's Persian name

Mylitta - Aphrodite's Assyrian name

Venus - Aphrodite's Roman name

Factoids

Phaethon

Aphrodite took Phaethon, the son of Eos [Dawn] and Kephalos, and made him the keeper of her shrine.

When Phaethon was a young boy he was very beautiful and full of childish thoughts ... Aphrodite was attracted to him and seized him ... she made Phaethon a divine spirit and the keeper of her shrine by night. It's not clear where the shrine was located and by making him a divine spirit, we are not sure if Phaethon became immortal or just retained the divine spirit of his mother, Eos.

The Skythians

The Skythians said that they were given the art of divination by Aphrodite; they would twist and untwist the bark of the linden-tree as they uttered the oracle.

Aphrodite and Eros

Aphrodite and Eros

The Planet Aphrodite

The influence of the five heavenly bodies known as the planets was an interesting field of study for the ancient Greeks. The planet Aphrodite was very important because of her relative brightness and also because she alternates between being visible in the morning and in the evening. The Greek astronomers and astrologers called the planets "Interpreters" when speaking of them as a group. The Greek names of the planets were changed to suit the Romans and, with the exceptions of Earth and Sun, we still use the Roman designations ... Helios = Sun, Hermes = Mercury, Aphrodite = Venus, Gaia = Earth, Ares = Mars, Zeus = Jupiter and Kronos = Saturn.

Priapos

The god Priapos was worshiped by the people of Lampsakos, which was located on the Asian side of the Hellespont. They believed that Priapos was present wherever goats and sheep were pastured or where there were swarms of bees. Priapos was thought to be the son of Aphrodite and Dionysos because of the obvious fact that men under the influence of wine [the gift of Dionysos] find the members of their bodies tense and inclined to the pleasures of love. Priapos's name was associated with satyrs thus indicating his virility.

Eryx

Eryx was the son of Aphrodite and King Butas of Sicily. He became king after his father died and ruled the area around what came to be known as Mount Eryx.

When Herakles was returning to Greece after completing his Tenth Labor, Taking the Cattle of Geryon, he encountered Eryx when he stopped-over in northwestern Sicily. The two proud demigods decided to test their strength with a wrestling match but they could not decide on a suitable wager. Herakles wanted Eryx to forfeit his land if he lost, and promised to surrender the cattle he had just "taken" from Geryon if he lost. At first, Eryx thought the arrangement was unfair but Herakles explained that if he did not return to Mykenai with the cattle he would lose his chance to achieve immortality, therefore his cattle were priceless.

Eryx agreed that the terms of the wager were fair and the two began to wrestle ... Herakles won the match and took Eryx's land.

Kronios, Kytos and Spartaeus

Kronios, Kytos and Spartaeus were arrogant young sons of Poseidon and Halia who offended Aphrodite and paid a horrible price.

When Aphrodite was sailing from Kythera to Kypros [Cyprus], she wanted to stop on the island of Rhodes but Poseidon's sons would not let her drop anchor. Because the boys were insolent and arrogant, the goddess lashed out and inflicted them with madness. In their deranged state of mind, they forced themselves on their mother Halia and committed acts of violence against the islanders. When Poseidon learned of their outrageous behavior, he buried them alive and they became known as "Eastern Demons." Halia was so shamed and distraught by the crimes committed by her sons, she threw herself into the sea ... she became known as Leukothea and was given Immortal honors by the islanders.

Aphrodite in Fetters

The traveler/historian Pausanias told of a curious statue he saw of Aphrodite while traveling on the Peloponnesian Peninsula. In the sanctuary of Aphrodite Morpho [Shapely] at Sparta, she sits wearing a veil and has fetters on her feet. The story Pausanias was told said that King Tyndareus of Sparta put the fetters on the statue to punish Aphrodite for the curse of infidelity the goddess placed on Tyndareus's three daughters, Helen, Klytemnestra and Timandra.

Pausanias thought that the idea of punishing the goddess by putting fetters on her statue was simple-minded and silly.

Selemnus

The city and spring of Argyra in Achaea were named after the Sea-Nymph Argyra. In the distant past, Argyra became attracted to a handsome young man named Selemnus who fed his flocks near the spring. Argyra would rise from the sea and lay bedside Selemnus but as time passed Selemnus began to age and Argyra lost her desire until she finally deserted him completely. Selemnus was so distraught that he died of love-sickness. Aphrodite mercifully transformed Selemnus into a river but his sadness was not diminished ... Aphrodite went one step further and blotted out Selemnus's memory so that he no longer mourned for his lost love.

Hero

Aphrodite has had many priestesses but Hero is by far the most famous. She served the goddess in her temple in Sestos on the European side of the Hellespont. Hero fell in love with a young man named Leander ... he lived on the Asian side of the Hellespont in Abydos.

Each night Leander would swim across the Hellespont to be with Hero ... the distance across was almost one mile [1.3 kilometers]. Hero would use a lamp, or fire, to serve as a beacon so that Leander could find her in the dark but one cloudy night he became disorientated and drowned. Hero was so distraught she killed herself.

The Aphrodisia

The Aphrodisia was a festival held in honor of Aphrodite Pandemos during the Attic month of Hekatombaion [approximately the third week of June to the third week of July of our calendar] ... Pandemos means "Common" or "of all the People."

Aphrodite's First Shrine

The temple of Aphrodite Ourania [Heavenly] in the city of Askalon in ancient Syria is thought to be the oldest shrine to the goddess on earth. When the Skythians invaded what we call the middle east, they marched through Syria ... most of the soldiers did not plunder or harm the Syrians but some of them looted the ancient temple of Aphrodite Ourania. Aphrodite afflicted the soldiers and their descendants with a disease, which is generally called the "female sickness" and causes loss of virility ... the Skythians call the victims of this illness Enareis, i.e. Hermaphrodites, perhaps meaning men/women.

Atalanta

No one can escape the influence of Aphrodite no matter how fast they run ... Atalanta is a perfect example of this fact.

Atalanta

Atalanta was a famous virgin huntress who distinguished herself during the Kalydonian Hunt. Atalanta was the first to wound the fierce boar that the goddess Artemis unleashed on the people of Kalydon as punishment for the impious behavior of King Oineus. The king's son Meleagros organized a band of renowned hunters to kill the boar and Atalanta was included in that elite group ... she was awarded the boar's hide for her skill and bravery.

Atalanta vowed that she would only marry a man if he could beat her in a foot race ... she had no intention of getting married and assumed that with her athletic prowess she could defeat any man who raced against her. A young man named Hippomenes [or perhaps Meilanion] fell in love with Atalanta and accepted her challenge.

Aphrodite wanted Atalanta to be married so the goddess used her wiles to accomplish that seemingly impossible feat. Aphrodite gave Hippomenes three golden apples that came from the Garden of the Hesperides ... these were no ordinary golden apples ... they were of divine creation and irresistible to any mortal female. Hippomenes was instructed to place the golden apples on the race course so that Atalanta would be temped to stop and pick them up ... the trick worked just as Aphrodite intended. When Atalanta stopped for the enchanted apples, Hippomenes gained an advantage that Atalanta could not overcome. Hippomenes won the race and Atalanta became his wife.

Pandora

Aphrodite was instrumental in the creation of the first woman, Pandora. The name Pandora means All-Endowed because, at the command of Zeus, she was given gifts from various Immortals and was thus Endowed by All.

Zeus created Pandora as a gift for his cousin Epimetheus and a punishment for all mankind. Epimetheus had been warned not to accept gifts from Zeus but when he saw Pandora he could not resist her charms ... charms that Aphrodite bestowed on her.

Hephaistos molded Pandora's body from earth into the likeness of a modest young girl ... Athene taught Pandora the skills of weaving and gave her dexterity ... Aphrodite put a mist upon her head to engender longing and desire ... Hermes gave her treachery and shamelessness ... the Graces and Peitho [Persuasion] gave her necklaces of gold ... the Seasons put a halo of flowers on Pandora's head.

When Epimetheus accepted Pandora he unleashed evils on the world. The only positive influence Pandora brought to the world of men was Hope. Although women were designed as a curse to men, the only thing worse than marriage is for a man to live and die alone.

The Graces

The Xarites, known as the Graces or Charities, are the only Immortals that might be classified as Aphrodite's companions. Just as their name implies, they are the incarnation of Grace and Charm.

Euphrosyne, Aglaia and Thalia

Their names are Aglaia [Splendor], Euphrosyne [Festivity], and Thaleia [Rejoicing]. They weave Aphrodite's garments and tend to her every need ... they dance with the Seasons, Harmonia, Hebe and Aphrodite on Mount Olympos.

Love Never Dies

Aphrodite is perhaps the best known of the Greek Immortals ... she has been called upon for millennia to intercede in matters of love because she can inspire human hearts to make bold sacrifices and give profound meaning to simple gestures of affection.

Aphrodite makes it possible for us to rise above our fatal humanity and experience the timeless yet momentary gift of true love unhampered by reluctance or fear. Of all the gods and goddesses, Aphrodite is the most accessible ... don't deny her gifts.

Aphrodite is often confused with the Roman goddess, Venus.

Text References   Hymns to Aphrodite   The Kypria
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