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Aphrodite: Goddess of Love and Beauty

Author: Lena Santos

Five of the twelve (or fourteen but never more than twelve at a time) Olympians were the children of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. These were Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hestia, Demeter and Hades. The rest were the children of Zeus with other women, except for Aphrodite. The goddess of beauty and love was formed out of the foam that was created when Uranus’s castrated genitals were thrown out of the sea of Paphos near Cyprus by the Titan Cronus. Thus Aphrodite means “aphro” as in foam and “dite” as in arisen.

Aphrodite (Venus) was also known as the goddess of pleasure and procreation and was depicted as a very beautiful woman. She was not an Olympian before her marriage to the god of iron Hephaestus but surely she was a goddess of some sort for wherever she was flowers bloomed and the air filled with the sweet smell of spring. Zeus and all other male Olympians were all attracted to Aphrodite. She was after all the goddess of love and lust. To ease his own guilt and to keep himself from being blatantly unfaithful to Hera, Zeus arranged a marriage between his and Hera’s lame son Hephaestus and Aphrodite. Aphrodite preferred Ares but she used her head and agreed to be the wife of Hephaestus for a position as a goddess in Mount Olympus.

Note that Zeus was just making amends to Hephaestus for as a baby, the god of iron was so ugly he was thrown out of Mount Olympus by his mother Hera. What better way to make amends than giving the ugly son a beautiful wife?

Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Ares

Hephaestus was so thrilled to have such a beautiful wife. He was the god of iron for nothing if he cannot shower his wife with marvelous gifts one of which was a golden girdle that made anyone who wore it irresistible to others. It was the wrong gift to give to the sensuous and flirtatious Aphrodite. In no time at all the goddess of love and lust was having affairs left and right including a rather torrid one with her own brother-in-law Ares, the god of war. Hephaestus was oblivious to all the infidelities of his wife for being the official blacksmith and tinsmith of Olympus he barely had the time to rest much more follow around and snoop on his adulterous wife.

The goddess of love and beauty spent all her time flirting and making love to both gods and humans. Her ability to attract gods, humans and animals was superseded by her ability to turn into a virgin over and over again once she bathed in the sea. Not even Hera had the power to do that. Hephaestus eventually learned of his wife’s transgressions and even went on to build an elaborate trap for the two lovers. Hephaestus caught the two lovers in a net, naked. The god of iron presented the two lovers to the gods (not goddesses) of Mount Olympus for judgment. The gods refused to pass a guilty verdict for they were not immune to Aphrodite’s beauty. As a token of her gratitude Aphrodite slept with Hermes and she bore Hermaphroditus. Among her many children were Eros (Cupid), Aeneas Pothos (Desire), Phobos (Fear), Dermos, Harmonia, Hemeros and Rhodes. Among her many lovers aside from Ares and Hermes included the Olympian gods Poseidon and Dionysus. Her favorite was the little winged goding Eros (son of Ares) and together with the Graces (Thalia, Euphrosyne and Aglaia) were always with her. The Graces were also known as the Charites, the daughters of Dionysus with Aphrodite.

Aphrodite and Adonis

Aphrodite was mean, jealous, ill-tempered and vain. She was known to get what she wants no matter the consequences. When the King Cinyras said that his daughter Smyrra was more beautiful than Aphrodite, she was so mad that she made the king lose his mind and thus slept with his daughter Smyrra. When the king regained his sanity he realized what has happened he a made a move to kill his daughter. To save Smyrra, Aphrodite turned her into a tree. Not to be outdone, the king chopped the tree in half and came out the most beautiful baby boy, Adonis. Aphrodite hid the baby into a chest and entrusted the baby boy’s care to Persephone, the goddess of the underworld.

Adonis grew up to be a handsome young man that Persephone fell in love with him even refusing to give him back to Persephone. A feud ensued between the two that Zeus had to settle the dispute through Calliope. Calliope decided that Adonis spend 1/3 of his year with Persephone, another 1/3 with Aphrodite and the rest as his own time. Adonis chose to spend his time with Aphrodite. They became passionate lovers that made the god of war and Aphrodite’s lover Ares, get jealous. Adonis loved to hunt while Aphrodite watched and protected him. One time, Adonis tried to kill a big boar but failed. His spear wounded the boar but not fatal enough to stop it from turning on to him and goring him with its tusks. Aphrodite heard Adonis’s cries but it was too late. Adonis was dead and from where he lain, sprung the crimson anemone flower.

Some versions of Greek mythology say that the large boar that killed Adonis was Ares himself. Adonis’s death sent him to Persephone. Aphrodite once again approached Zeus for the goddess of love was so heartbroken by the demise of Adonis. Zeus had a soft spot for Aphrodite that he ruled that Adonis spend a half year in the underworld and the other half with the Olympians.

Sacred Festival and Symbols of Aphrodite

Aphrodite’s beautiful face was constantly smiling. She was a favorite patroness of many ancient Greek cities. Her festival was called the Aphrodisiac which was mostly celebrated in Corinth and Athens. Her worship was connected with the death and rebirth of human beings and nature. Her symbols were the girdle, which she used to compel love, the seashell, mirror and the dove.

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