Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She’s the daughter of Zeus and Dione. The myth relates that Cronus severed the member of Uranus and threw it in the sea. This action caused churning and formation of foam in the sea. Out of this, the most beautiful and perfect goddess, Aphrodite, rose. Her name is derived from the Greek word “aphros” meaning foam from the sea. She is also known as Cytherea and Cypris after the two places where she is said to have been born. Aphrodite has a girdle which has the powers to make people fall in love. She also enchants people she meets, creating feelings of love and lust.
Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, the god of fire, ironically, the ugliest and most stable of the gods. Zeus felt this was the best step as Aphrodite’s beauty might cause jealousy and fights amongst the other gods. Yet, Aphrodite had a few affairs and the longest of these affairs was with Ares, the god of war. They had four sons Eros, Anteros, Deimos, Phebos, and a daughter Harmonia. The affair was soon discovered by Hephaestus who had secretly trapped them in a net and their affair was made public.
Another lover of Aphrodite was Adonis. The king of Cyprus had a daughter called Myrrha who was cursed by Aphrodite with an insatiable lust for her father. She fools her father to sleep with him but he discovers the truth and tries to kill her. The gods take pity on Myrrha and turn her into a tree to save her from her father’s hands. From the bark of the tree emerges the baby Adonis who is discovered by Aphrodite. She leaves him with Persephone, the god of the underworld. Adonis becomes a handsome man and both Aphrodite and Persephone fight over him. Zeus decides that Adonis would spend one third of the year with Persephone, one third with Aphrodite, and one third with a person of his choice. Adonis was fond of hunting and used to spend most of his time hunting. On one such hunting trip when Aphrodite was not around, he tries to attack a boar and gets killed instead. Aphrodite hears him and tries to save him but was too late.
Aphrodite fell in love with Anchises, a man who tended to herds. This was the work of Zeus who felt Aphrodite should get a dose of her own medicine. Aphrodite goes to Anchises in disguise and sleeps with him. She reveals the truth to him and says that he will be left alone by the gods if he tells the truth to anyone. She bears him a son named Aeneas. One evening Anchises drank too much and blurted the truth. The Gods got angry and crippled him.
The story of the sculptor Pygmalion is to show how much Aphrodite valued love. The sculptor was a perfectionist and no woman matched his expectations. Aphrodite decided to help him and appeared in his dreams which inspired him to make a statue of her. He fell in love with the statue, and prayed to Aphrodite to help him. She brought the statue to life and fulfilled his love.
Aphrodite is believed to have been the catalyst for the Trojan War. There was a beauty contest among the goddesses which was to be judged by Paris. Aphrodite bribed Paris by promising him Helen, a very beautiful woman, as his wife. Later, Helen was abducted by Paris, triggering the Trojan War. Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, worships Artemis and ignores Aphrodite. She curses him and makes his stepmother Phaedra fall in love with him. Hippolytus rejects Phaedra and she commits suicide, blaming him. His father Theseus gets angry and curses him. Poseidon executes the curse. When Hippolytus is on the chariot, he distracts the horses, causing an accident which kills Hippolytus.
Psyche, a Greek princess, was rumored to be very beautiful. As she began to get more attention, Aphrodite was ignored. Distressed by Psyche, she sent her son Eros to pierce her with his arrow, making her fall in love with the first person she saw. Eros accidentally pierces himself and falls madly in love with Psyche. Fearing his mother, he leads a secret life with Psyche in the mountains, taking care to see that she does not see him before dark, and tells her that if she sees him, he will leave. As things go, curiosity overcomes Psyche, and she cheats. Eros leaves as he said. Psyche is miserable and seeks the help of Aphrodite to win back Eros. Aphrodite sets out a number of tasks for her, each more difficult than the previous one. Unable to see his beloved suffering at the hands of his mother, Eros seeks the blessings of the other gods and turns Psyche into a goddess. Then, they lived happily ever after.
As the goddess of sexuality and beauty, Aphrodite is often portrayed as a nude figure or draped beautifully. She holds dove in her hand and carries a girdle which was gifted to her by Zeus. She’s shown to be floating on the sea with her servants and other minor gods around her. Aphrodite is the most beautiful of all the goddesses.
Despite her numerous affairs, Aphrodite is well respected. She has the ability to make people fall in love and she rules over all forms of love, be it siblings, parents or friends. Though her power may seem insignificant in comparison to other gods, she’s actually very powerful. Love is indeed a very powerful weapon. It can be seen in the story of Paris, which eventually started the Trojan War.
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