Aphrodite is the Greek Goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. She is the equivalent of the Roman Goddess Venus. Her parents were Zeus, King of the Gods and Dione, an earth/mother Goddess. The name Aphrodite means “risen from sea-foam.” Legend states that she was born from the blood and foam on the seashore off the islands of Cyprus and Cythera after Ouranos was castrated by Kronos.
Early on, Zeus realized that Aphrodite could become the source of much trouble because of her beauty. To head off the possibility of her radiance stirring every man’s passions, he decided that she should be married at once. He chose his son Hephaestus, god of the forge, who was lame and ugly, but reliable and hardworking. Hephaestus made Aphrodite a magical golden girdle which made her irresistible to men when she wore it.
Aphrodite felt that she had married beneath her class and had many love affairs with both mortals and other gods. Hephaestus accepted the arrangement, happy to be her husband. Aphrodite’s most notable lovers were the gods Ares, Dionysius, Hermes, Poseidon, and the mortal Adonis. Her brazen affair with Ares, the God of war, embarrassed Hephaestus and he fashioned an invisible net made of bronze, capturing them in it during one of their dalliances. Through Ares, she became the mother of Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, Eros and Anteros.
Other Gods and Goddesses had many divine duties to perform, but Aphrodite was assigned only one – to bring love into the world. Once, Athena caught Aphrodite weaving and reprimanded her for intruding upon Athena’s area of responsibility. Aphrodite apologized and promised never to do any work again.
Aphrodite loved the mortal Adonis so much that she begged him to give up dangerous sports that he loved. She could not bear to lose him. Adonis was killed by a wild boar when he was hunting. Aphrodite heard his cries and rushed to his side. While holding the dying Adonis in her arms, she turned the drops of blood from his wounds into windflowers, known as the short-lived anemones, as a memorial to their love.
Aphrodite’s son Eros was in love with the mortal Psyche and Aphrodite hated Psyche for her beauty. She had Eros persuade Psyche to fall in love with a monster (really Eros). He hid his identify from her for she believed that he was hideous. They only saw each other at night. One night, the curious Psyche looked at Eros by candlelight as he slept. Eros was enraged. For a time he left her to wander the world in misery. Finally, because he loved her so much, he begged Zeus to change Psyche into an immortal, and they were finally married.
Another legend tells us that Eris, the Goddess of Discord was not invited to an important wedding, so she threw a golden apple marked “to the fairest” in the middle of the floor. Athena, Hera and Aphrodite fought over the golden apple. Paris was urged to make the award. Each goddess offered Paris a bribe. Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Troy. Of course, Paris’ abduction of Helen led to the Trojan War.
The tales of Aphrodite are some of the most interesting of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses. This is the second in a series of articles on the Greek Goddesses. Click here to read about the Goddess Athena.