Aphrodite

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Aphrodite (Greek: Ἀφροδίτη, pronounced in English as /ˈæfrəˌdaɪti/ and in Ancient Greek as /apʰroditɛ/) was the Greek goddess of love, lust, beauty, and sexuality. Her Roman equivalent is the goddess Venus. Myrtle, dove, sparrow, and swan are sacred to her.

Contents

[edit] Origins

The Greek Aphrodite has numerous equivalents: Inanna (Sumerian counterpart), Ishtar (Mesopotamian), Hathor (Egyptian), Ashtart or Astarte in standard Greek (Syro-Palestinian), Turan (Etruscan) and Venus (Roman). She has parallels to Indo-European dawn goddesses such as Ushas or Aurora.

The name Ἀφροδίτη is connected by popular etymology with ἀφρός "foam", interpreting it as "risen from the foam". It has reflexes in Messapic and Etruscan (whence April), which were probably loaned from Greek. Attempts to derive the name from Semitic Aštoret, via undocumented Hittite transmission, remain doubtful. A suggestion by Hammarström<ref>Glotta 11, 21 5f.</ref>, rejected by Hjalmar Frisk, connects the name with πρύτανις, a loan into Greek from a cognate of Etruscan (e)pruni, "lord" or similar. Often, Aphrodite appears as two separate goddesses. Aphrodite Urania, born from the foam after Cronus castrated Uranus, and Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Aphrodite born from Zeus and Dione. Aphrodite Urania is sometimes referred to as the celestial Aphrodite, representing the love of body and soul, while Aphrodite Pandemos is associated with a more physical love.

[edit] Worship

Greek deities
series
Primordial deities
Titans
Aquatic deities
Chthonic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities
Olympians
Zeus and Hera,
Poseidon, Hades,
Hestia, Demeter,
Aphrodite, Athena,
Apollo, Artemis,
Ares, Hephaestus,
Hermes, Dionysus

The epithet Aphrodite Acidalia was occasionally added to her name, after the spring she used to bathe in, located in Boeotia (Virgil I, 720). She was also called Kypris or Cytherea after her alleged birth-places in Cyprus and Cythera, respectively. The island of Cythera was a center of her cult. She was associated with Hesperia and frequently accompanied by the Oreads, nymphs of the mountains.

Aphrodite had a festival of her own, the Aphrodisiac (also referred to as Aphrodisia), which was celebrated all over Greece but particularly in Athens and Corinth. In Corinth, intercourse with her priestesses was considered a method of worshipping Aphrodite.

Aphrodite was associated with, and often depicted with the sea, dolphins, doves, swans, pomegranates, apples, myrtle, rose and lime trees.

Venus was often referred to with epithet Venus Erycina ("of the heather") after Mount Eryx, Sicily, one of the centers of her cult.

[edit] Birth

"Foam-arisen" Aphrodite was born of the sea foam near Paphos, Cyprus after Cronus cut off Uranus' testicles and threw them into the sea. Hesiod's Theogony described that the genitals "were carried over the sea a long time, and white foam arose from the immortal flesh; with it a girl grew" to become Aphrodite. Thus Aphrodite is of an older generation than Zeus. Iliad (Book V) expresses another version of her origin, by which she was considered a daughter of Dione, who was the original oracular goddess ("Dione" being simply "the goddess, the feminine form of Δíος, "Dios", the genitive of Zeus) at Dodona. In Homer, Aphrodite, venturing into battle to protect her son, Aeneas, is wounded by Diomedes and returns to her mother, to sink down at her knee and be comforted. "Dione" seems to be an equivalent of Rhea, the Earth Mother, whom Homer has relocated to Olympus, and refers back to a hypothesized original Proto-Indo-European pantheon, with the chief male god (Di-) represented by the sky and thunder, and the chief female god (feminine form of Di-) represented as the earth or fertile soil. Aphrodite herself was sometimes referred to as "Dione". Once the worship of Zeus had usurped the oak-grove oracle at Dodona, some poets made him out to be the father of Aphrodite.

Aphrodite's chief center of worship remained at Paphos, on the south-western coast of Cyprus, where the goddess of desire had long been worshipped as Ishtar and Ashtaroth. It is said that she first tentatively came ashore at Cytherea, a stopping place for trade and culture between Crete and the Peloponesus. Thus perhaps we have hints of the track of Aphrodite's original cult from the Levant to mainland Greece.

In Plato's Symposium the speech of Pausanias distinguishes two manifestations of Aphrodite, represented by the two stories: Aphrodite Ourania ("heavenly" Aphrodite), and Aphrodite Pandemos ("Common" Aphrodite). These two manifestations represented her role in homosexuality and heterosexuality, respectively.

Alternatively, Aphrodite was a daughter of Thalassa (for she was born of the Sea) and Zeus.

Another version is that she is the daughter of Poseidon.

[edit] Adulthood

Aphrodite, in many of the myths involving her, is characterized as vain, ill-tempered and easily offended. Though she is one of the few gods of the Greek Pantheon to be actually married, she is frequently unfaithful to her husband. Hephaestus, of course, is one of the most even-tempered of the Hellenic deities; Aphrodite seems to prefer Ares, the volatile god of war. In Homer's Iliad she surges into battle to save her son, Aeneas, but abandons Ares (in fact, drops him as she flies through the air) when she herself is hurt (Ares does much the same thing). And she is the original cause of the Trojan War itself: not only did she start the whole affair by offering Helen of Troy to Paris, but the abduction was accomplished when Paris, seeing Helen for the first time, was inflamed with desire to have her—which is Aphrodite's realm. Her domain may involve love, but it does not involve romance; rather, it tends more towards lust, the human irrational longing.

[edit] Marriage with Hephaestus

Due to her immense beauty Zeus was frightened that she would be the cause of violence between the other gods. He married her off to Hephaestus, the dour, humorless god of smithing. There is another version of this story. Because Hera, Hephaestus' mother, threw him off Olympus because he was too ugly, he got his revenge by trapping her in a magic throne, then demanding Aphrodite's hand in return for Hera's release. Hephaestus was overjoyed at being married to the goddess of beauty and forged her beautiful jewelry, including the cestus, a girdle that made her even more irresistible to men. Her unhappiness with her marriage caused Aphrodite to seek out companionship from others, most frequently Ares, but also Adonis, Anchises and more. Hephaestus once cleverly caught Ares and Aphrodite in bed with finely wrought chains, and brought all the other Olympian gods together to mock the pair (however, the "goddesses stayed at home, all of them for shame.") Hephaestus would not free them until Poseidon promised Hephaestus that Ares would pay reparations, but both escaped as soon as the chains were lifted and their promise was not kept.

[edit] Aphrodite and Psyche

Aphrodite was jealous of the beauty of a mortal woman named Psyche. She asked Eros to use his golden arrows to cause Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest man on earth. Eros agreed but then fell in love with Psyche on his own, or by accidentally pricking himself with a golden arrow. Meanwhile, Psyche's parents were anxious that their daughter remained unmarried. They consulted an oracle who told them she was destined for no mortal lover, but a monster that lived on top of a particular mountain. Psyche was resigned to her fate and climbed to the top of the mountain. There, Zephyrus, the west wind, gently floated her downwards. She entered a cave on the appointed mountain, surprised to find it full of jewelry and finery. Eros visited her every night in the cave and they had sex; he demanded only that she never light any lamps because he did not want her to know who he was (having wings made him distinctive). Her two sisters, jealous of Psyche, convinced her to do so one night and she lit a lamp, recognizing him instantly. A drop of hot lamp oil fell on Eros' chest and he awoke, then fled.

When Psyche told her two jealous elder sisters what had happened; they rejoiced secretly and each separately walked to the top of the mountain and did as Psyche described her entry to the cave, hoping Eros would pick them instead. Zephyrus did not pick them and they fell to their deaths at the base of the mountain.

Psyche searched for her lover across much of Greece, finally stumbling into a temple to Demeter, where the floor was covered with piles of mixed grains. She started sorting the grains into organized piles and, when she finished, Demeter spoke to her, telling her that the best way to find Eros was to find his mother, Aphrodite, and earn her blessing. Psyche found a temple to Aphrodite and entered it. Aphrodite assigned her a similar task to Demeter's temple, but gave her an impossible deadline to finish it by. Eros intervened, for he still loved her, and caused some ants to organize the grains for her. Aphrodite was outraged at her success and told her to go to a field where golden sheep grazed and get some golden wool. Psyche went to the field and saw the sheep but was stopped by a river-god, whose river she had to cross to enter the field. He told her the sheep were mean and vicious and would kill her, but if she waited until noontime, the sheep would go the shade on the other side of the field and sleep; she could pick the wool that stuck to the branches and bark of the trees. Psyche did so and Aphrodite was even more outraged at her survival and success. Finally, Aphrodite claimed that the stress of caring for her son, depressed and ill as a result of Psyche's unfaithfulness, had caused her to lose some of her beauty. Psyche was to go to Hades and ask Persephone, the queen of the underworld, for a bit of her beauty in a black box that Aphrodite gave to Psyche. Psyche walked to a tower, deciding that the quickest way to the underworld would be to die. A voice stopped her at the last moment and told her a route that would allow her to enter and return still living, as well as telling her how to pass Cerberus, Charon and the other dangers of the route. She pacified Cerberus, the three-headed dog, with a sweet honey-cake and paid Charon an obolus to take her into Hades. On the way there, she saw hands reaching out of the water. A voice told her to toss a honey cake to them. Once there, Persephone said she would be glad to do Aphrodite a favor. She once more paid Charon, threw the cake out to the hands, and gave one to Cerberus.

Psyche left the underworld and decided to open the box and take a little bit of the beauty for herself, thinking that if she did so Eros would surely love her. Inside was a "Stygian sleep" which overtook her. Eros, who had forgiven her, flew to her body and wiped the sleep from her eyes, then begged Zeus and Aphrodite for their consent to his wedding of Psyche. They agreed and Zeus made her immortal. Aphrodite danced at the wedding of Eros and Psyche and their subsequent child was named Pleasure, or (in the Roman mythology) Volupta.

[edit] Adonis

Aphrodite was Adonis' lover and had a part in his birth. She urged Myrrha or Smyrna to commit incest with her father, Theias, the King of Assyria. Another version says Myrrha's father was Cinyras of Cyprus. Myrrha's nurse helped with the scheme. When Theias discovered this, he flew into a rage, chasing his daughter with a knife. The gods turned her into a myrrh tree and Adonis eventually sprang from this tree. Alternatively, Aphrodite turned her into a tree and Adonis was born when Theias shot the tree with an arrow or when a boar used its tusks to tear the tree's bark off.

Once Adonis was born, Aphrodite took him under her wing, seducing him with the help of Helene, her friend, and was entranced by his unearthly beauty. She gave him to Persephone to watch over, but Persephone was also amazed at his beauty and refused to give him back. The argument between the two goddesses was settled either by Zeus or Calliope, with Adonis spending four months with Aphrodite, four months with Persephone and four months of the years on his own.

Adonis was eventually killed by a jealous Ares. Aphrodite was warned of this jealousy and was told that Adonis would be killed by a boar that Ares transformed into. She tried to persuade Adonis to stay with her at all times, but his love of hunting was his downfall. While Adonis was hunting, Ares found him and gored him to death. Aphrodite arrived just in time to hear his last breath. It is also said that Aphrodite bore a daughter to Adonis, Beroe.

[edit] The Judgment of Paris

Main article: Judgment of Paris

The gods and goddesses as well as various mortals were invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (the eventual parents of Achilles). Only the goddess Eris (Discord) was not invited, but she arrived with a golden apple inscribed with the words "to the fairest," which she threw among the goddesses. Aphrodite, Hera and Athena all claimed to be the fairest, and thus the rightful owner of the apple. The goddesses chose to place the matter before Zeus, who later put the choice into the hands of Paris. Hera tried to bribe Paris with Asia Minor, while Athena offered wisdom and fame and glory in battle, but Aphrodite whispered to Paris that if he were to choose her as the fairest he would have the most beautiful mortal woman in the world as a wife, and he accordingly chose her. This woman was Helen. The other goddesses were enraged by this and through Helen's abduction by Paris they brought about the Trojan War.

[edit] Pygmalion and Galatea

Pygmalion was a sculptor who had never found a woman worthy of his love. Aphrodite took pity on him and decided to show him the wonders of love. One day, Pygmalion was inspired by a dream of Aphrodite to make a woman out of ivory resembling her image, and he called her Galatea. He fell in love with the statue and decided he could not live without her. He prayed to Aphrodite, who carried out the final phase of her plan and brought the exquisite sculpture to life. Pygmalion loved Galatea and they were soon married.

Another version of this myth tells that the women of the village in which Pygmalion lived grew angry that he had not married. They all asked Aphrodite to force him to marry. Aphrodite accepted and went that very night to Pygmalion, and asked him to pick a woman to marry. She told him that if he did not pick one, she would do so for him. Not wanting to be married, he begged her for more time, asking that he be allowed to make a sculpture of Aphrodite before he had to choose his bride. Flattered, she accepted.

Pygmalion spent a lot of time making small clay sculptures of the Goddess, claiming it was needed so he could pick the right pose. As he started making the actual sculpture he was shocked to discover he actually wanted to finish, even though he knew he would have to marry someone when he finished. The reason he wanted to finish it was that he had fallen in love with the sculpture. The more he worked on it, the more it changed, until it no longer resembled Aphrodite at all.

At the very moment Pygmalion stepped away from the finished sculpture Aphrodite appeared and told him to choose his bride. Pygmalion chose the statue. Aphrodite told him that could not be, and asked him again to pick a bride. Pygmalion put his arms around the statue, and asked Aphrodite to turn him into a statue so he could be with her. Aphrodite took pity on him and brought the statue to life instead.

[edit] Other Stories

In one version of the story of Hippolytus, Aphrodite was the catalyst for his death. He scorned the worship of Aphrodite for Artemis and, in revenge, Aphrodite caused his step-mother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him, knowing Hippolytus would reject her. In the most popular version of the story, the play "Hippolytus" by Euripides, Phaedra seeks revenge against Hippolytus by killing herself and, in her suicide note, telling Theseus, her husband and Hippolytus' father, that Hippolytus had raped her. Hippolytus was oath-bound not to mention Phaedra's love for him and nobly refused to defend himself despite the consequences. Theseus then cursed his son, a curse that Poseidon was bound to fulfil and so Hipploytus was laid low by a bull from the sea that caused his chariot-team to panic and wreck his vehicle. This is, intersestingly enough not quite how Aphrodite envisaged his death in the play, as in the prologue she says she expects Hippolytus to submit to lust with Phaedra and for Theseus to catch the pair in the act. Hippolytus forgives his father before he dies and Artemis reveals the truth to Theseus before vowing to kill one Aphrodite loves (Adonis) in revenge.

Glaucus of Corinth angered Aphrodite and she made her horses angry during the funeral games of King Pelias. They tore him apart. His ghost supposedly frightened horses during the Isthmian Games.

Aphrodite was often accompanied by the Charites.

Aphrodite was one of the gods to be mocked by Momus, which resulted in his expulsion from Olympus.

In book III of Homer's Iliad, Aphrodite saves Paris when he is about to be killed by Menelaos.

Aphrodite was very protective of her son, Aeneas, who fought in the Trojan War. Diomedes almost killed Aeneas in battle but Aphrodite saved him. Diomedes wounded Aphrodite and she dropped her son, fleeing to Mt. Olympus. Aeneas was then enveloped in a cloud by Apollo, who took him to Pergamos, a sacred spot in Troy. Artemis healed Aeneas there.

She turned Abas to stone for his pride.

She turned Anaxarete to stone for reacting so dispassionately to Iphis' pleas to love him, even after his suicide.

Aphrodite helps Hippomenes to win a footrace against Atalanta to win Atalanta's hand in marriage, giving him three golden apples to distract her with. However, when the couple fails to thank Aphrodite, she has them turned into lions.

[edit] Consorts and children

[edit] Surnames and titles

  • Acidalia
  • Anadyomene, the emerging as in Aphrodite Anadyomene, a painting by Apelles
  • Cytherea
  • Despina
  • Kypris
  • Hetaira
  • Porne, the prostitute
  • Kalligloutos
  • Kallipygos, she of the beautiful buttocks
  • Morpho, the shapely, she of the various shapes
  • Ambologera, she who postpones old age
  • Aphrodite en koipos
  • Genetyllis
  • Epitragidia
  • Melaina, the black
  • Melainis, the black one
  • Skotia, the dark
  • Anosia, the unholy
  • Androphonos, killer of men
  • Tymborychos, the gravedigger
  • Epitymbidia, she upon the graves
  • Basilis, queen
  • Persephaessa
  • Praxis

[edit] In popular culture

  • Aphrodite is well-known in popular culture due to several works of art such as the Venus de Milo and Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.
  • In film, she has been portrayed by actresses such as Vanna White and Ursula Andress.
  • In the Hercules and Xena television series, Aphrodite was played by Alexandra Tydings, who gained a cult following due to her portrayal of Aphrodite as a ditzy valley girl who dressed in pink negligee.
  • In the anime Wedding Peach Aphrodite is the Queen of the Angel World. They are magical beings who bring love to Earth.
  • In Marvel Comics, Venus is presented as Ares' former love interest. She is seen to where she had become enemies with her former lover Ares who is still in love with her.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • C. Kerényi (1951). The Gods of the Greeks.

[edit] External links

Greek deities series
Primordial deities | Titans | Aquatic deities | Chthonic deities
Twelve Olympians
Zeus | Hera | Poseidon | Hades | Hestia | Demeter | Aphrodite
Athena | Apollo | Artemis | Ares | Hephaestus | Hermes | Dionysus
ar:أفروديت

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Aphrodite

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