Did You Know?
Aphrodite was widely worshiped on the islands of Cyprus and Cythera in Greece where she was born, and thus, is also called Kypris or Cytherea.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty, and desire. She is also associated with the sea, fertility, and vegetation. Depicted as a beautiful woman, Aphrodite is often shown accompanied by Eros―the winged god of love. Prominent symbols that are associated with her include the dove, apple, mirror, and the scallop shell.
It is a known fact that Aphrodite punished those who neglected her worship and despised her power, and favored and protected those who paid homage to her and recognized her power. Her Roman equivalent is Venus.
Aphrodite - The Greek Goddess of Love
In ancient Greek mythology, there are two versions of Aphrodite's birth. According to the first, she was the daughter born to Zeus and Dione. In the second, she was born from the foam created in the sea when Cronus emasculated his father, Uranus, and threw his genitals in it. Zephyr, the Greek god of west wind, gently blew and pushed her to the shore of the island of Cyprus. There, she was received by Grace, the giver of beauty and charm, dressed and taken to Mount Olympus, the abode of gods.
Marriage and the Illicit Affair
On Mount Olympus, Aphrodite's beauty turned out to be a curse for her. Gods began to fear that her beauty would give rise to jealousy, which would eventually lead to a war among them. So, Zeus decided to marry her off to Hephaestus, the god of fire and metalworking―the most steadfast among the Greek gods. Aphrodite though, disliked the idea of marrying Hephaestus, whom she considered 'ugly', and that eventually paved the way for her illicit affair with Ares, the Greek god of war.
It was Aphrodite's union with Ares that created Eros (god of love), Anteros (god of requited love), Phobos (personification of fear), Deimos (personification of terror), Harmonia (goddess of harmony and concord), and Adrestia (goddess of revenge and balance). While some sources state that Eros was Hephaestus' son, others suggest that he was the son of Ares and Aphrodite who was passed off to Hephaestus as his own son.
When Hephaestus learned of Aphrodite's affair, he entrapped her and Ares in an unbreakable net and took them to Mount Olympus. On Poseidon's persuasion, he agreed to free them, but only after he was assured that Ares would pay the adulterer's fine. Interestingly, there are some sources which state that Hephaestus trapped his mother, Hera in a magic throne after she cast him off Olympus, and offered to release her only if he was married to Aphrodite.
Aphrodite is believed to have been romantically involved with not just gods, but a few mortals as well. Many accounts refer to Aphrodite as Adonis' lover as well as surrogate mother. One such account states that she spent most of the time going hunting with Adonis, and when Adonis was killed by a wild boar, she mourned over his death for a long time. While she was looking for his body, her delicate feet were hurt by thorns, and the blood which oozed out from her feet gave rise to beautiful
An account describes Aphrodite's love for Anchises, a shepherd prince, whom she allowed to flee from Troy. Legend says that Aphrodite pretended to be a Phrygian princess and seduced Anchises. The latter only learned that his lover was a goddess after she revealed herself and their child, Aeneas to him after nine months.
Those Who Spurned Her
Aphrodite represented the power of love. She blessed individuals who worshiped her. But there was also another side to her; that of a ruthless goddess who punished individuals who despised love. In one such incident, she punished Narcissus, a beautiful young man, by making him fall in love with his own image, after he spurned Echo, a mountain nymph known for her beautiful voice.
An account states that Hippolytus, son of Theseus, was destroyed by Aphrodite for scorning her worship. When Hippolytus became a follower of Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt, he scorned Aphrodite. In retaliation, the latter made Phaedra, daughter of Minos and second wife of Theseus, fall in love with him. Spurned by Hippolytus, Phaedra told Theseus that he had raped her, and a furious Theseus made Poseidon send a sea monster to terrorize Hippolytus's horses, thus dragging him to death.
Role in the Trojan War
Aphrodite had a significant role in the start of the Trojan war. She was invited for the wedding of Peleus and Thetis along with everyone from Mount Olympus. The only one who was not invited was Eris, the goddess of discord, who was known to be a troublemaker. A snubbed Eris decided to live up to the expectations and threw a golden apple―the Apple of Discord―with To the Fairest One inscribed on it in front of the gathering, thus causing a fight between Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera.
Eventually, it was decided that the Prince of Troy, Paris would decide who should get the apple.
Before he gave his verdict, the three goddesses decided to bribe him. Aphrodite promised him the love of the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen, who was already married to Menelaus, the brother of king Agamemnon of Mycenae. Mesmerized by Aphrodite's offer, Paris chose her as the 'fairest of them all' and she received the Apple of Discord. Aphrodite kept her word and brought prince Paris and Helen together.
But the abduction of Helen (some sources suggest she came to Troy willfully) eventually led to the Trojan war in which the city of Troy was destroyed.
Aphrodite has been a popular subject in artworks like classical sculptures and frescos, i.e., painting onto the wet plaster on the wall. In most of these artworks, she has been depicted nude. One of the most powerful among the various Greek deities, she had the charm and elegance which she used to get whatever she wanted. For some, she was ruthless; for others, she was caring. As you go through all her deeds and misdeed, you realize why she is considered one of the greatest Olympian divinities.