Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of beauty, love, and procreation. You may know her with her Roman name, Venus. The Greek goddess played an important role in countless mythological stories, including the Iliad. Here are some facts about Aphrodite (Venus) that few people know.
Facts about the Greek Goddess of Beauty and Love, Aphrodite:
- Aphrodite’s Ungracefully Graceful Birth
- Aphrodite’s Attendants
- Aphrodite’s Complicated Love Life
- Aphrodite’s Cult
- Aphrodite’s Festival: the Aphrodisia
- Aphrodite’s Role in the Trojan War
- Aphrodite as an Art Muse and Model
Aphrodite’s Ungracefully Graceful Birth
Aphrodite’s (Venus’) birth has been depicted in countless paintings and frescos since the Renaissance. The goddess of love and beauty rises from the sea foam, near the island state of Cyprus. But what happened few moments earlier, is not so graceful. Aphrodite’s birth was the result of titan’s Chronus’ castration by Zeus and the other Olympian gods, as narrated in Helinika’s video titled “The 12 Olympian Gods | Greek Gods Family Tree: From the Titans to The Olympians”. The Olympians threw the cut body part of Chronus into the sea and Aphrodite was born.
Eros and Himeros are the two main Aphrodite’s attendants – her loyal companions who followed her around. They are both depicted as young winged men. Eros is the personification of romantic love and Himeros the personification of strong romantic attraction. Other attendants of Aphrodite are Pothos, passion, and Peitho, persuasion. Peitho refers to both romantic and political persuasion. In romance, it can be described as the art of seduction. It is worth mentioning that in Roman mythology, the attendants of Venus are depicted as winged babies – at least this is the case of Cupid, the Roman version of Eros. In ancient Greek mythology, Aphrodite and her attendants are eternal young adults.
Aphrodite’s Complicated Love Life
As the goddess of love, Aphrodite is known for her various love stories. Her love interests were both gods and mortals. Unfortunately, the mortals who were involved with Aphrodite had very tragic endings, such as Adonis, who was shared between Aphrodite and Persephone, and ended up dying during a hunting trip. Another mortal is Anchises, who revealed the identity of his lover to his mortal friends and was hit with a lightning sent by Zeus. When it comes to her immortal lovers, these include Hephaestus, Ares, Hermes, and Dionysus. In some texts, she is reportedly in a steady relationship with Hephaestus and cheats on him with Ares.
Aphrodite’s followers included any woman who wanted to ensure she remains beautiful and fertile, while enjoying a successful love life. There was also the cult of Aphrodite in her temple in the city of Corinth, where she had several female servants called hetairai. These women would often perform “sacred mating” in exchange for money.
Aphrodite’s Festival: the Aphrodisia
Aphrodite is also associated with a summer festival called “Aphrodisia”. The “Aphrodisia” were celebrated in numerous Greek city-states but were of great importance in Athens, Corinth, and Cyprus. On the ancient Greek month Hekatombaion -which started on the third week of July and lasted till the third week of August- the hetairai and other women worshipped the goddess. They would purify her temple with the blood of a dove and they would offer salt. Flowers and incense were also offered to the goddess. In some places, the statue of the goddess was washed in the sea and the worshippers dined together. In Thebes, women would dress up as men, and in other places choreographies were performed. It is not clear how men participated in these festivals, but we do know that they were banned in the Aphrodisia of Thessaly.
Aphrodite’s Role in the Trojan War
Aphrodite also played a crucial role in the mythological story behind the Trojan War. It all started when the prince of Troy, Paris, abducted Helen, queen of Sparta, and took her to his kingdom. The Greeks then united and fought against the city of Troy. But it was Aphrodite that told Paris he should take Helen and she was also the one who helped him do so. Paris had offered the “golden apple of discord” to Aphrodite, instead of Hera and Athena. The goddess of beauty and love had promised him a trophy wife, the most beautiful woman in the world.
Aphrodite as an Art Model
Since classical times, Aphrodite has been sculpted and painted from countless artists who wanted to depict the beauty standards of their time. The most well-known Aphrodites are the sculpture of Aphrodite of Milos (130-100 BC) and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” (mid 1480s).
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