- Pronunciation: a-fro-DYE-tee
- Origin: Greek
- Role: Goddess
- Symbols: Girdle, Mirror
- Husband: Hephaestus
- Siblings: Apollo, Athena, Helen
- Other Names: Acidalia, Cytherea, Cerigo
Who Is Aphrodite?
Aphrodite was a well-known Greek goddess who ruled over love, desire and beauty. She was physically stunning but also wore a magic girdle that made everyone fall in love with her. To the Greeks, she represented affection, sex and all types of attraction.
While she might have been the most beautiful of all the goddesses, she was far from being the strongest. In some accounts, she is depicted as weak and frightened, especially in times of war.
There are several myths regarding the origins of Aphrodite. Many hint that she had eastern origins, possibly as a fertility goddess, and might have been inspired by the Phoenician goddess Astarte.
Legends and Stories
The myths surrounding Aphrodite show how powerful her looks were and solidify her symbolism of love and attraction. There are many myths about the goddess, mostly telling of her love affairs, but here are some of the most popular.
The Birth of Aphrodite
There are a couple of main myths surrounding the birth of Aphrodite, one being quite shocking while the other is simpler. The first begins with Uranus. After treating his children with disrespect, they decided it was time to dethrone their father. Their mother, Gaia, sided with the children and told the youngest, Cronus, to fight him. He armed himself with a sickle and dethroned his father, telling him to leave the kingdom. Before Uranus left though, Cronus castrated him with the sickle.
The blood fell from his body into the sea and from this combination, Aphrodite was born. The wind and waves took her to the island of Cythera and she walked onto the shore. The Seasons were waiting for her and were amazed with the woman’s beauty. She stepped out of the foam and onto the sand of the beach where the Seasons clothed her in golden robes and jewelry. They led her to Mount Olympus where she began her reign.
The second myth isn’t as entertaining but comes to us from The Iliad. Homer claims that Aphrodite did have parents unlike the first myth suggests. Her mother’s name was Dione. There is not much information about her but we know that her name means “divine queen.” Some literature says that Dione was a Titaness while others say an Oceanid. It has also been suggested that she was the goddess of the oak. Aphrodite’s father was Zeus. While neither myth has been completely accepted or rejected in Greek mythology, many tend to lean towards the first because Aphrodite’s name means “one who has risen from the foam” which lines up with the first myth.
The Trojan War
Some blame Aphrodite for the Trojan War, which lasted for ten years and was devastating to both the Greeks and Trojans. Peleus was married to a sea-nymph named Thetis. All of the gods and goddesses were invited to the ceremony, except for one. The rejected goddess maliciously crafted a golden apple and had it placed on the banquet table. The apple had a message inscribed that read “For the fairest”. The goddesses at the wedding celebration began to argue over who deserved the golden apple.
It was eventually narrowed down to three goddesses, including Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Paris, the most handsome mortal in the world, was chosen to judge the goddesses and pick a winner. They all tried to bribe him though. Hera told Paris she would help him rule the world. Athena told the young man she would make sure he always won in battle while Aphrodite told Paris that she could guarantee that the most beautiful woman in the world would fall in love with him. She was talking about Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta.
Hearing this, Paris quickly gave the golden apple to Aphrodite, who kept her promise and enabled him to run away with Helen and marry her. She became Helen of Troy and the reason behind the start of the Trojan War.
Aphrodite wanted everyone to feel true love, as shown in this myth. There was a sculptor named Pygmalion. He set out to sculpt the most beautiful statue in the world. He worked with only the best ivory and worked on his sculpture for months. It slowly bean to resemble a beautiful woman. Pygmalion was patient and continued to work on the statue until it was perfect. He rarely slept or ate. Finally, the statue was finished. Everyone who saw it said it was the most beautiful statue they had ever seen and that there had never been a woman more beautiful.
Pygmalion still wasn’t happy with his sculpture, no matter how many praised his work. He spent his days sitting in front of the statue and staring at it, trying to see where he could improve. But as the days went on, he found himself falling in love with the statue. He wished that the statue would turn into a real woman. He went to the temple of Aphrodite and prayed to her for his wish to come true. When he finished his prayer, three flames shot up from the alter. He knew that the goddess had heard his plea. He hurried home and couldn’t believe his eyes. His precious statue had in fact turned into a real woman. He was eternally grateful to Aphrodite for granting his wish and letting him experience love.
Aphrodite had a fairly large family. She was the daughter of Dione and Zeus (in some myths). She had many siblings, depending on the myth, including Apollo, Athena and Helen. She was married to Hephaestus but had a secret love affair with Ares. She had nine children, Aeneas, Eros, Demius, Phobus, Anteros, Harmonia, Hermaphrodites, Priapus and Eryx.
Aphrodite was known for her remarkable beauty and artistic representations of her always show a stunning young woman. She is usually dressed in elegant clothing and wearing golden jewelry. She had long, wavy hair and a voluptuous figure.
There are three main symbols associated with Aphrodite. They include the girdle, the seashell and the mirror. It is speculated that the symbol for the female gender is a tribute to Aphrodite. The circle on top is said to represent the mirror while the lower half is meant to be the handle.