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Love and jealousy go hand in hand, don't they, dearest? Although the former's much more pleasant, isn't it.
~ Aphrodite

Aphrodite, also known as Venus, is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, passion, fertility, pleasure, and procreation.

Overview

The Ancient Greek goddess of all aspects of sexuality, love and beauty, Aphrodite could entice both gods and men into illicit affairs with her good looks and whispered sweet nothings.

Born near Cyprus from the severed genitalia of the Primordial Sky god Ouranos, Aphrodite had a much wider significance than the traditional view as a mere goddess of love and sex. Worshiped by men, women, and city-state officials, she also played a role in the commerce, warfare, and politics of ancient Greek cities. In addition, Aphrodite was honored as a protector of those who traveled by sea and, less surprisingly, courtesans and prostitutes.

Appearance

Aphrodite was usually depicted as a highly attractive young woman who dressed elegantly and loved to wear jewelry. Her eyelashes were curled and she had a constant smile on her lovely face. Aphrodite had a tender neck and symbolized the feminine beauty.

History

Birth of Aphrodite

The goddess was born when Cronus castrated his father Ouranos with a sickle and cast the genitalia into the sea from where Aphrodite appeared amidst the resulting foam (aphros). In other versions, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, the Titaness.

Hesiod recounts the first version and Homer the second, and the Greeks were troubled by such an obvious contradiction from their two great myth-makers. Indeed, Plato even came up with a theory to reconcile the two ancient authors, suggesting that there were actually two different goddesses of the same name, one to represent (in his view) the higher love between men and another to represent the love between men and women. Plato called these the ‘Heavenly Aphrodite’ and ‘Pandemic Aphrodite’ respectively though in truth, they are the same goddess just in another form. Believed to have been born close to Cyprus, Aphrodite was especially worshipped in Paphos on the island.

Hephaestus & Ares

Compelled by Hera to marry the not-so-great catch of Hephaestus, the god of fire and crafts, Aphrodite was less than faithful, having notorious affairs with the gods Ares, Hermes, and Dionysus. The fling with Ares was perhaps the most shocking of the many episodes of infidelity that occurred amongst the Olympian Gods. Hephaestus, a fiendishly clever designer and engineer, manufactured a special golden bed to entrap his wife. When Aphrodite and Ares were at their most passionate, the bed sprang forth golden chains which locked the naked gods in their illicit embrace. Their embarrassment was made worse when Helios the sun god shone down his bright light upon the couple so that all the Olympians could get a good look at the disgrace. When finally freed, Ares fled to Thrace and Aphrodite back to Cyprus.

Aphrodite was considered the mother of Eros, Harmonia (with Ares), the Trojan hero Aeneas (with Anchises), Eryx the king of Sicily (with Butes the Argonaut) and, with either Dionysus or Adonis, Priapus (a gardener with huge genitals). The goddess had a large retinue of lesser deities such as Hebe (goddess of youth), the Hours, Dike, Eirene, Themis, the Graces, Aglaia, Euphrosyne, Theleia, Eunomia, Daidia, Eudaimonia, Himeros (Desire) and Peitho (Persuasion).

Aphrodite often represented unity and concord, as well as mixis or ‘mingling’, and this may explain the goddess’ wide range of associations such as warfare and politics, arenas where disparate groups had to work together as one. She was specifically the protectress of city magistrates, too.

The Trojan War

In mythology, Aphrodite is cited as partly responsible for the Trojan War. At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Eris offered a Golden Apple for the most beautiful goddess. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite vied for the honor, and Zeus, as not to be responsible, appointed the Trojan prince Paris as judge. To influence his decision, Athena promised him strength and invincibility, Hera offered the regions of Asia and Europe, and Aphrodite offered the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose Aphrodite and so won fair Helen of Sparta. However, as she was already the wife of Menelaos, Paris’s abduction of Helen provoked the Spartan king to enlist the assistance of his brother Agamemnon and send an expedition to Troy to take back Helen.

Hesiod describes the goddess as ‘quick-glancing’, ‘foam-born’, ‘smile-loving’, and most often as ‘golden Aphrodite’. Similarly, in Homer’s description of the Trojan War in the Iliad, she is described as ‘golden’ and ‘smiling’ and supports the Trojans in the war. In notable episodes, Aphrodite protects her son Aeneas from Diomedes and saves the hapless Paris from the wrath of Menelaos.

Adonis

One of the goddess’ most famous flings was with the beautiful Adonis. Aphrodite kept the youth safely in a chest guarded by Persephone, but the latter fell in love with him too and would not give him back to the goddess of love. Zeus was obliged to intervene, and he ruled that Adonis should spend four months of the year with each lady (and fourth months rest on his own). Tragically killed in a hunting accident, the impossibly handsome youth was transformed into a flower without scent. Aphrodite was distraught at her loss, and her grief was commemorated in a cult, the annual highlight of which was a women-only festival, the Adonia.

Personality

Being the goddess love, beauty, and sexuality, Aphrodite is very flirtatious and sensually charming, always having a smile on her face. However, she is also wrathful and quite vindictive to the point where Achilles stated that she wields her beauty and charm much like how one wields a sword.

She is petty and envious to where she is willing to kill anyone that is considered more beautiful than she is and anyone that pays less tribute to her than they do to another god. Despite this, Aphrodite loves her children unconditionally and is very protective of them but behaves in a way where she knows what is best for her children despite their protests and pleas making her a doting mother.

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