Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη) is the Greek Goddess of love, lust, desire, sex, sexuality, prostitution, pleasure, happiness, joy, passion, fertility, procreation, and beauty. In Laconia, Aphrodite was also worshiped as a warrior goddess. She is identified with the planet Venus, which is named after the Roman goddess Venus, with whom Aphrodite was extensively syncretized. Aphrodite's major symbols include myrtles, roses, doves, sparrows, and swans.
The name Aphrodite is thought to be derived from the Greek aphros, meaning "foam," which is a reference to Aphrodite's most famous birth story, the version of her birth found in Hesiod's Theogony, where Aphrodite is born out of the sea foam that forms when Uranus' castrated genitals are thrown into the sea by his son Cronus. Some scholars suggest the name Aphrodite is actually Greek derivation of the Phoenician goddess Astarte.
Multiple contradictory stories exist about the birth of Aphrodite.
In Hesiod's Theogony, Aphrodite is born off the coast of Cythera from the foam (aphros) produced by Uranus' genitals, which his son Cronus has severed and thrown into the sea.
Plato, in his Symposium 180e, asserts that the two separate origins found in Hesiod and Homer actually belong to separate entities: Aphrodite Ourania (a transcendent, "Heavenly" Aphrodite) and Aphrodite Pandemos (Aphrodite common to "all the people"). Both of these cult forms of Aphrodite were worshiped throughout ancient Greece and had their own rituals and iconography.
That being the case, in Athens, within the ruins of a brothel known as Building Z3, which is located near the sacred gate, a silver medallion was discovered depicting Aphrodite with a mixture of imagery from both her Ourania and Pandemos forms, suggesting the distinction between the two forms as completely separate goddesses was likely not common within the general public.
Cicero, in book three of his De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), suggests that there are four separate Venus' (Aphrodite's). He suggests that the Venus' found in Hesiod, Homer, and in the region of Elis are all separate goddesses, and additionally includes the Phoenician goddess Astarte as the fourth Venus.
Cicero includes the birth order of the various Venus', with the Venus of Elis being the eldest, the Venus mentioned in Hesiod's Theogony as the second Venus, the Venus of Homer's Iliad as the third Venus, and finally the Phoenician Astarte as the fourth.
In one version of the myth, Zeus feared that the other gods would begin to fight each other because of Aphrodite's great beauty. To avoid this, he forced her to marry Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, humorless and ugly.
In another version, Aphrodite marries Hephaestus after his mother, Hera, cast's him out of Olympus, considering him too ugly and deformed to live with the rest of the gods. He enacted his revenge on his mother by having a magical throne built, which trapped her. In exchange for her release, he asked Hera for Aphrodite's hand in marriage.
Hephaestus was happy to be married to the goddess of beauty, and forged her beautiful jewelry, including a golden girdle that made her even more irresistible. Hera would borrow the girdle from her on at least one occasion, to make amends with Zeus after a particularly unpleasant argument.
- With Ares:
- With Dionysus:
- With Hermes:
The cult of Aphrodite was largely derived from that of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, a cognate of the East Semitic goddess Ishtar, whose cult was based on the Sumerian cult of Inanna. Aphrodite's main cult centers were Cythera, Cyprus, Corinth, and Athens. Her main festival was the Aphrodisia, which was celebrated annually in midsummer. Her association with prostitutes lead early scholars to propose the concept of "sacred prostitution" in association with her worship, but the idea which is now generally seen as erroneous.
Two common epithets for Aphrodite were Ourania (Heavenly) and Pandemos (belonging to the people). Aphrodite had many other epithets, each emphasizing a different aspect of the same goddess, or used by a different local cult. Thus she was known as Cytherea (Lady of Cythera) and Cypris (Lady of Cyprus), because both locations claimed to be the place of her birth.
|Deities in Greek mythology|
|Protogenoi||Chaos • Gaia • Tartarus • Uranus • Erebos • Nyx • Aether • Hemera • Eros • Oceanus • Pontus • Thalassa|
|Titans||Atlas • Cronus • Mnemosyne • Prometheus • Rhea • Tethys • Themis • Metis • Hecate • Eos • Helios • Selene|
|Twelve Olympians||Zeus • Hera • Demeter • Hestia • Poseidon • Ares • Artemis • Apollo • Athena • Hermes • Hephaestus • Aphrodite • Dionysus|
|Daemones||Bia • Dike • Eris • Hebe • Hygieia • Hypnos • Nemesis • Nike • Phobos • Poena • Soteria • Thanatos|
- (Hamilton 1998, p. 33)