From the Aphrodite entry in Wikipedia:
Aphrodite is an ancient Greek goddess associated with love, lust, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. She was syncretized with the Roman goddess Venus. Aphrodite's major symbols include myrtles, roses, doves, sparrows, and swans. 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. In Laconia, Aphrodite was worshiped as a warrior goddess. She was also the patron goddess of prostitutes, an association which led early scholars to propose the concept of "sacred prostitution" in Greco-Roman culture, an idea which is now generally seen as erroneous.
In Hesiod's Theogony, Aphrodite is born off the coast of Cythera from the foam produced by Uranus's genitals, which his son Cronus had severed and thrown into the sea. In Homer's Iliad, however, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. Plato, in his Symposium 180e, asserts that these two origins actually belong to separate entities: Aphrodite Ourania (a transcendent, "Heavenly" Aphrodite) and Aphrodite Pandemos (Aphrodite common to "all 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 also known as Cytherea (Lady of Cythera) and Cypris (Lady of Cyprus), because both locations claimed to be the place of her birth.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, the god of fire, blacksmiths and metalworking. Aphrodite was frequently unfaithful to him and had many lovers; in the Odyssey, she is caught in the act of adultery with Ares, the god of war. In the First Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, she seduces the mortal shepherd Anchises. Aphrodite was also the surrogate mother and lover of the mortal shepherd Adonis, who was killed by a wild boar. Along with Athena and Hera, Aphrodite was one of the three goddesses whose feud resulted in the beginning of the Trojan War and she plays a major role throughout the Iliad. Aphrodite has been featured in Western art as a symbol of female beauty and has appeared in numerous works of Western literature. She is a major deity in modern Neopagan religions, including the Church of Aphrodite, Wicca, and Hellenismos.
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Goddess of love, beauty and sexuality.
She is a member of the Twelve Olympians.
Cronus severed Uranus' genitals and threw them behind him into the sea. The foam from his genitals gave rise to Aphrodite (hence her name, which Hesiod interprets as "foam-arisen"), while the Giants, the Erinyes (furies), and the Meliae emerged from the drops of his blood. Hesiod states that the genitals "were carried over the sea a long time, and white foam arose from the immortal flesh; with it a girl grew."
In the Iliad, Aphrodite is described as the daughter of Zeus and Dione. Dione's name appears to be a feminine cognate to Dios and Dion, which are oblique forms of the name Zeus.
In Book Eight of the Odyssey, the blind singer Demodocus describes Aphrodite as the wife of Hephaestus and tells how she committed adultery with Ares during the Trojan War. The sun-god Helios saw Aphrodite and Ares having sex in Hephaestus's bed and warned Hephaestus, who fashioned a net of gold. The next time Ares and Aphrodite had sex together, the net trapped them both. Hephaestus brought all the gods into the bedchamber to laugh at the captured adulterers, but Apollo, Hermes, and Poseidon had sympathy for Ares and Poseidon agreed to pay Hephaestus for Ares's release. Humiliated, Aphrodite returned to Cyprus, where she was attended by the Charites. This narrative probably originated as a Greek folk tale, originally independent of the Odyssey. In a much later interpolated detail, Ares put the young soldier Alectryon, by their door to warn them of Helios's arrival as Helios would tell Hephaestus of Aphrodite's infidelity if the two were discovered, but Alectryon fell asleep on guard duty. Helios discovered the two and alerted Hephaestus, as Ares in rage turned Alectryon into a rooster, which always crows at dawn when the sun is about to rise announcing its arrival.
After exposing them, Hephaestus asks Zeus for his wedding gifts and dowry to be returned to him; by the time of the Trojan War, he is married to Charis/Aglaea, one of the Graces, apparently divorced from Aphrodite. Afterwards, it was generally Ares who was regarded as the husband or official consort of the goddess.
Aphrodite is almost always accompanied by Eros, the god of lust and sexual desire. In his Theogony, Hesiod describes Eros as one of the four original primeval forces born at the beginning of time, but, after the birth of Aphrodite from the sea foam, he is joined by Himeros and, together, they become Aphrodite's constant companions. In early Greek art, Eros and Himeros are both shown as idealized handsome youths with wings. The Greek lyric poets regarded the power of Eros and Himeros as dangerous, compulsive, and impossible for anyone to resist. In modern times, Eros is often seen as Aphrodite's son, but this is actually a comparatively late innovation. A scholion on Theocritus's Idylls remarks that the sixth-century BCE poet Sappho had described Eros as the son of Aphrodite and Uranus, but the first surviving reference to Eros as Aphrodite's son comes from Apollonius of Rhodes's Argonautica, written in the third century BCE, which makes him the son of Aphrodite and Ares. Later, the Romans, who saw Venus as a mother goddess, seized on this idea of Eros as Aphrodite's son and popularized it, making it the predominant portrayal in works on mythology until the present day.
Aphrodite's main attendants were the three Charites, whom Hesiod identifies as the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome and names as Aglaea ("Splendor"), Euphrosyne ("Good Cheer"), and Thalia ("Abundance"). The Charites had been worshiped as goddesses in Greece since the beginning of Greek history, long before Aphrodite was introduced to the pantheon. Aphrodite's other set of attendants was the three Horae (the "Hours"), whom Hesiod identifies as the daughters of Zeus and Themis and names as Eunomia ("Good Order"), Dike ("Justice"), and Eirene ("Peace"). Aphrodite was also sometimes accompanied by Harmonia, her daughter by Ares, and Hebe, the daughter of Zeus and Hera.
The fertility god Priapus was usually considered to be Aphrodite's son by Dionysus, but he was sometimes also described as her son by Hermes, Adonis, or even Zeus. A scholion on Apollonius of Rhodes's Argonautica states that, while Aphrodite was pregnant with Priapus, Hera envied her and applied an evil potion to her belly while she was sleeping to ensure that the child would be hideous. In another version, Hera cursed Aphrodite's unborn son because he had been fathered by Zeus. When Aphrodite gave birth, she was horrified to see that the child had a massive, permanently erect penis, a potbelly, and a huge tongue. Aphrodite abandoned the infant to die in the wilderness, but a herdsman found him and raised him, later discovering that Priapus could use his massive penis to aid in the growth of plants.
The First Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (Hymn 5), which was probably composed sometime in the mid-seventh century BCE, describes how Zeus once became annoyed with Aphrodite for causing deities to fall in love with mortals, so he caused her to fall in love with Anchises, a handsome mortal shepherd who lived in the foothills beneath Mount Ida near the city of Troy. Aphrodite appears to Anchises in the form of a tall, beautiful, mortal virgin while he is alone in his home. Anchises sees her dressed in bright clothing and gleaming jewelry, with her breasts shining with divine radiance. He asks her if she is Aphrodite and promises to build her an altar on top of the mountain if she will bless him and his family.
Aphrodite lies and tells him that she is not a goddess, but the daughter of one of the noble families of Phrygia. She claims to be able to understand the Trojan language because she had a Trojan nurse as a child and says that she found herself on the mountainside after she was snatched up by Hermes while dancing in a celebration in honor of Artemis, the goddess of virginity. Aphrodite tells Anchises that she is still a virgin and begs him to take her to his parents. Anchises immediately becomes overcome with mad lust for Aphrodite and swears that he will have sex with her. Anchises takes Aphrodite, with her eyes cast downwards, to his bed, which is covered in the furs of lions and bears. He then strips her naked and makes love to her.
After the lovemaking is complete, Aphrodite reveals her true divine form. Anchises is terrified, but Aphrodite consoles him and promises that she will bear him a son. She prophesies that their son will be the demigod Aeneas, who will be raised by the nymphs of the wilderness for five years before going to Troy to become a nobleman like his father.
The earliest known Greek reference to Adonis comes from a fragment of a poem by the Lesbian poet Sappho (c. 630 - c. 570 BCE), in which a chorus of young girls asks Aphrodite what they can do to mourn Adonis's death. Aphrodite replies that they must beat their breasts and tear their tunics. Later references flesh out the story with more details. According to the retelling of the story found in the poem Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BCE – 17/18 CE), Adonis was the son of Myrrha, who was cursed by Aphrodite with insatiable lust for her own father, King Cinyras of Cyprus, after Myrrha's mother bragged that her daughter was more beautiful than the goddess. Driven out after becoming pregnant, Myrrha was changed into a myrrh tree, but still gave birth to Adonis.
Aphrodite found the baby, and took him to the underworld to be fostered by Persephone. She returned for him once he was grown and discovered him to be strikingly handsome. Persephone wanted to keep Adonis, resulting in a custody battle between the two goddesses over whom should rightly possess Adonis. Zeus settled the dispute by decreeing that Adonis would spend one third of the year with Aphrodite, one third with Persephone, and one third with whomever he chose. Adonis chose to spend that time with Aphrodite. Then, one day, while Adonis was hunting, he was wounded by a wild boar and bled to death in Aphrodite's arms. In a semi-mocking work, the Dialogues of the Gods, the satirical author Lucian comically relates how a frustrated Aphrodite complains to the moon goddess Selene about her son Eros making Persephone fall in love with Adonis and now she has to share him with her.
In different versions of the story, the boar was either sent by Ares, who was jealous that Aphrodite was spending so much time with Adonis, or by Artemis, who wanted revenge against Aphrodite for having killed her devoted follower Hippolytus. The story also provides an etiology for Aphrodite's associations with certain flowers. Reportedly, as she mourned Adonis's death, she caused anemones to grow wherever his blood fell, and declared a festival on the anniversary of his death. In one version of the story, Aphrodite injured herself on a thorn from a rose bush and the rose, which had previously been white, was stained red by her blood. According to Lucian's On the Syrian Goddess, each year during the festival of Adonis, the Adonis River in Lebanon (now known as the Abraham River) ran red with blood.
The myth of Adonis is associated with the festival of the Adonia, which was celebrated by Greek women every year in midsummer. The festival, which was evidently already celebrated in Lesbos by Sappho's time, seems to have first become popular in Athens in the mid-fifth century BCE. At the start of the festival, the women would plant a "garden of Adonis", a small garden planted inside a small basket or a shallow piece of broken pottery containing a variety of quick-growing plants, such as lettuce and fennel, or even quick-sprouting grains such as wheat and barley. The women would then climb ladders to the roofs of their houses, where they would place the gardens out under the heat of the summer sun. The plants would sprout in the sunlight, but wither quickly in the heat. Then the women would mourn and lament loudly over the death of Adonis, tearing their clothes and beating their breasts in a public display of grief.
In Hesiod's Works and Days, Zeus orders Aphrodite to make Pandora, the first woman, physically beautiful and sexually attractive, so that she may become "an evil men will love to embrace". Aphrodite "spills grace" over Pandora's head and equips her with "painful desire and knee-weakening anguish", thus making her the perfect vessel for evil to enter the world. Aphrodite's attendants, Peitho, the Charites, and the Horae, adorn Pandora with gold and jewelry.
According to one myth, Aphrodite aided Hippomenes, a noble youth who wished to marry Atalanta, a maiden who was renowned throughout the land for her beauty, but who refused to marry any man unless he could outrun her in a footrace. Atalanta was an exceedingly swift runner and she beheaded all of the men who lost to her. Aphrodite gave Hippomenes three golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides and instructed him to toss them in front of Atalanta as he raced her. Hippomenes obeyed Aphrodite's order and Atalanta, seeing the beautiful, golden fruits, bent down to pick up each one, allowing Hippomenes to outrun her. In the version of the story from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Hippomenes forgets to repay Aphrodite for her aid, so she causes the couple to become inflamed with lust while they are staying at the temple of Cybele. The couple desecrate the temple by having sex in it, leading Cybele to turn them into lions as punishment.
The myth of Pygmalion is first mentioned by the third-century BCE Greek writer Philostephanus of Cyrene, but is first recounted in detail in Ovid's Metamorphoses. According to Ovid, Pygmalion was an exceedingly handsome sculptor from the island of Cyprus, who was so sickened by the immorality of women that he refused to marry. He fell madly and passionately in love with the ivory cult statue he was carving of Aphrodite and longed to marry it. Because Pygmalion was extremely pious and devoted to Aphrodite, the goddess brought the statue to life. Pygmalion married the girl the statue became and they had a son named Paphos, after whom the capital of Cyprus received its name. Pseudo-Apollodorus later mentions "Metharme, daughter of Pygmalion, king of Cyprus".
Aphrodite generously rewarded those who honored her, but also punished those who disrespected her, often quite brutally. A myth described in Apollonius of Rhodes's Argonautica and later summarized in the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus tells how, when the women of the island of Lemnos refused to sacrifice to Aphrodite, the goddess cursed them to stink horribly so that their husbands would never have sex with them. Instead, their husbands started having sex with their Thracian slave-girls. In anger, the women of Lemnos murdered the entire male population of the island, as well as all the Thracian slaves. When Jason and his crew of Argonauts arrived on Lemnos, they mated with the sex-starved women under Aphrodite's approval and repopulated the island. From then on, the women of Lemnos never disrespected Aphrodite again.
In Euripides's tragedy Hippolytus, which was first performed at the City Dionysia in 428 BCE, Theseus's son Hippolytus worships only Artemis, the goddess of virginity, and refuses to engage in any form of sexual contact. Aphrodite is infuriated by his prideful behavior and, in the prologue to the play, she declares that, by honoring only Artemis and refusing to venerate her, Hippolytus has directly challenged her authority. Aphrodite therefore causes Hippolytus's stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him, knowing Hippolytus will reject her. After being rejected, Phaedra commits suicide and leaves a suicide note to Theseus telling him that she killed herself because Hippolytus attempted to rape her. Theseus prays to Poseidon to kill Hippolytus for his transgression. Poseidon sends a wild bull to scare Hippolytus's horses as he is riding by the sea in his chariot, causing the horses to bolt and smash the chariot against the cliffs, dragging Hippolytus to a bloody death across the rocky shoreline. The play concludes with Artemis vowing to kill Aphrodite's own mortal beloved (presumably Adonis) in revenge.
Glaucus of Corinth angered Aphrodite by refusing to let his horses for chariot racing mate, since doing so would hinder their speed. During the chariot race at the funeral games of King Pelias, Aphrodite drove his horses mad and they tore him apart. Polyphonte was a young woman who chose a virginal life with Artemis instead of marriage and children, as favored by Aphrodite. Aphrodite cursed her, causing her to have children by a bear. The resulting offspring, Agrius and Oreius, were wild cannibals who incurred the hatred of Zeus. Ultimately, he transformed all the members of the family into birds of ill omen.
According to Apollodorus, a jealous Aphrodite cursed Eos, the goddess of dawn, to be perpetually in love and have insatiable sexual desire because Eos once had lain with Aphrodite's sweetheart Ares, the god of war.
According to Ovid in his Metamorphoses (book 10.238 ff.), Propoetides who are the daughters of Propoetus from the city of Amathus on the island of Cyprus denied Aphrodite's divinity and failed to worship her properly. Therefore, Aphrodite turned them into the world's first prostitutes. According to Diodorus Siculus, when the Rhodian sea nymph Halia's six sons by Poseidon arrogantly refused to let Aphrodite land upon their shore, the goddess cursed them with insanity. In their madness, they raped Halia. As punishment, Poseidon buried them in the island's sea-caverns.
Xanthius, a descendant of Bellerophon, had two children; Leucippus and an unnamed daughter. Through the wrath of Aphrodite (reasons unknown), Leucippus fell in love with his own sister. They started a secret relationship but the girl was already betrothed to another man and he went on to inform her father Xanthius, without telling him the name of the seducer. Xanthius went straight to his daughter's chamber, where she was together with Leucippus right at the moment. On hearing him enter, she tried to escape, but Xanthius hit her with a dagger, thinking that he was slaying the seducer, and killed her. Leucippus, failing to recognize his father at first, slew him. When the truth was revealed, he had to leave the country and took part in colonization of Crete and the lands in Asia Minor.
Queen Cenchreis of Cyprus, wife of King Cinyras, bragged that her daughter Myrrha was more beautiful than Aphrodite. Therefore, Myrrha was cursed by Aphrodite with insatiable lust for her own father, King Cinyras of Cyprus and he slept with her unknowingly in the dark. she eventually transformed into the myrrh tree and gave birth to Adonis in this form. Cinyras also had three other daughters: Braesia, Laogora, and Orsedice. These girls by the wrath of Aphrodite (reasons unknown) cohabited with foreigners, and ended their life in Egypt.
The Muse Clio derided the goddess' own love for Adonis. Therefore, Clio fell in love with Pierus, son of Magnes and bore Hyacinth.
Aegiale was a daughter of Adrastus and Amphithea, and was married to Diomedes. Because of anger of Aphrodite, whom Diomedes had wounded in the war against Troy, She had multiple lovers, including a certain Hippolytus. when Aegiale went so far as to threaten his life, he fled to Italy.
In one of the versions of the legend, Pasiphae did not make offerings to the goddess Venus [Aphrodite]. Because of this Venus [Aphrodite] inspired in her an unnatural love for a bull or she cursed her because she was Helios's daughter who revealed her adultery to Hephaestus. For Helios' own tale-telling, she cursed him with uncontrollable lust over the mortal princess Leucothoe, which led to him abandoning his then-lover Clytie, leaving her heartbroken.
Lysippe was the mother of Tanais by Berossos. Her son only venerated Ares and was fully devoted to war, neglecting love and marriage. Aphrodite cursed him with falling in love with his own mother. Preferring to die rather than give up his chastity, he threw himself into the river Amazonius, which was subsequently renamed Tanais.
According to Hyginus, At the behest of Zeus, Orpheus's mother, the Muse Calliope, judged the dispute between the goddesses Aphrodite and Persephone over Adonis and decided that both shall possess him half of the year. This enraged Venus [Aphrodite], because she had not been granted what she thought was her right. Therefore, Venus [Aphrodite] inspired love for Orpheus in the women of Thrace, causing them to tear him apart as each of them sought Orpheus for herself.
The myth of the Judgment of Paris is mentioned briefly in the Iliad, but is described in depth in an epitome of the Cypria, a lost poem of the Epic Cycle, which records that all the gods and goddesses as well as various mortals were invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (the eventual parents of Achilles). Only Eris, goddess of discord, was not invited. She was annoyed at this, so she arrived with a golden apple inscribed with the word καλλίστῃ (kallistēi, "for the fairest"), which she threw among the goddesses. Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena all claimed to be the fairest, and thus the rightful owner of the apple.
The goddesses chose to place the matter before Zeus, who, not wanting to favor one of the goddesses, put the choice into the hands of Paris, a Trojan prince. After bathing in the spring of Mount Ida where Troy was situated, the goddesses appeared before Paris for his decision. In the extant ancient depictions of the Judgment of Paris, Aphrodite is only occasionally represented nude, and Athena and Hera are always fully clothed. Since the Renaissance, however, Western paintings have typically portrayed all three goddesses as completely naked.
All three goddesses were ideally beautiful and Paris could not decide between them, so they resorted to bribes. Hera tried to bribe Paris with power over all Asia and Europe, and Athena offered wisdom, fame and glory in battle, but Aphrodite promised Paris that, if he were to choose her as the fairest, she would let him marry the most beautiful woman on earth. This woman was Helen, who was already married to King Menelaus of Sparta. Paris selected Aphrodite and awarded her the apple. The other two goddesses were enraged and, as a direct result, sided with the Greeks in the Trojan War.
Aphrodite plays an important and active role throughout the entirety of Homer's Iliad. In Book III, she rescues Paris from Menelaus after he foolishly challenges him to a one-on-one duel. She then appears to Helen in the form of an old woman and attempts to persuade her to have sex with Paris, reminding her of his physical beauty and athletic prowess. Helen immediately recognizes Aphrodite by her beautiful neck, perfect breasts, and flashing eyes and chides the goddess, addressing her as her equal. Aphrodite sharply rebukes Helen, reminding her that, if she vexes her, she will punish her just as much as she has favored her already. Helen demurely obeys Aphrodite's command.
In Book V, Aphrodite charges into battle to rescue her son Aeneas from the Greek hero Diomedes. Diomedes recognizes Aphrodite as a "weakling" goddess and, thrusting his spear, nicks her wrist through her "ambrosial robe". Aphrodite borrows Ares's chariot to ride back to Mount Olympus. Zeus chides her for putting herself in danger, reminding her that "her specialty is love, not war." According to Walter Burkert, this scene directly parallels a scene from Tablet VI of the Epic of Gilgamesh in which Ishtar, Aphrodite's Akkadian precursor, cries to her mother Antu after the hero Gilgamesh rejects her sexual advances, but is mildly rebuked by her father Anu. In Book XIV of the Iliad, during the Dios Apate episode, Aphrodite lends her kestos himas to Hera for the purpose of seducing Zeus and distracting him from the combat while Poseidon aids the Greek forces on the beach. In the Theomachia in Book XXI, Aphrodite again enters the battlefield to carry Ares away after he is wounded.
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