The love goddess who keeps right on seducing

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Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, desire, and all aspects of sexuality. She could entice both gods and men into illicit affairs with her beauty and whispered sweet nothings. Born near Cyprus from the severed genitalia of the sky god Uranus, Aphrodite had a wider ificance than the traditional view as a mere goddess of love. Worshipped by men, womenand city-state officials, Aphrodite also played a role in the commerce, warfareand politics of ancient Greek cities.

In addition, Aphrodite was honoured as a protector of those who travelled by sea and, less surprisingly, courtesans and prostitutes. The goddess' Roman equivalent was Venus.

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In mythologythe goddess was born when Cronos castrated his father Uranus 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.

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Believed to have been born close to Cyprus, Aphrodite was especially worshipped in Paphos on the island - a geographic location which hints at her eastern origins as a fertility goddess and possible evolution from the Phoenician goddess Astarte or the Near Eastern goddess Inanna Ishtar. It is also possible that the goddess derived from an entirely local Cypriot deity.

The strong association with the island is evidenced in her common name, Cypris, meaning 'of Cyprus'. More certain than her origins is that the goddess' birth and consequent association with the sea was manifested in the location of many coastal sanctuaries dedicated to her and several common epithets such as Aphrodite Pontia 'of the deep sea' and Aphrodite Euploia 'of the fair voyage'.

Aphrodite was associated with the brightest planet, Venus, and this, always a valuable al aid, may be another connection with ancient mariners. Compelled by Hera to marry the not-so-great catch of Hephaistos, the lame god of fire and craftsAphrodite was less than faithful, having notorious affairs with the gods Ares, Hermesand Dionysos. The fling with Ares was perhaps the most shocking of the many episodes of infidelity that occurred amongst the Olympian Gods.

Hephaistos, a fiendishly clever deer and engineer, manufactured a special golden bed to entrap his wife.

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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 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. In mythology, Aphrodite is cited as partly responsible for the Trojan War. At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Eris goddess of strife offered a golden apple for the most beautiful goddess. Hera, Athenaand Aphrodite vied for the honour, and Zeus appointed the Trojan prince Paris as judge. To influence his decision, Athena promised him strength and invincibility, Hera offered the regions of Asia and Europeand Aphrodite offered the most beautiful woman in the world.

Paris chose Aphrodite and so the victorious goddess gave him fair Helen of Sparta. However, as she was already the wife of MenelaosParis'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 Iliadshe 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. One of the goddess' most famous flings was with the beautiful Adonis. Aphrodite kept the youth safely in a chest guarded by Persephonebut 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. The birth of Aphrodite from the sea perhaps most famously depicted on the throne base of the great statue of Zeus at Olympia and the judgment of Paris were popular subjects in ancient Greek art.

The goddess is often identified with one or more of the following: a mirror, an apple, a myrtle wreath, a sacred bird or dove, a sceptre, and a flower. On occasion, she is also depicted riding a swan or goose. She is usually clothed in Archaic and Classical art and wears an elaborately embroidered band or girdle across her chest which held her magic powers of love, desire, and The love goddess who keeps right on seducing allurement.

It is only later from the 4th century BCE that she is depicted naked or semi-naked, such as in the Venus de Milo marble statue. The story of Aphrodite continued to interest artists, especially during the Renaissance, and she was perhaps most famously captured in Sandro Botticelli 's painting the Birth of Venus, now in the Uffizi gallery of Florence. World History Encyclopedia is a non-profit organization. Cartwright, M.

World History Encyclopedia. Cartwright, Mark. Last modified October 24, World History Encyclopedia, 24 Oct This lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and their new creations under the identical terms. Please note that content linked from this may have different licensing terms.

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Thank you! Listen to this article. Translated text available in: ItalianFrenchSpanishArabic. Remove Advertisement. Aphrodite was especially worshipped on Cyprus - a location which hints at her eastern origins as a fertility goddess.

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Editorial Review This article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. Bibliography Bagnall, R. The Encyclopedia of Ancient History. Wiley-Blackwell, Carpenter, T. Art and Myth in Ancient Greece. Graves, R. The Greek Myths. Viking, Graziosi, B. The Gods of Olympus. Picador, The Iliad. Penguin Classics, Hope Moncrieff, A.

Classical Mythology. Senate, London, Hornblower, S. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford University Press, Translations We want people all over the world to learn about history. Help us and translate this definition into another language! So far, we have translated it to: ItalianFrenchSpanishArabic. About the Author Mark Cartwright.

Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. Related Content Filters: All. Teaching Materials 3. Become a Member Donate. Aphrodite Made Me Do It. Venus and Aphrodite: A Biography of Desire. Written by Hughes, Bettanypublished by Basic Books Chicago Style Cartwright, Mark. Free Newsletter Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week:. History Enthusiast Teacher Student Librarian. Visit our Shop. Our Videos.

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The love goddess who keeps right on seducing

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