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The goddess of beauty and love (Il. 3.54, 19.282, 24.699, Od. 4.14 & 261, 20.74). She was a daughter of Zeus (Il. 5.348, 14.214, 20.105) by Dione (Il. 5.370) and was surnamed Cypris (Il. 5.330 & 422) and Cytherea (Od. 8.288, 18.192). She was also the wife of Hephaestus but not loyal to him as she had a love affair with Ares (Od. 8.267 etc.).
Aphrodite Lat. Venus). The Greek goddess of love. Her attributes
combine, with Hellenic conceptions, a great many features of Eastern, especially
Ph?nician, origin, which the Greeks must have grafted upon their native notions
in very old times. This double nature appears immediately in the contradictory
tales of her origin. To the oldest Greeks she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione
(and is sometimes called by that name herself); yet from a very early time she
appears as Aphrogenia, the “foam-born” (see Uranus), as Anadyomene, "she
who rises" out of the sea, and steps ashore on Cyprus, which had been colonized
by Phoenicians time out of mind; even as far back as Homer she is Cypris, the
Cyprian. The same transmarine and Eastern origin of her worship is evidenced by
the legend of the island of Cythera, on which she was supposed to have first landed
from a sea-shell. Other names applied to her are Pelagia (from Pelagos), Anadyomene
(as having risen from the water), Erycina (from Mount Eryx in Sicily), Paphia,
and Cypris, besides those mentioned below.
Again, the common conception of her as goddess of love limited
her agency to the sphere of human life. But she was, at the same time, a power
of nature, living and working in the three elements of air, earth, and water.
As goddess of the shifting gale and changeful sky, she was Aphrodite Urania (Ourania),
the "heavenly," and at many places in Greece and Asia her temples crowned
the heights and headlands; for instance, the citadels of Thebes and Corinth, and
Mount Eryx in Sicily. As goddess of storm and lightning, she was represented armed,
as at Sparta and Cythera; and this, perhaps, explains why she was associated with
Ares both in worship and in legend, and worshipped as a goddess of victory.
The moral conception of Aphrodite Urania as goddess of the
higher and purer love, especially wedded love and fruitfulness, as opposed to
mere sensual lust, was but slowly developed in the course of ages.
As goddess of the sea and maritime traffic, especially of calm
seas and prosperous voyages, she was widely worshipped by sailors and fishermen
at ports and on sea-coasts, often as the goddess of calm, while Poseidon was the
god of disturbance. Next, as regards the life of the earth, she was the goddess
of gardens and groves, of spring and its bounties, especially tender plants and
flowers, as the rose and myrtle; hence, as the fruitful and bountiful, she was
worshipped most of all at that season of the year in which her birth from the
sea was celebrated at Paphos in Cyprus. But to this, her time of joyful action,
was opposed a season of sorrow, when her creations wither and die--a sentiment
expressed in her inconsolable grief for her beloved Adonis, the symbol of vegetation
perishing in its prime, a myth derived by the Greeks from the Babylonian worship
of Adon or Thammuz, and akin to those of Linus, Hyacinthus, and Narcissus. In
the life of gods and men, she showed her power as the golden, sweetly smiling
goddess of beauty and love, which she knew how to kindle or to keep away. She
outshone all the goddesses in grace and loveliness; in her girdle she wore united
all the magic charms that could bewitch the wisest man and subdue the very gods.
Her retinue consisted of Eros (Cupid), the Hours, the Graces, Peitho (Persuasion),
Pothos and Himeros (personifications of longing and yearning). By uniting the
generations in the bond of love, she became a goddess of marriage and family life,
and the consequent kinship of the whole community. As such she had formerly been
worshipped at Athens under the name of Pandemos (=all the people's), as being
a goddess of the whole country. By a regulation of Solon, the name acquired a
very different sense, branding her as goddess of prostitution; and then it was
that the new and higher meaning was imported into the word Urania.
In later times, the worship of Aphrodite as the goddess of
mere sensual love made rapid strides, and in particular districts assumed forms
more and more immoral, in imitation of the services performed to love-goddesses
in the East, especially at Corinth, where large bands of girls were consecrated
as slaves to the service of the gods and the practice of prostitution. And later
still, the worship of Astarte ("Star"), the Syrian Aphrodite, performed
by eunuchs, spread all over Greece. See Aphrodisia; Meretrix.
In the Greek myths Aphrodite appears occasionally as the wife
of Hephaestus. Her love adventures with Ares are notorious. From these sprang
Eros and Anteros, Harmonia, the wife of Cadmus, and Deimos and Phobos (Fear and
Alarm), attendants on their father. By Anchises she was the mother of Aeneas.
The chief seats of her worship were Paphos, Amathus, and Idalion (all in Cyprus),
Cnidus in Dorian Asia Minor, Corinth, the island of Cythera, and Eryx in Sicily.
As mother of Harmonia, she was a guardian deity of Thebes. Among plants, the myrtle,
the rose, and the apple were specially sacred to her as goddess of love; among
animals, the ram, he-goat, hare, dove, sparrow, and other creatures of amorous
nature (the ram and dove being widely current symbols of great antiquity); as
sea-goddess, the swan, mussel, and dolphin; as Urania, the tortoise.
The various myths connected with the name of Aphrodite have
inspired many exquisite poems in modern literature. In recent English verse reference
may be made to the magnificent Chorus to Aphrodite in Swinburne's Atalanta in
Calydon; Hake's Birth of Venus; Morris's Aphrodite in his Epic of Hades; and Rossetti's
Ve- nus Verticordia and Venus Victrix.
In ancient art, in which Aphrodite is one of the favourite
subjects, she is represented in a higher or lower aspect, according as the artist's
aim was to exhibit Urania or the popular goddess of love. In the earlier works
of art she usually appears clothed, but in later ones more or less undraped--either
as rising from the sea or leaving the bath, or (as in still later times) merely
as an ideal of female beauty. In the course of time the divine element disappeared,
and the presentation became more and more ordinary. While the older sculptures
show the sturdier forms, the taste of later times leans more and more to softer,
weaker outlines. Most renowned in ancient times [p. 97] were the statue at Cnidus
by Praxiteles (a copy of which is now at Munich), and the painting of Aphrodite
Anadyomene by Apelles. Of original statues preserved to us, the most famous are
the Aphrodite of Melos (see illustration), now at Paris, and that of Capua at
Naples, both of which bring out the loftier aspect of the goddess; and the Medicean
Venus at Florence, the work of a late Attic sculptor, Cleomenes, in the delicate
forms of face and body that pleased a younger age.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Aphrodite, one of the great Olympian divinities, was, according to the popular
and poetical notions of the Greeks, the goddess of love and beauty. Some traditions
stated that she had sprung from the foam (aphros) of the sea, which had gathered
around the mutilated parts of Uranus, that had been thrown into the sea by Kronos
after he had unmanned his father (Hesiod. Theog. 190). With the exception of the
Homeric hymn on Aphrodite there is no trace of this legend in Homer, and according
to him Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus and Dione (Il. v. 370, &c., xx. 105.)
Later traditions call her a daughter of Kronos and Euonyme, or of Uranus and Hemera.
(Cic. De Nat. Deor. iii. 23; Natal. Com. iv. 13). According to Hesiod and the
Homeric hymn on Aphrodite, the goddess after rising from the foam first
approached the island of Cythera, and thence went to Cyprus, and as she
was walking on the sea-coast flowers sprang up under her feet, and Eros and Himeros
accompanied her to the assembly of the other great gods, all of whom were struck
with admiration and love when she appeared, and her surpassing beauty made every
one desire to have her for his wife. According to the cosmogonic views of the
nature of Aphrodite, she was the personification of the generative powers of nature,
and the mother of all living beings. A trace of this notion seems to be contained
in the tradition that in the contest of Typhon with the gods, Aphrodite metamorphosed
herself into a fish, which animal was considered to possess the greatest generative
powers (Ov. Met. v. 318, &c.; comp. Hygin. Poet. Astr. 30). But according to the
popular belief of the Greeks and their poetical descriptions, she was the goddess
of love, who excited this passion in the hearts of gods and men, and by this power
ruled over all the living creation (Hom. Hymn. in Ven.; Lucret. 15, &c.). Ancient
mythology furnishes numerous instances in which Aphrodite punished those who neglected
her worship or despised her power, as well as others in which she favoured and
protected those who did homage to her and recognized her sway. Love and beauty
are ideas essentially connected, and Aphrodite was therefore also the goddess
of beauty and gracefulness. In these poiits she surpassed all other goddesses,
and she received the prize of beauty from Paris; she had further the power of
granting beauty and invincible charms to others. Youth is the herald, and Peitho,
the Horae, and Charites, the attendants and companions of Aphrodite (Pind. New.
viii. 1, &c.). Marriages are called by Zeus her work and the things about which
she ought to busy herself (Hom. Il. v. 429; comp. Od. xx. 74; Pind. Pyth. ix.
16, &c.). As she herself had sprung from the sea, she is represented by later
writers as having some influence upon the sea (Virg. Aen. viii. 800; Ov. Heroid.
xv. 213; comp. Paus. ii. 34.11).
During the Trojan war, Aphrodite, the mother of Aeneas, who had been
deelared the most beautiful of all the goddesses by a Trojan prince, naturally
sided with the Trojans. She saved Paris from his contest with Menelaus (Il. iii.
380), but when she endeavoured to rescue her darling Aeneas from the fight, she
was pursued by Diomedes, who wounded her in her hand. In her fright she abandoned
her son, and was carried by Iris in the chariot of Ares to Olympus, where she
complained of her misfortune to her mother Dione, but was laughed at by Hera and
Athena (Il. v. 311, &c.). She also protected the body of Hector, and anointed
it with ambrosia (Il. xxiii. 185).
According to the most common accounts of the ancients, Aphrodite was
married to Hephaestus (Odyss. viii. 270), who, however, is said in the Iliad (viii.
383) to have married Charis. Her faithlessness to Hephaestus in her amour with
Ares, and the manner in which she was caught by the ingenuity of her husband,
are beautifully described in the Odyssey (viii. 266, &c.). By Ares she became
the mother of Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, and, according to later traditions, of
Eros and Anteros also (Hesiod. Theog. 934, &c., Scut. Herc. 195; Hom. Il. xiii.
299, iv. 440; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. iii. 26; Cic. De Nat. Deor. iii. 23). But
Ares was not the only god whom Aphrodite favoured; Dionysus, Hermes, and Poseidon
likewise enjoyed her charms. By the first she was, according to some traditions,
the mother of Priapus (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. i. 933) and Bacchus (Hesych. s.
v. Bakchou Diones), by the second of Hermaphroditus (Ov. Met. iv. 289, &c.; Diod.
iv. 6; Lucian, Dial. Deor. xv. 2), and by Poseidon she had two children, Rhodos
and Herophilus (Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. viii. 24). As Aphrodite so often kindled
in the hearts of the gods a love for mortals, Zeus at last resolved to make her
pay for her wanton sport by inspiring her too with love for a mortal man. This
was accomplished, and Aphrodite conceived an invincible passion for Anchises,
by whom she became the mother of Aeneas and Lyrus. Respecting her connexions with
other mortals see Adonis (in ancient Phoenece)
and Butes (in ancient Lilybaeum).
Aphrodite possessed a magic girdle which had the power of inspiring
love and desire for those who wore it; hence it was borrowed by Hera when she
wished to stimulate the love of Zeus (Hom. Il. xiv. 214, &c.). The arrow is also
sometimes mentioned as one of her attributes (Plnd. Pyth. iv. 380; Theocrit. xi.
16). In the vegetable kingdom the myrtle, rose, apple, poppy, and others, were
sacred to her (Ov. Fast. iv. 15. 143; Bion, Idyll. i. 64; Schol. ad Aristoph.
Nub. 993; Paus. ii. 10.4; Phornut. 23). The animals sacred to her, which are often
mentioned as drawing her chariot or serving as her messengers, are the spar row,
the dove, the swan, the swallow, and a bird called iynx (Sappho, in Ven. 10; Athen.
ix.; Horat. Carm. iv. 1. 10; Aelian, Hist. An. x. 34). As Aphrodite Urania the
tortoise, the symbol of domestic modesty and chastity, and as Aphrodite Pandemos
the ram was sacred to her. When she was represented as the victorious goddess,
she had the attributes of Ares, a helmet, a shield, a sword : or a lance, and
an image of Victory in one hand. The planet Venus and the spring-month
of April were likewise sacred to her (Cie. de Nat. Deor. iii. 20; Ov.
Fast. iv. 90). All the surnames and epithets given to Aphrodite are derived from
places of her worship, from events connected with the legends about her, or have
reference to her character and her influence upon man, or are descriptive of her
extraordinary beauty and charms. All her surnames are explained in separate articles.
The principal places of her worship in Greece were the islands
of Cyprus and Cythera. At Cnidus in Caria she had three temples, one
of which contained her renowned statue by Praxiteles. Mount Ida in Troas was an
ancient place of her worship, and among the other places we may mention particularly
the island of Cos, the towns of Abydos, Athens, Thespiae, Megara, Sparta, Sicyon,
Corinth, and Eryx in Sieily. The sacrifices offered to her consisted mostly of
incense and garlands of flowers (Virg. Aen. i. 416; Tacit. Hist. ii. 3), but in
some places animals, such as pigs, goats, young cows, hares, and others, were
sacrificed to her. In some places, as at Corinth, great numbers of females belonged
to her, who prostituted themselves in her service, and bore the name of hierodouloi.
(Dict.of Ant. s. v. Hetairai.) Respecting the festivals of Aphrodite see Dict.
of Ant. s.v. Adonia, Anagogia, Aphrodisia, Katagogia.
The worship of Aphrodite was undoubtedly of eastern origin, and probably
introduced from Syria to the islands of Cyprus, Cythera, and others, from whence
it spread all over Greece. It is said to have been brought into Syria from Assyria
(Paus. i. 14.6). Aphrodite appears to have been originally identical with Astarte,
called by the Hebrews Ashtoreth, and her connexion with Adonis clearly points
to Syria. But with the exception of Corinth, where the worship of Aphrodite had
eminently an Asiatic character, the whole worship of this goddess and all the
ideas concerning her nature and character are so entirely Greek, that its introduction
into Greece must be assigned to the very earliest periods. The elements were derived
from the East, but the peculiar development of it belongs to Greece. Respecting
the Roman goddess Venus and her identification with the Greek Aphrodite, see Venus.
Aphrodite, the ideal of female graec and beauty, frequently engaged
the talents and genius of the ancient artists. The most celebrated representations
of her were those of Cos and Cnidus. Those which are still extant are divided
by archaeologists into several classes, accordingly as the goddess is represented
in a standing position and naked, as the Medicean Venus, or bathing, or half naked,
or dressed in a tunic, or as the victorious goddess in arms, as she was represented
in the temples of Cythera, Sparta, and Corinth (Paus. iii. 23.1, ii. 5.1, iii.
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (ed. William Smith)