Cytherea, Lady of Cythera, Cypris, Lady of Cyprus, Acidalia, Cerigo, Dione, Aphrodite Ourania, Aphrodite Pandemos
Family & Other Connections
The most common story says that Aphrodite was born when Cronus cut off Uranus’ genitals and threw them into the sea; she then arose from the churning sea foam. This Aphrodite became known as ‘heavenly’ Aphrodite Ourania and was associated with love of the body and soul. Another version gives her parentage as Zeus and Dione, and this Aphrodite became known as ‘common’ Aphrodite Pandemos, associated with physical love alone. Her siblings were the Tree Nymphs, the Furies and Gigantes.
Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, and was said to be the mother of many children, including Eros, Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, Tyche, Eunomia, The Graces, Priapus and Aeneas.
Information & Stories
Aphrodite was so beautiful that she enflamed the passions of both gods and mortal men, and despite being married to Hephaestus she engaged in a number of affairs. Hephaestus had in fact been chosen as her husband by Zeus, on the basis that the even-tempered god of smithing would not easily become enraged by her dalliances.
Aphrodite was beautiful but she was also vain, and her vanity was an indirect cause of the Trojan War. She had been invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis along with all the other Gods except Eris. Offended at being left out, or simply looking to cause trouble, Eris threw an apple bearing the note “for the fairest one” amongst the wedding party. Aphrodite, Hera and Athena all claimed to be the fairest and argued over who the apple rightfully belonged to. Eventually they took their problem to Zeus who, not wanting to choose a favourite from the goddesses, delegated the matter to Paris.
All three goddesses made arguments to Paris for why they should be chosen, but when he couldn’t decide they resorted to bribery. Hera offered Paris control over all Asia and Europe; Athena offered him wisdom, fame and glory in battle; but Aphrodite chose to appear naked before him and promise that if he chose her as the fairest then he could take the most beautiful mortal woman to be his wife. Unsurprisingly Paris chose Aphrodite, and the most beautiful woman in the world turned out to be Helen of Troy. Despite the fact that Helen was married, Aphrodite made her fall in love with Paris, and when he kidnapped her, he started the Trojan War.
Another story about Aphrodite begins with Pygmalion, a sculptor who had never found a woman to love. Aphrodite took pity on him, and wanted to show him what love was. She inspired Pygmalion in his dreams, and he decided to make a statue of her image. As he shaped the figure he fell in love with it, and he named her Galatea. He prayed to Aphrodite and, this having been her plan all along, she brought Galatea to life. Galatea loved Pygmalion as much as he loved her, and they were soon married.
One of Aphrodite’s most notable lovers was Adonis. She discovered him as an infant and took him to Persephone, asking her to care for him until he was grown up. When Adonis was an adult Persephone fell in love with him herself and refused to give him back to Aphrodite. When the goddesses couldn’t reach an agreement about Adonis they appealed to Zeus who decreed that the mortal would spend one third of each year with Aphrodite, one third with Persephone and the final third wherever he pleased. During his first stay with Aphrodite they became an inseparable couple and when Adonis was killed by a wild boar Aphrodite was inconsolable. She realised that he was in the underworld with Persephone and once more went to Zeus to argue for him. This time Zeus said that he should spend half the year with her, and the other half with Persephone.
Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. She is associated with lust and desire.
Her festival, the Aphrodisia, was celebrated throughout Greece, but particularly in Athens and Corinth. At her temple on the summit of Acrocorinth, her worship was carried out through ritual prostitution; she was a patron of courtesans.