Aphrodite: Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty
The Greek gods are unlike any other idols that people have created. The Greeks felt that gods should be able to go about their daily lives just as humans do, except they would be in charge of certain aspects of life, with superhuman abilities, and of course, immortality. Aphrodite was chosen as the goddess of love and is believed to embody all things that deal with love, desire, beauty, fertility, and the sea. Some also believe that she is the goddess of vegetation. As most Greek gods do, she has a Roman version of herself, whom we know as Venus. There have been many temples built in her honor. Through the years, she has become the symbol of love and beauty—so much so, that her name today, is often synonymous with eroticism.
One legend has it that the goddess of love is the daughter of Uranus—well, kind of. According to mythology, Uranus was a very evil man and was mean to his children and wife. His wife teamed up with their son Cronus (aka Kronus), who decided to send his father, Uranus, out of heaven. In the process, Uranus castrated Cronus and threw his penis into the sea. When it hit the sea, so did much of Cronus' blood. The blood began to foam as it transformed into a beautiful woman.
The sea nymphs became enamored by the beauty and dressed her in the most magnificent garments made of gold and flowers. As the lady formed, she became known as Aphrodite. It is in this description where she got her Greek name. "Aphro" in Greek means foam, and it was from this foam that she was born.
The Greek Goddess
Aphrodite is not only the goddess of love, but she also embodies a unique personality. Although she is thought to be gentle and pure, she is viewed as fierce and—well—whorish, for lack of a better description. She is unpredictable and complex, but most of all, she is stunning.
Although do not confuse the love she is to represent as the kind we should all strive for. She was not the goddess of marital love that endures forever. No, she represents the animal kind of love or rather lust. The kind that fills you with passion, but is temporal and the type of love where you might do something stupid to get someone's attention or do risky behavior.
Hephaestus: Her First Husband
Aphrodite had many lovers (as any true goddess of love would be expected to have), but she only married twice. Her first marriage was to the ugly god of fire named Hephaestus, who was crippled by his mother, Hera. Hephaestus resented his mother for crippling him and tricked her so that she became imprisoned by a golden throne.
Zeus promised the hand of Aphrodite to whoever could release Hera from her prison. Aphrodite convinced Ares to try, for she was madly in love with him. Unfortunately for her, he was unable to. Since Hephaestus was the one who trapped Hera in the first place, he was able to free her. Therefore, Aphrodite became married to him.
There are two alternate versions of how she became married to the ugliest of gods. The first one was a result of the god's fear that her brilliant beauty would cause jealousy among the gods. Therefore, to compensate for her magnitude of beauty, she was forced to marry Hephaestus, who was considered deformed and ugly. The alternate is that Zeus was punishing her for her arrogance, forcing the two to get married. Regardless of which version, it is clear that she did not love Hephaestus.
The Love Affair of Ares and Aphrodite
It was a well-known fact that Aphrodite was not faithful to her husband. She often cheated on him with mortals and god alike, but the one god she had the most passionate affair with was the god of war, Ares. It makes sense since they both represent passion but to different extremes. Often the idea of love and war has fascinated many since they seem like opposites, yet very similar in passion and cause.
Some of the myths state that she not only had a love affair with Ares but was able to marry him after she divorced her first husband. He is supposedly her one true love, despite her multiple affairs.
She has had many children, as you would expect any goddess of erotic love to have. Since the Greek gods did not have paternity tests, I am unsure of who all of the fathers are. She had three known children while she was married to Ares: Phobos, Deimos, and Harmonia.
Eros (aka Cupid): The God of Love
Of all her children, Eros became the most famous of her sons. We often send cards with his picture on them once a year on Valentine's Day. Yes, Eros does go by another name, which we use more often, and that is Cupid.
He is the god of love who is often the symbol of both Valentine's Day and Sweetheart's Day. Eros fell in love with a mortal by the name of Psyche. Unfortunately, Aphrodite was jealous of Psyche because of her extreme beauty. As any good mother would do, she told Eros that he must convince Psyche to fall in love with a monster. Eros didn't want to disobey his mother but wanted to be true to Psyche, so he disguised himself as the hideous being, and agreed only to meet her at night, so she would believe he was truly ugly.
Then one day, Psyche's curiosity got the best of her, so she decided to peak on this hideous monster and discovered it was Eros. When Eros found that she had peaked, he became enraged and forced her to wander the world alone in misery for the rest of her life. He regretted his decision and became overcome by his great love for Psyche that he asked Zeus to make Psyche immortal. Zeus granted this wish, and Psyche and Eros married.
The Trojan War
Aphrodite is most infamous for starting the Trojan War. All the gods were invited to the wedding of King Peleus and Thetis, a sea nymph (parents of Achilles), well, all the gods except one, Eris, the goddess of discord. When Eris found out, she became outraged, so she made a plan that would cause complete chaos. She placed a golden apple that labeled, "to the fairest," at the wedding. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all believed themselves to be the fairest of them all and felt that the golden apple was intended for them.
First, they looked to Zeus to reveal who was the fairest. Being the wise man he was, he refused to answer. They then decided to ask the most handsome man at the wedding who the fairest god was. They all decided the most handsome man was Paris, a noble Trojan. Wanting to be chosen as the fairest, the three bribed Paris through promises.
Hera offered him the chance to rule over the world with her, while Athena promised him to be victorious in war.
Only Aphrodite was able to give him what he wanted. She promised him the love of the most beautiful maiden in the land, Helen of Troy, which would have been okay, except Helen of Troy was already married to the Greek King Menelaus of Sparta. So when Eris took Helen of Troy as his wife, the beginning of the Trojan War began.
Venus: Goddess of Love and Beauty
Aphrodite, though believed to be the goddess of love, did not live her life with loving intentions. She was arrogant, self-centered, and had no qualms about destroying people's lives. Like most Greek gods, she too had a Roman version of herself, which we know as Venus. The most significant difference is that her parents were Jupiter and Dionne. Jupiter's Greek name is Zeus. Venus also tends to be thought of as a little softer side of Aphrodite. She is the patroness of prostitutes, goddess of fertility and vegetation, as well as the goddess of love and beauty like Aphrodite.
- "Aphrodite Greek Goddess of Love." Greek Gods and Goddesses. Accessed February 26, 2018. http://www.greek-gods-and-goddesses.com/aphrodite-greek-goddess-of-love.html.
- Naik, Abhijit. "Intriguing Information About Aphrodite - The Goddess of Love." Buzzle. September 19, 2016. Accessed February 26, 2018.
- "Paleothea." Aphrodite: Greek Goddess of Love. Accessed February 26, 2018. http://www.paleothea.com/SortaSingles/Aphrodite.html.
© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz