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Aphrodite
Ἀφροδίτη

Aphrodite. 9017: Bertel Thorvaldsen 1770-1844: Venus with the apple awarded by Paris, 1813-16. The Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen.

"Do you not see how mighty is the goddess Aphrodite? She sows and gives that love from which all we upon this earth are born." (Nurse of Phaedra. Euripides, Hippolytus 450).

"Mighty the victory which Aphrodite bears away." (Sophocles, Trachiniae 497).


Aphrodite is in charge of wedlock and the tender passions.

Birth

(See notes below under Parentage.)

Hephaestus

Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus (Vir.Aen.8.372; QS.2.139), the god of smiths, who discovered the ways of working copper, iron, silver and gold. Hephaestus, who is lame in the legs because Zeus cast him out from Heaven causing his fall to the island of Lemnos, is one of the Olympian gods and the fatherless son of Hera, the queen of Heaven, or perhaps the son of Zeus and Hera (Apd.1.3.5; Hes.The.929ff.; Hom.Il.1.571). Aphrodite and Hephaestus never had children.

Love affair with Ares

This couple was not a happy one, for Aphrodite loved Ares, the god of war and warriors, and they lay in the house of Hephaestus whenever the god-smith was away. But Helius, the sun-god who sees everything, warned Hephaestus who, with a clever device of his own invention, trapped the two naked lovers in bed, exposing them to the laughter of the other gods (Hom.Od.8.260; Hyg.Fab.148). Aphrodite had three children by Ares: Deimos, Phobus 1 (Fear and Panic) and Harmonia 1 (for Harmonia 1 see Robe & Necklace of Harmonia 1). The first two children appear usually in battles causing disorder among the ranks of soldiers (Hes.The.933; Hom.Il.9.4). Their daughter Harmonia 1 married Cadmus, a Phoenician prince who came to Boeotia and founded Thebes (Apd.3.4.2; Hes.The.975). Cadmus and Harmonia 1 started, thus, the Royal House of Thebes, and had four daughters and one son, Polydorus 2, who became king of Thebes after his father. One of their daughters, Ino, became a sea-goddess and was, since then, called Leucothoe (Apd.1.9.1-2; Hyg.Fab.224; Pin.Oly.2.30). Another daughter, Semele, was loved by Zeus and became the mother of Dionysus 2, the vine-god (Apd.3.4.3; Hes.The.949). When Cadmus and Harmonia 1 died they were first turned into serpents and then sent to the Elysian Fields, which is the abode of the happy immortals (Apd.3.5.4). Sometimes it is said that Harmonia 1 was nursed by Electra 3, one of the PLEIADES, the daughters of Atlas, but some say that, in reality, Harmonia 1 was the daughter of Zeus and Electra 3 (Dio.5.48.2).

Dionysus 2

Some say that Aphrodite and Dionysus 2 had a son and that his name was Priapus. But others say that Priapus' mother was not Aphrodite but a Nymph (Strab.13.1.12), while yet others say that Priapus' father was Hermes without mentioning his mother (Hyg.Fab.160). Priapus is a phallic deity. He is said to have contended with an ass (the saddle-ass of the Satyr Silenus, adviser and instructor of Dionysus 2, Dio.4.4.3) "on a matter of physique" (the size of their members), or that the same ass prevented him from loving either Lotis, a Nymph, or Hestia (Dio.5.68.1; Apd.1.1.5; Cic.ND 2.67; Pin.Nem 11.1), the first-born of the OLYMPIANS and guardian of altars, hearths and States (Hyg.Ast.2.23; Ov.Fast.1.415ff., 6.335ff.). Lotis is said to have turned into the flower lotus while fleeing from Priapus (Ov.Met.9.347).

Hermes

Also Hermes, an Olympian god who leads the soul of the dead to Hades and is the messenger and herald of Zeus, loved Aphrodite and they had a child called Hermaphroditus or sometimes Atlantius. Hermaphroditus was so much loved by a Naiad (water-nymph) called Salmacis that their bodies were united in one (Ov.Met.4.288ff.; Hyg.Fab.271).

Anchises 1
(Anchises 2 is father of Echepolus 2, a Sicyonian.)

Hephaestus, Ares, Hermes and Dionysus 2 are the gods who loved Aphrodite. But she was also loved by mortal men. One of them was Anchises 1, king of Dardania, a region near the city of Troy. It is said that Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt for having told, over wine, about his affair with Aphrodite, or that he committed suicide for unknown reasons (Hyg.Fab.94). But it is also said that he died in exile (Vir.Aen.3.709). Anchises 1 and Aphrodite had two sons (some add one daughter): Aeneas and Lyrus (Apd.3.12.2; Hom.Il.2.819-821, 5.311-313; Hes.The.1008-1010ff.). Very little is known about Lyrus, except that he died childless. Aeneas defended Troy during the war and when the city fell he took his father with him and went into exile. Aeneas loved Queen Dido of Carthage and he established the kingdoms of Lavinium and Alba Longa in Italy, predecessors of the Roman power (see also Throne Succession from Troy to Rome). The circumstances of Aeneas' death have not been well established. He is said to have mysteriously disappeared after a battle (DH.1.64.4), to have died in Italy without further detail, or even to have died in Thrace, the region between the Black and Aegean seas, without ever reaching Italy (DH.1.49.1-2).

Phaethon 1
(Phaethon 2 is one of Eos' steeds and Phaethon 3 is the son of Helius.)

Phaethon 1 was a boy "in the tender flower of glorious youth" when he was ravished by Aphrodite (Hes.The.986). According to some he was the son of Tithonus 2 (Apd.3.14.3), son of Cephalus 2, but some say that Cephalus 2 was Phaethon 1's father (Pau.1.3.1; Hes.The.986). In any case with the ravishing of Phaethon 1 a familiar tradition was firmly established, because both Tithonus 1 (founder of Susa, Apd.3.12.14; Nonn.15.279, and Cephalus 2 had been carried off by Eos (Cephalus 2 to Syria). Cephalus 2's wife and Phaethon 1's mother is said to have been either Eos (Dawn) or Hemera (Day). In spite of this common trait of abducting lovers, or because of it, Aphrodite did not like Eos particularly, and she caused her to be perpetually in love because Eos had lain with Ares (Apd.1.4.4).

Adonis

Adonis' mother (Smyrna, according to some) loved her own father, and with the complicity of her nurse lay with him. When he discovered her, he pursued her with a sword and being overtaken she asked to the gods that she might become invisible; so the gods out of compassion turned her into the tree called smyrna (myrrh). Ten months afterwards the tree burst and Adonis was born. He was so beautiful that, while still a boy, Aphrodite hid him in a chest and entrusted it to Persephone, the queen of the Underworld. But when Persephone beheld his beauty, she would not give him back. The case was tried before Zeus and Zeus decided to divide the year into three parts, so that Adonis should stay by himself for one part of the year, with Persephone for one part, and with Aphrodite for the remainder. But Adonis gave to Aphrodite his own share of time (Apd.3.14.4). But sometimes it is said that Adonis was the child of Cinyras 1 & Metharme, who was the daughter of that king of Cyprus, Pygmalion 1, who fell in love with a statue of his own making, which was given life by Aphrodite. It is also said that Smyrna's father was not Cinyras 1 but Thias, king of Assyria, and that it was with him that she committed incest. Thias himself committed suicide when he learned what had happened. Yet others say that Adonis' father was Phoenix 1, the brother of Europa after whom Phoenicia was called (the same Europa that was carried off by Zeus, who had taken the form of a bull), and that the name of his mother was Alphesiboea 2 (Apd.3.14.3; Lib.Met.34).

Aphrodite and Adonis had a daughter, whose name was Beroe 5 (also called Amymone 2), though sometimes she is said to be the daughter of the TITANS Oceanus and Tethys (Nonn.41.153-155, 42.66). The city Berytos (Beyrut) in Lebanon was called after her. When Beroe 5 was born Aphrodite went to visit the Allmother Harmonia 3, Nurse of the world, asking her whether the gift of Justice would be assigned to the city of her own daughter Beroe 5. Later both Poseidon and Dionysus 2 fell in love with Beroe 5 and had to fight for her, but it was Poseidon who won her love (Nonn.41.318ff., 41.367, 42.40ff., 42.506ff., 43.394).

However Adonis was attacked by a boar and killed, they say through the anger of Artemis, the virgin Olympian goddess, protectress of hunters (Apd.3.14.4; Hyg.Fab.248).

Aphrodite Urania. 3809: Christian Griepenkerl (1839-1916): Venus Urania mit der Weltkugel in der Hand als Ideal der Künstler. Griepenkerl-Gemälde im Treppenhaus des Augusteums, Oldenburg.

Butes 1

Butes 1 was the son of Teleon and Zeuxippe 1. His mother was the daughter of the river-god Eridanus (a fabulous river sometimes identified with the Po, the Nile, the Milky way, or the Ocean that surrounds the world) (Apd.1.9.24, 2.5.11; Arg.4.506, 4.596, 4.610, 4.623, 4.628; Ov.Met.2.324, 2.372; Nonn.2.327, 11.32, 11.310, 19.185, 22.89, 23.244, 23.251, 38.94, 38.100, 38.411, 38.431, 42.420, 43.414; Hyg.Fab.152a, 154; Dio.5.23.3).

Butes 1 joined Jason and the ARGONAUTS, who sailed in the vessel "Argo" to Colchis in the Caucasus to bring the Golden Fleece, which was in the power of King Aeetes. As the ARGONAUTS sailed past the SIRENS (who destroy sailors after attracting them with their enchanting voices), Butes 1 could not be restrained by Orpheus' counter-melody and he swam off to the SIRENS. But Aphrodite intervened and, carrying him away, settled him in Lilybaeum, which is in western Sicily (Apd.1.9.25). A Sicilian king called Eryx 1, who was killed by Heracles 1 in a wrestling-match, is said to be the son of Butes 1 & Aphrodite, but some say that he was the son of Poseidon without naming his mother (Apd.2.5.10; Dio.4.23.2).

Eros

Aphrodite is sometimes considered to be the mother of Eros (Love, Hyg.Ast.2.30; Nonn.33.56), but this is a most disputed matter. Eros is often considered one of the first to have come into being. It has been said that there was no race of immortals until Eros caused all things to mingle, and that Nyx (Night) laid an Egg in Erebus (the Darkness of the Underworld) and in time Eros was born (Ari.Birds.683ff.). According to others, Eros was one of the first to be born out of Chaos (Hes.The.116ff.), the kind of void that was the original state of the universe. Some say that not Aphrodite but Ilithyia (Pau.9.27.2), the goddess of childbirth, daughter of Zeus and Hera, was his mother. But still others say that Zephyrus 1 (the West Wind) was his father and Iris 1 (the rainbow, a heavenly messenger) his mother (Nonn.31.111). And there are also those who say that he was born out of Chronos (Time), who is said to be the same as the Titan Cronos, father of the first OLYMPIANS, and identify him with Phanes 1, who was considered to be the first-born and eternal god (AO.12.16; Cic.ND.2.64; Nonn.9.142, 9.157, 12.34, 19.207). Eros and Psyche (Soul) loved each other, but she was not supposed to see the lover who was visiting her by night (Apuleius, The Golden Ass). Aphrodite is also said to be the mother of Anteros (see Eros ), who is the avenging spirit of spurned love (Pau.1.30.1; Ov.Fast.4.1).

Some interventions of Aphrodite

Aphrodite's interventions are innumerable, as she often is involved whenever love and its retinue of passions, including jealousy, appear. Here are recalled some circumstances in which Aphrodite played a more complex role:

Helping young people in love

Aphrodite would often help young people in love: Atalanta, a virgin huntress who remained always under arms, used to force her wooers to race before her and if she caught them she would put them to death, but if anybody would survive she would marry him. But Melanion came to the race bringing the golden apples that Aphrodite had given him. He dropped the apples as he was running, and because Atalanta could not help to pick up the fruit she was beaten in the race (Apd.3.9.2; Hyg.Fab.185).

Punishes those who do not honour her

But Aphrodite could be harsh toward those who defied her: Theseus, king of Athens and Troezen, had a son by an Amazon, Hippolytus 4, who would not worship Aphrodite, and thus aroused the goddess wrath against himself. Aphrodite made Phaedra, daughter of Minos 2, king of Crete, and Theseus' young wife, to fall in love with her stepson. In the drama that followed both Phaedra and Hippolytus 4 lost their lives (Euripides, Hippolytus).

Punishes Lemnian women

Because the Lemnian women did not honour her, she caused their husbands to consort with Thracian women. When the ARGONAUTS came to Lemnos the island was then ruled by women and the queen was Hypsipyle.

The Judgement of Paris

Aphrodite

The "Judgement of Paris" is perhaps the intervention of Aphrodite who had most dramatic consequences. Eris (Discord) was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Therefore she threw an apple as a prize of beauty to be contended for by Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Following Zeus' decision the three goddesses were led by Hermes to Mount Ida (near Troy) in order to be judged by Paris. It was Aphrodite who succeeded in bribing Paris promising him the hand of Helen, who was married to Menelaus, king of Sparta. In that way Aphrodite won the apple of Eris, Paris the hand of Helen, and the world the Trojan War (Eur.Hel.24; Ov.Fast.4.121; Apd.Ep.3.1ff.; Col.39, 64ff.; Hdt.2.113-120; Apd.3.12.5-6; Eur.IA.468; Lib.Met.11; Hyg.Fab.92; Nonn.20.35, 39.385).

Some interventions during the Trojan War

During the Trojan War Aphrodite helped the Trojans as much as she could, protecting Paris and even saving his life (Hom.Il.3.384ff.). In helping her loved ones she could even endanger herself as when she saved Aeneas in battle and was wounded by Diomedes 2 (Hom.Il.5.310ff., 5.375). On another occasion she was knocked down by Athena because of having aided her beloved Ares (Hom.Il.21.405ff.). But Aphrodite's devotion to love was stronger than her strategic considerations: When Hera, for the sake of helping the Achaeans in the Trojan War, wished to keep Zeus from the battles, she received Aphrodite's help in the form of her magic belt, and so she could distract him with the belt's and her own charms (Hom.Il.14.154ff.).

Aphrodite Urania and Aphrodite Pandemos

One guest in Plato's Symposium distinguished two Aphrodite, though more as philosophical reflection than mythological account. The elder, Aphrodite Urania (Heavenly), he called the daughter of Uranus, of no mother born, and the younger he called Aphrodite Pandemos (Common), daughter of Zeus and Dione. These two Aphrodite stand respectively for a nobler and meaner kind of love.


Family 

Parentage (three versions)

Mates

Offspring

Notes

Zeus & Dione 1

 

Uranus' Genitals.-

 
 

Egg 2.-

 


Homer, among others, believed that Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dione 1 (Apd.1.3.1; Hom.Il 5.370ff.; Hom.Aph.5.81; Nonn 31.210; AO. 1323; Eur.Hel.1098). Who this Dione was is not quite clear. She could be one of the daughters of Uranus (Sky) and Gaia, Earth (Apd.1.1.3), thus a kind of Titaness, or she could be an Oceanid, that is a daughter of the TITANS Oceanus and Tethys (Hes.The.350ff.). Less probable alternatives are a Nereid also called Dione, daughter of the sea-god Nereus and the Oceanid Doris (Apd.1.2.7), or another Dione, daughter of the Titan Atlas, who married Tantalus 1 (he who is still being punished in the Underworld) and became mother of Pelops 1, after whom the Peloponnessus was named (Hyg.Fab.82, 83; Pau.3.22.4; Ov.Met. 6.172).

The most famous story about Aphrodite's birth is the one told by Hesiod (Theogony 189ff.), who said that she had sprung from the foam (aphros in Greek, Plato, Cratylus 406D) that gathered round the severed genitals of Uranus (Sky) as they floated in the sea. These had been cut off with an adamantine sickle and thrown into the sea by the Titan Cronos during the TITANS' Revolt against their father Uranus (Theogony 159ff.). Hesiod's account of Aphrodite's birth makes her the most ancient of the Olympian gods.

Egg 2 was an egg of wonderful size that is said to have fallen into the Euphrates River. The fish rolled it to the bank and doves sat on it, and when it was heated it hatched out Aphrodite (Hyg.Fab.197), later called Syrian Goddess. This is why the Syrians do not eat fish or doves, considering them as gods.

One guest in Plato's Symposium distinguished two Aphrodite, though more as philosophical reflection than mythological account. The elder, Aphrodite Urania (Heavenly), he called the daughter of Uranus, of no mother born, and the younger he called Aphrodite Pandemos (Common), daughter of Zeus and Dione. These two Aphrodite stand respectively for a nobler and meaner kind of love (Plato Symposium 180D; Pau.1.14.7, 1.19.2, 1.22.3).

 
 

Lyrus

For Lyrus see main text above.

Harmonia 1

See Robe & Necklace of Harmonia 1.

Deimos

For these two see main text above and Ares.


Phobus 1

unknown

 

Anteros

See Eros.

 

Phaethon 1

Astynous 1

Astynous 1 was father of Sandocus who emigrated from Syria to Cilicia and founded a city, Celenderis. Sandocus is sometimes called father of Cinyras 1, the founder of Paphos in Cyprus (Apd.3.14.3).

   

Priapus is a phallic deity. When Dionysus 2 was afflicted with madness, he came to a large swamp which he could not cross. He was then met by two Asses and one of them carried him across the water so that he could reach a temple of Zeus. When Dionysus 2 came to the temple he was freed at once from his madness and, feeling gratitude for the Asses he put them among the stars (Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis in Cancer) and gave human voice to the Ass which had carried him. This Ass is said to be the saddle-ass of Silenus, a Satyr adviser and instructor of Dionysus 2 (see Gigantomachy for the role of these Asses in the fight against the GIANTS).

Later this Ass met Priapus and had a dispute with him on a matter of physique (supposedly the size of their members). But some say the trouble Priapus had with the Ass was of another nature. He was quietly approaching the Nymph Lotis as she slept, and the Ass, by giving out an ill-timed roar, prevented Priapus from making love to her. Lotis escaped and turned into the flower called Lotus, but Priapus, enraged, killed the Ass. However sometimes it is said that Priapus tried to rape not Lotis but Hestia, during a feast to which Cybele had invited both SATYRS and NYMPHS. To this rural party came also Silenus with his Ass, though he was not invited.

Priapus is sometimes called son of Hermes, and at other times son of Dionysus 2 & Nymph 21.

Other deities resembling Priapus are the Attic Conisalus, Orthanes and Tychon.

---

 

Butes 1

Eryx 1

See main text above.

Beroe 5

See main text above.


Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Adonis, Aeneas, Anchises 1, Anteros, Aphrodite, Ares, Astynous 1, Beroe 5, Butes 1, Deimos, Dione 1, Dionysus 2, Egg 2, Eros, Eryx 1, Harmonia 1, Hephaestus, Hermaphroditus, Hermes, Lyrus, Phaethon 1, Phobus 1, Priapus, Uranus' Genitals, Zeus.


Related sections
Sources
Abbreviations

AO.12, 16, 1323; Apd.1.1.3, 1.1.5, 1.2.7, 1.3.1, 1.3.5, 1.4.4, 1.9.1-2, 1.9.16, 1.9.24-25, 2.5.10-11, 3.4.2-3, 3.5.4, 3.9.2, 3.12.2, 3.12.5-6, 3.12.14, 3.14.3-4; Apd.Ep.3.1ff.; Apu.Tra.7, 8, 9; Arg.4.506, 4.596, 4.610, 4.623, 4.628; Ari.Birds 683 ff. Cic.ND.2.64, 2.67; DH.1.49.1-2, 1.64.4; Col.39, 64ff.; Dio.4.4.3, 4.6.1, 4.23.2, 5.23.3, 5.48.2, 5.68.1.; Eur.Hel.24, 1098; Eur.Hipp. passim; Eur.IA.468; Hes.The.116ff., 159ff., 189ff., 211ff., 350ff., 929ff., 949, 975, 986, 1008-1010ff; Hdt.2.113-120; Hom.Aph.5.81; Hom.Il. 1.571, 3.384ff., 4.440, 5.310ff., 5.370ff., 5.426, 5.900, 9.4, 14.154ff., 21.405ff.; Hom.Od.8.260; Hyg.Ast.2.30; Hyg.Fab.14, 82, 83, 92, 94, 148, 152a, 154, 160, 185, 197, 224, 248, 271; Lib.Met.11, 34; Nonn.2.327, 9.142, 9.157, 11.32, 11.310, 12.34, 15.279, 19.185, 19.207, 20.35, 22.89, 23.244, 23.251, 31.111, 31.210, 33.56, 38.94, 38.100, 38.411, 38.431, 39.385, 41.153-155, 41.318 ff., 41.367, 42.40ff., 42.66, 42.420, 42.506ff., 43.394, 43.414; Ov.Fast.1.415ff., 4.1, 4.121, 6.335ff.; Ov.Met.2.324, 2.372, 4.288ff., 6.172, 9.347; Pau.1.3.1, 1.14.7, 1.19.2, 1.22.3, 1.30.1, 3.22.4, 9.27.2, 9.31.2; Pin.Nem.11.1; Pin.Oly.2.30; Pla.Cra.406D; Pla.Sym.180D; QS.2.139; Stat.Theb.3.275; Strab.13.1.12; Vir.Aen.3.709, 8.372.

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