In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. She is depicted as a beautiful woman often accompanied by her son Eros, the god of love. Aphrodite holds sway over desire, passion, lust, sexuality and fertility. Her beauty is renowned as the epitome of feminine grace and loveliness among both gods and mortals.
Origin and Birth
According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Aphrodite was born when Uranus, the god of the sky, was castrated by his son Cronus and his genitals were cast into the sea. The sea foam (aphros) from which she emerged gave Aphrodite her name. She first touched land on Cyprus, where she was greeted by Zephyrus, the west wind, and Horae, the seasons. Her beauty enchanted all who saw her.
Goddess of Love and Beauty
As the goddess of love, beauty and sexuality, Aphrodite holds tremendous power over gods and mortals alike. Her physical attractiveness inspires passion and desire, while her magical girdle causes anyone she wishes to fall in love. Though married to Hephaestus, the god of fire and blacksmiths, Aphrodite took many lovers, mortal and immortal alike. Her affairs were numerous and included the gods Ares, Poseidon, Dionysus, Hermes, and mortal Adonis.
Aphrodite is frequently depicted as vain, ill-tempered and jealous. Though irresistibly beautiful, she uses her attractiveness manipulatively to get her way. She curses those who reject her gifts of love and causes them to suffer misfortune and unhappiness in their romantic lives. Her ability to stir desire and passion in both men and gods made her an object of worship as well as fear among the ancients.
Symbols and Powers
Aphrodite’s symbols include the dove, rose, myrtle, scallop shell and mirror. The dove and rose symbolize love, beauty and devotion, while the scallop shell represents female genitalia and fertility. Her powers over love, lust, desire and fertility were formidable. With her enchanted girdle, she could make anyone fall in love against their will. Her blessing brought passion and pleasure, while her curse inflicted longing, sorrow and misfortune in love upon those who invoked her wrath.
Worship of Aphrodite
Aphrodite was widely worshipped throughout the ancient Greek world. Her major cult centers were in Cyprus, Cythera, Corinth and Athens. At her temples, Aphrodite’s priestesses would offer prayers and perform sacred sex rituals to honor the goddess of love. Worship of Aphrodite was often associated with licentiousness as well as enactments of her mythological affairs with mortal lovers like Adonis.
Aphrodite remains an influential figure as the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, sexuality and desire. Her tragic and tumultuous affairs with mortal men have endured as iconic myths illustrating the power and perils of passion. For better or worse, Aphrodite’s gifts of desire, fertility, lust and beauty live on, reminding us of love’s ability both to exalt and destroy. Her timeless legend serves as a warning for mortals powerless before love and a reminder of the fleeting nature of beauty, pleasure and youth.