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Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love – Story, Mythology, and Symbols

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by DanFF

In this post, you will learn about Goddess Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. You will learn about Aphrodite’s story, her myths, the meaning of her name, and how to work with her archetype and how to invoke her.

Goddess Aphrodite Video

You can watch the video below about Aphrodite to know more about her and / or continue reading this post.

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Aphrodite: Story and facts

Aphrodite is one of the best known Greek Goddesses. She is always related to beauty, love, sexuality and desire. She is popularly known as “the most beautiful Goddess of all”. She is also related to fertility and procreation. In some places like Sparta, she was also considered to be a Goddess of War.

The equivalent of Aphrodite in Roman Mythology is Venus. It is virtually impossible to separate the two of them, as they share the same attributes, powers and characteristics.

Aphrodite - Unknown - first half of 2nd century BC
Aphrodite – Unknown – first half of 2nd century BC | Google Arts and Culture

How was the Goddess Aphrodite born?

Goddess Aphrodite was born of the union between the sky and the ocean. This, in fact, is a way of explaining the event that brought Aphrodite to life. In short, when Kronos cut off his father’s penis, Uranus (the Sky), to free Gaia, semen and blood spread everywhere. Deities and nymphs were born where these drops fell. When one of the drops fell into the ocean, a foam (Aphros) arose and from this foam, Aphrodite was born.

This happened near the island of Cyprus. That is why one of Aphrodite’s epithets is Kypris.

However, according to Homer, Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus and Dione.

Due to this, both “versions” are accepted and some features are attributed to each of them.

  • For the first, daughter of Uranus, she receives the epithet (name) Aphrodite Urania and her powers are related to the divine and heavenly love, love between Gods and homosexual love;
  • For the second, daughter of Zeus and Dione, she receives the epithet Aphrodite Pandemos and her powers are related to carnal love, love between mortals and desire itself.

Considering Aphrodite Urania, we see that she is actually a Titan, before being considered a Goddess. Therefore, she is older than all the Olympic Gods. Considering Aphrodite Pandemos, she is sister to other Goddesses like Artemis, Athena.

Aphrodite occupied one of the twelve places on Mount Olympus, so she was part of the twelve Olympic Gods that formed the Greek Dodecathion:

  1. Zeus;
  2. Hera;
  3. Demeter;
  4. Poseidon;
  5. Athena;
  6. Artemis;
  7. Aphrodite;
  8. Ares;
  9. Apolo;
  10. Hephaestus;
  11. Hermes;
  12. Dionysus.
Venus Rising from the Sea - Gustave Moreau 1866
Venus Rising from the Sea – Gustave Moreau 1866 | Google Arts and Culture

Aphrodite’s Symbols

Goddess Aphrodite’s symbols are:

  • Sceptre;
  • Doves;
  • Shells;
  • Foam.

Aphrodite’s Powers

Aphrodite is related to the following powers:

  • Love;
  • Seduction;
  • Sex;
  • Fertility;
  • Procreation;
  • Beauty;
  • War (mainly in Sparta).
The “Heyl Aphrodite” an exquisite beauty
The “Heyl Aphrodite” an exquisite beauty | Google Arts and Culture
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Aphrodite’s love affairs

Aphrodite was a totally free and extremely attractive Goddess. She had the men she wanted, both Gods and mortals, so she had several affairs and many children.

Aphrodite’s main love affairs were:

Aphrodite and Ares

Ares is the God of War and Aphrodite was truly in love with him. It wasn’t just desire, there was passion. The two kept their love affair for a long time, including during the period when Aphrodite was forced to marry Hephaestus (more details below).

From this union, the Erotes were born (there are variations to their origin myths):

  • Eros (Erotism, carnal love);
  • Anteros (Requited love and avenger of unrequited love);
  • Himeros (Sexual desire, uncontrollable);
  • Pothos (Yearning).

They also had other children:

  • Deimos (Dread);
  • Phobos (Fear);
  • Harmonia;
Ares and Aphrodite - 45-79 dC
Ares and Aphrodite – 45-79 dC | Google Arts and Culture

Aphrodite and Hermes

With Hermes, the God of messages and also of thieves, Aphrodite had a son. But before we talk about this son, it’s interesting to know how they had an affair.

For some reason, Aphrodite didn’t care about Hermes. Zeus, pitying Hermes, sent his eagle to steal Aphrodite’s golden sandals while she was bathing. When she finished the bath, she realised the sandals were gone. And then Hermes comes up with the sandals as if he had found them.

And that’s how they had an affair, and from this affair, their son was born:

  • Hermafroditus, the androgynous

Aphrodite and Dionysus

With Dionysus, the God of Wine and Celebrations, Aphrodite had happy daughters and a son (versions also greatly vary ):

  • Peitho (Persuasion and Seduction);
  • The Charities (usually 3 Goddess who personifies very good and happy things);
  • Priapus (Fertility).

Aphrodite and Adonis

Aphrodite was also truly in love with Adonis, a handsome young man. It is said that she kept an affair with him when Ares, moved by jealousy (yes, jealous of Aphrodite!), sent a boar to attack Adonis.

Adonis was injured, lost a lot of blood and died. Aphrodite rescued him and turned his lost blood into an anemone. Anyway, Adonis went to the underworld in the company of Hades and the Goddess Persephone.

At first, Persephone seemed to be interested in helping Aphrodite by promising to “return” Adonis to the world of the living. But the beauty of Adonis was so great that Persephone also fell in love with him.

A deal was made and Adonis would spend half a year in Hades and half a year in the living world. But Aphrodite was not satisfied with it and the deal was broken. Aphrodite and Persephone began an endless dispute for Adonis until Zeus intervened and resolved the situation by causing Adonis to spend a third of the year with Persephone and a third of the year with Aphrodite. During the other third, he would be free – and they say he would rather be with Aphrodite.

Adonis also caused the earth’s fertility cycle.

Vénus and Adónis - John Cheere 1756
Vénus and Adónis – John Cheere 1756 | Google Arts and Culture

Aphrodite and Hephaestus

Here we have a serious problem. Aphrodite was forced by Zeus to marry Hephaestus.

Hephaestus is the son of Goddess Hera, but because he was considered very ugly, he was not very accepted. In a kind of revenge, he presented his mother with a golden throne that imprisoned her. Zeus asked many times for him to free her. He simply didn’t want to.

On a meeting with Dionysus, Hephaestus got drunk and soon after he met Zeus. Zeus asked what he wanted in return for freeing Hera. Hephaestus said he wanted to marry Aphrodite. Zeus forced her to marry him as if she were an object.

Even married to Hephaestus, virtually nothing changed in Aphrodite’s life. She continued with her affairs. When Helios, the Sun God, discovered that Aphrodite was with Ares, he gossiped to Hephaestus.

Hephaestus then created a magic net to trap Aphrodite and Ares in bed. And it worked! Hephaestus called all the Gods to show how Aphrodite was unfaithful and how Ares was too.

That is! After this episode comes Aphrodite’s most troubling episode, but it has nothing to do with his affairs.

Venus Visiting Vulcan’s Forge - David Tenier, the Elder 1638
Venus Visiting Vulcan’s Forge – David Tenier, the Elder 1638 | Google Arts and Culture

Aphrodite and the Trojan War

Aphrodite is a Goddess of different aspects, just like us. On one hand, she is the epitome of beauty and love. But on the other hand, she has some terrible characteristics such as impulsiveness, selfishness, revenge and anger.

We do have these characteristics within ourselves and we need to control them, but Aphrodite didn’t control much.

For Peleus and Thetis’s wedding, Eris, the Goddess of Discord and daughter of Nyx, was not invited. Then, in order to cause and spread discord, Eris was hidden and threw a golden apple written: “For the fairest” (in other versions it is written “For the most beautiful”) among Aphrodite, Hera and Athena.

The three of them did not know to whom the apple had been thrown. Zeus, as he always tried to avoid confrontation – especially against Goddesses – decided not to give an opinion and designated a trial where the mortal Paris would decide who would keep the apple.

Each of the three Goddesses offered rewards to Paris in return for the verdict.

  • Hera offered Paris the chance to be king of the lands of Europe and Asia;
  • Athena offered Paris wisdom and warlike skills;
  • Aphrodite offered Paris the love of the most beautiful woman in the world.

Of course, Paris chose Aphrodite so he could have the love of the most beautiful woman in the world in return. And that love was the love of Helen, from Sparta.

It turns out that Helen was married to Menelaus, king of Sparta. When she was sent to Troy to be with Paris, a tension arose between the two kingdoms. An expedition was made to fetch Helena back to Sparta and this originated the Trojan War.

The Judgement of Paris - Adriaen van der Werff 1716
The Judgement of Paris – Adriaen van der Werff 1716 | Google Arts and Culture

Goddess Aphrodite Legacy

Goddess Aphrodite survives in our culture quite presently. It is very likely that many people have never realised or wondered about the origin of some words, but we have the beauty and desire of Aphrodite, and her Roman equivalent Venus, in our daily lives.

Here are some examples:

  • Aphrodisiac is everything that stimulates sexual desire. The word and its meaning originates directly from Aphrodite;
  • Hermaphrodite is a human being or animal born with both reproductive organs. The word comes from the son of Aphrodite and Hermes, Hermaphroditus, who was androgynous;
  • Erotic is all about sex. The word and its meaning are related to Eros and the Erotes, sons of Aphrodite;
  • The planet Venus is called Venus because its energy was considered feminine and so the name of the most beautiful Goddess was attributed;
  • The alchemical symbol that represents Women is the symbol of Venus;
  • The act of venerate something is to worship, to praise beauty, intellect and so on. The word also comes from Venus, the most revered Goddess.
  • Venereal is all that is related to sex. This word also has its origin in the Goddess Venus.
  • The sixth day of the week, in virtually all European languages, is dedicated to Venus. In other languages, like English, it ​​is dedicated to Freyja, also a Goddess of Beauty.
Venus with a Mirror - Ticiano c.1555
Venus with a Mirror – Ticiano c.1555 | Google Arts and Culture

Goddess Aphrodite: Art, Paintings and Drawings

Being the Goddess of Beauty, Aphrodite has always been and is still an inspiration for art. There are countless Aphrodite paintings and drawings throughout Art History. For some reason, most of them are named Venus.

Therefore, it is more common to find Birth of Venus, Venus and Mars, Venus and Cupid, Venus and Vulcan and so on. But of course, there are also arts named Aphrodite, Aphrodite and Ares and so on.

What makes this variety of arts of Aphrodite / Venus more interesting is that, as she represents the ultimate beauty, we see her representations changing as the “beauty standards” changed throughout history.

Therefore Aphrodite’s appearance varies greatly. We have Aphrodite with short and long hair, thinner or fatter, taller or shorter … a huge variety.

Below are some arts dedicated to the Goddess:

Marte e Vênus unidos pelo Cupido - Paolo Veronese
Marte e Vênus unidos pelo Cupido – Paolo Veronese | Google Arts and Culture
Mars and Venus, with a Circle of Cupids and a Landscape - Carlo Saraceni 1605 1610
Mars and Venus, with a Circle of Cupids and a Landscape – Carlo Saraceni 1605 1610 | Google Arts and Culture
Mars and Venus - Unknown 1600 - 1859
Mars and Venus – Unknown 1600 – 1859 | Google Arts and Culture

General FAQ

Who is Aphrodite?

Aphrodite is the Goddess of Beauty, Love and Sexuality in Greek mythology.

What is the meaning of Aphrodite?

The word “Aphros” means “foam”. Aphrodite is the one born from the foam. This also explains the origin of the name Aphrodite.

How was Aphrodite born?

Aphrodite was born when Uranus’s semen, or his genital itself, fell into the ocean. On this occasion, a foam, Aphros, emerged and from this foam, Aphrodite was born.

What are the symbols of Aphrodite?

Aphrodite is symbolised by the sceptre, doves, shells and foam.

How to invoke Aphrodite?

To invoke Aphrodite, it is enough to know how to appreciate all that is beautiful and to dedicate to the Goddess all that is “aphrodisiac”, which belongs to Aphrodite.

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