Aphrodite is the Greek Goddess of love and beauty, finding power in nature and fertility – finding power in being a woman.
She is known as the goddess of desire, of beauty, sexuality, and passion. Known as Aphrodite to the Greeks and Venus to the Romans, she is the goddess of love. According to Homer, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. According to Hesiod, she is the daughter of the sea and the primordial god Ouranos. Regardless of her origins which date back as early as 1450 BCE in Cyprus and are syncretic with many Near Eastern deities, cities (the young and old, women and men) worshipped her for her ability to create harmony and union.
What are her super powers?
To ancient society, Aphrodite was not a goddess to be messed with. Greek and Roman mythology are filled with stories of how she manipulates the hearts of both gods and mortals alike. While at the same time, she has the power to unite people in peace, bringing elements of the natural world into harmony. Do not cross her and get on her bad side, for she is also characterized as a goddess of fierce jealousy – just ask Myrrha, whose mother bragged about her daughter being more beautiful than Aphrodite! Myrrha was turned into a myrtle tree, the flowers of which are often worn by brides.
Why is she depicted as modest or nude?
Aphrodite is often depicted with water, and lifting her clothing to cover herself. This gesture can be associated with modesty. However, this is a manifestation of her power and her true nature. The revelation of her body is the revelation of her power. She is a Goddess and has never done the walk of shame! Her gesture of modesty is directing the gaze to the center of her power, to her femininity.
He loves me, he loves me not.
Aphrodite was often depicted wearing precious jewelry. She was, after all, married to Hephaistos, the god of metalworking and fire. Ancient Greek and Roman women looked to Aphrodite as a role model, decorating rings and earrings with her image. Pictured above is a ring, with Aphrodite sitting on a stool holding a balance with a figure of Eros (Cupid) on each side of the scale. The weighing of love, or the erotostasia, may be the the origin story for “he loves me, he loves me not” since the outcome is in the hands of Aphrodite! Aphrodite decides who will fall in love or have a successful relationship.
What is love?
Ask 100 people what is love, and you will get 100 different definitions. Love can be our salvation or our ruin. Love is powerful and fierce. Love is intimacy. Love is passion. Love is commitment. Love is a mystery. But when love is a mystery, does it take away hope? What does it mean to love? What is the difference between love and being in love?
The Greek language has four different kinds of love: philla (love of friends), eros (erotic, passionate love), storge (parental love), agape (love of human-kind). We are growing lonelier and more people are living alone. Anxiety and depression are increasing. We are designed to love. We are designed to seek contact and connections.
Love is our greatest strength.
Who is the fairest of them all?
Move over Snow White, who needs a princess when you can have a Goddess? Briefly mentioned in Homer’s Illiad but described in more detail in the epic poem Cypria, we learn of Aphrodite’s role in the Trojan War. And it all started with an apple.
Eris, goddess of discord, is pissed off that she wasn’t invited to a wedding – the wedding of Achilles’ parents. To get even for the invite snub, Eris gives an apple to the goddesses inscribed with “for the fairest.” Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena all claim this title. Zeus, who knows better than to get involved, makes Paris, Prince of Troy, decide who is the fairest of them all.
So what do the three goddesses do? They resort to bribery. Paris passes up power and wisdom for Aphrodite’s bribe of the most beautiful mortal woman – Helen, who happens to be married. And, as we know from Homer, the rest is herstory!
Sailing, takes Aphrodite away from love and into battle?
Following the Hesiod birth story and her connection to the sea, Aphrodite is often depicted coming out of a giant shell or holding a conch shell. Couple this with her ability to create unity, many sailors and merchants, especially in Gravisca, worshiped her as a goddess with power over the sea who could provide safe sailing. Add in the syncretic influence of Near Eastern goddesses, we can picture Aphrodite as a badass goddess of war, with helmet and spear in hand!
Aphrodite, mother of Valentine’s Day.
As we enter into February and prepare for Valentine’s Day, we should remember Aphrodite as the mother to Eros. The Erotes are the quintessential combination of the Goddess of Love and the God of War, Ares. Seen as angelic chubby cherubs, or Cupids to the Romans, the Erotes were naughtly little gods of love armed for the battlefield with their bows and arrows.
The Getty Conservation Research Foundation Museum