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Aphrodisia

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Aphrodisia

This article is about the Greek goddess. For other uses, see Aphrodite (disambiguation).
"Pandemos" redirects here. For the butterfly, see Pandemos (butterfly).
Aphrodite

Abode Mount Olympus
Symbol Dolphin, Rose, Scallop Shell, Myrtle, Dove, Sparrow, Girdle, Mirror, and Swan
Consort Hephaestus, Ares, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus, Adonis, and Anchises
Parents Uranus[1] or Zeus and Dione[2]
Siblings Ares, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus, Hebe, Hermes, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Hephaestus, Perseus, Minos, the Muses, the Graces, The Tree Nymphs, The Furies and The Gigantes
Children Eros,[3] Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, Pothos, Anteros, Himeros, Hermaphroditos, Rhode, Eryx, Peitho, Tyche, Eunomia, The Graces, Priapus and Aeneas
Roman equivalent Venus

Aphrodite (

According to Hesiod's Theogony, she was born when Cronus cut off Uranus's genitals and threw them into the sea, and she arose from the sea foam (aphros). According to Homer's Iliad, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione.

Because of her beauty, other gods feared that their rivalry over her would interrupt the peace among them and lead to war, so Zeus married her to Hephaestus, who, because of his ugliness and deformity, was not seen as a threat. Aphrodite had many lovers—both gods, such as Ares, and men, such as Anchises. She played a role in the Eros and Psyche legend, and later was both Adonis's lover and his surrogate mother. Many lesser beings were said to be children of Aphrodite.

Aphrodite is also known as Cytherea (Lady of Cythera) and Cypris (Lady of Cyprus) after the two cult sites, Cythera and Cyprus, which claimed to be her place of birth. Myrtle, doves, sparrows, horses, and swans were said to be sacred to her. The ancient Greeks identified her with the Ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor.[5]

Aphrodite had many other names, such as Acidalia, Cytherea and Cerigo, each used by a different local cult of the goddess in Greece. The Greeks recognized all of these names as referring to the single goddess Aphrodite, despite the slight differences in what these local cults believed the goddess demanded of them. The Attic philosophers of the 4th century, however, drew a distinction between a celestial Aphrodite (Aprodite Urania) of transcendent principles, and a separate, "common" Aphrodite who was the goddess of the people (Aphrodite Pandemos).

Etymology

Aphrodite, perhaps altered after aphrós (ἀφρός) "foam", stems from the more archaic Cretan Aphordíta and Cypriot Aphorodíta, and was probably ultimately borrowed from Cypriot Phoenician.[6] Herodotus and Pausanias recorded that Aphrodite's oldest non-Greek temple lay in the Syrian city of Ascalon where she was known as Ourania, an obvious reference to Astarte. This suggests that Aphrodite's cult located at Cythera-Cyprus came from the Phoenicians. The fact that one of Aphrodite's chief centers of worship remained on the southwestern Cypriot coast settled by Phoenicians, where the goddess had long been worshiped as Ashtart (ʻštrt), points to the transmission of Aphrodite's original cult from Phoenicia to Cyprus then to mainland Greece.[7] So far, however, attempts to derive the name from Aphrodite's Semitic precursor have been inconclusive.

A number of folk etymologies have been proposed through the ages. Hesiod derives Aphrodite from aphrós "foam," interpreting the name as "risen from the foam".[8][9] Janda (2010), accepting this as genuine, claims the foam birth myth as an Indo-European mytheme. Janda intereprets the name as a compound aphrós "foam" + déatai "[she] seems, shines" (infinitive *déasthai[10]), meaning "she who shines from the foam [ocean]", supposedly a byname of Eos, the dawn goddess.[11] Likewise, Mallory and Adams (1997)[12] propose an Indo-European compound *abʰor- "very" and *dʰei- "to shine", also referring to Eos. However, etymologies based on comparison with Eos are unlikely since Aphrodite's attributes are entirely different from those of Eos (or Vedic Ushas).[13] Finally, the medieval Etymologicum Magnum offers a highly contrived folk etymology, deriving Aphrodite from the compound habrodíaitos (ἁβροδίαιτος), "she who lives delicately", from habrós + díaita. The alteration from b to ph is explained as a "familiar" characteristic of Greek "obvious from the Macedonians",[14] despite of course that the name cannot be of Macedonian origin.

A number of improbable non-Greek etymologies have been suggested in scholarship. One Semitic etymology compares Aphrodite to the Assyrian barīrītu, the name of a female demon that appears in Middle Babylonian and Late Babylonian texts.[15] Hammarström (1921)[16] looks to Etruscan, comparing (e)prϑni "lord", an Etruscan honorific loaned into Greek as πρύτανις. This would make the theonym in origin an honorific, "the lady". Hjalmar Frisk and Robert Beekes (2010) rejects this etymology as implausible, especially since Aphrodite actually appears in Etruscan in the borrowed form Apru (from Greek Aphrō, clipped form of Aphrodite).

Mythology

Birth

Aphrodite is usually said to have been born near her chief center of worship, Paphos, on the island of Cyprus, which is why she is sometimes called "Cyprian", especially in the poetic works of Sappho. However, other versions of her myth have her born near the island of Cythera, hence another of her names, "Cytherea".[17] Cythera was a stopping place for trade and culture between Crete and the Peloponesus, so these stories may preserve traces of the migration of Aphrodite's cult from the Middle East to mainland Greece.

In the most famous version of her myth, her birth was the consequence of a castration: Cronus severed Uranus' genitals and threw them behind him into the sea. The foam from his genitals gave rise to Aphrodite (hence her name, meaning "foam-arisen"), while the Erinyes (furies), and the Meliae emerged from the drops of his blood.[18] Hesiod states that the genitals "were carried over the sea a long time, and white foam arose from the immortal flesh; with it a girl grew." The girl, Aphrodite, floated ashore on a scallop shell. This iconic representation of Aphrodite as a mature "Venus rising from the sea" (Venus Anadyomene[19]) was made famous in a much-admired painting by Apelles, now lost, but described in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder.


In another version of her origin,[20] she was considered a daughter of Zeus and Dione, the mother goddess whose oracle was at Dodona. Aphrodite herself was sometimes also referred to as "Dione". "Dione" seems to be a feminine form of "Dios", the genitive form case of Zeus, and could be taken to mean simply "the goddess" in a generic sense. Aphrodite might, then, be an equivalent of Rhea, the Earth Mother, whom Homer relocated to Olympus.

In Homer, Aphrodite ventures into battle to protect her son, Aeneas, is wounded by Diomedesk and returns to her mother to sink down at her knee and be comforted.

Adulthood

Aphrodite is consistently portrayed, in every image and story, as having had no childhood, and instead being born as a nubile, infinitely desirable adult. She is often depicted nude. In many of the later myths, she is portrayed as vain, ill-tempered and easily offended. Although she is married—she is one of the few gods in the Greek Pantheon who is—she is frequently unfaithful to her husband.

Aphrodite's husband Hephaestus is one of the most even-tempered of the Hellenic deities, but in the Odyssey she is portrayed as preferring Ares, the volatile god of war because she is attracted to his violent nature. Aphrodite is one of a few characters in the Odyssey whose actions are a major contributing cause of the Trojan War: she offers Helen of Troy to Paris, and as the goddess of desire, she is responsible for Paris becoming so inflamed with desire for Helen at first sight that he is moved to abduct her.

According to one version of Aphrodite's story, because of her immense beauty Zeus fears that the other gods will become violent with each other in their rivalry to possess her. To forestall this, he forces her to marry Hephaestus, the dour, humorless god of smithing. In another version of the story, Aphrodite marries Hephaestus after his mother, Hera casts him off Olympus, deeming him too ugly and deformed to inhabit the home of the gods. His revenge is to trap his mother in a magic throne. In return for her release, he demands to be given Aphrodite's hand in marriage.

Hephaestus is overjoyed to be married to the goddess of beauty, and forges her beautiful jewelry, including the cestus, a girdle that makes her even more irresistible to men. Her unhappiness with her marriage causes Aphrodite to seek other male companionship, most often Ares, but also sometimes Adonis.

Adonis


Aphrodite was Adonis' lover and a surrogate mother to him. Cinyras, the King of Cyprus, had an intoxicatingly beautiful daughter named Myrrha. When Myrrha's mother commits hubris against Aphrodite by claiming her daughter is more beautiful than the famed goddess, Myrrha is punished with a never-ending lust for her own father. Cinyras is repulsed by this, but Myrrha disguises herself as a prostitute, and secretly sleeps with her father at night.

Eventually, Myrrha becomes pregnant and is discovered by Cinyras. In a rage, he chases her out of the house with a knife. Myrrha flees from him, praying to the gods for mercy as she runs. The gods hear her plea, and change her into a myrrh tree so her father cannot kill her. Eventually, Cinyras takes his own life in an attempt to restore the family's honor.

Myrrha gives birth to a baby boy named Adonis. Aphrodite happens by the myrrh tree and, seeing him, takes pity on the infant. She places Adonis in a box, and takes him down to Hades so Persephone can care for him. Adonis grows into a strikingly handsome young man, and Aphrodite eventually returns for him. Persephone, however, is loath to give him up, and wishes Adonis would stay with her in the underworld. The two goddesses begin such a quarrel, Zeus is forced to intercede. He decrees that Adonis will spend a third of the year with Aphrodite, a third of the year with Persephone, and a third of the year with whomever he wishes. Adonis, of course, chooses Aphrodite.

Adonis begins his year on the earth with Aphrodite. One of his greatest passions is hunting, and although Aphrodite is not naturally a hunter, she takes up the sport just so she can be with him. They spend every waking hour with one another, and Aphrodite is enraptured with him. However, her anxiety begins to grow over her neglected duties, and she is forced to leave him for a short time. Before she leaves, she gives Adonis one warning: do not attack an animal which shows no fear. Adonis agrees to her advice, but, secretly doubting her skills as a huntress, quickly forgets her warning.

Not long after Aphrodite leaves, Adonis comes across an enormous wild boar, much larger than any he has ever seen. It is suggested that the boar is the god Ares, one of Aphrodite's lovers made jealous through her constant doting on Adonis. Although boars are dangerous and will charge a hunter if provoked, Adonis disregards Aphrodite's warning and pursues the giant creature. Soon, however, Adonis is the one being pursued; he is no match for the giant boar.

In the attack, Adonis is castrated by the boar, and dies from a loss of blood. Aphrodite rushes back to his side, but she is too late to save him and can only mourn over his body. Wherever Adonis' blood falls, Aphrodite causes anemones to grow in his memory. She vows that on the anniversary of his death, every year there will be a festival held in his honor.

On his death, Adonis goes back to the underworld, and Persephone is delighted to see him again. Eventually, Aphrodite realizes he is there, and rushes back to retrieve him. Again, she and Persephone bicker over who is allowed to keep Adonis until Zeus intervenes. This time, he says Adonis must spend six months with Aphrodite and six months with Persephone, the way it should have been in the first place.

The Judgement of Paris

Main article: Judgement of Paris


The gods and goddesses, as well as various mortals, were invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (the eventual parents of Achilles). Only the goddess Eris (Discord) was not invited, but she arrived with a golden apple inscribed with the word kallistēi ("to the fairest one"), which she threw among the goddesses. Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena all claimed to be the fairest, and thus the rightful owner of the apple.

The goddesses chose to place the matter before Zeus, who, not wanting to favor one of the goddesses, put the choice into the hands of Paris. After bathing in the spring of Mount Ida (where Troy was situated), the goddesses appeared before Paris. Having been given permission by Zeus to set any conditions he saw fit, Paris required the goddesses to undress before him to be evaluated. (Alternatively, the goddesses themselves chose to disrobe.) Still, Paris could not decide, as all three were ideally beautiful, so the goddesses resorted to bribes.

Hera tried to bribe Paris with control over all Asia and Europe, while Athena offered wisdom, fame, and glory in battle, and Aphrodite offered the most beautiful mortal woman in the world as a wife, and he accordingly chose her. This woman was Helen, who was, unfortunately for Paris, already married to King Menelaus of Sparta. The other two goddesses were enraged by this, and through Helen's abduction by Paris, they brought about the Trojan War.

Consorts and children

  1. Hephaestus
  2. Ares
    1. Phobos
    2. Deimos
    3. Harmonia
    4. Adrestia (or Adrasteia (nymph) or Adrasteia (goddess))
    5. The Erotes
      1. Eros[3]
      2. Anteros
      3. Himeros
      4. Pothos
  3. Poseidon
    1. Rhode
  4. Hermes
    1. Tyche
    2. Peitho
    3. Eunomia
    4. Hermaphroditos
  5. Dionysus
    1. The Charites (Graces)
      1. Thalia
      2. Euphrosyne
      3. Aglaea
    2. Priapus (N.B. Some say that Adonis, not Dionysus was the father of Priapus)[21]
  6. Adonis
    1. Beroe
    2. Golgos[21]
  7. Phaethon (son of Eos)
    1. Astynoos
  8. Anchises
    1. Aeneas
    2. Lyrus
  9. Butes
    1. Eryx
  10. unknown father
    1. Meligounis + several more unnamed daughters[22]

Other myths

In one version of the story of Hippolytus, she was the catalyst for his death. He scorned the worship of Aphrodite for Artemis and, in revenge, Aphrodite caused his stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him, knowing Hippolytus would reject her.

In the most popular version of the story, as told in the play Hippolytus by Euripides, Phaedra seeks revenge against Hippolytus by killing herself and, in her suicide note, tells Theseus, her husband and Hippolytus' father, that Hippolytus had raped her. Hippolytus was oath-bound not to mention Phaedra's love for him and nobly refused to defend himself despite the consequences.

Theseus then cursed his son, a curse Poseidon was bound to fulfill, so Hippolytus was laid low by a bull from the sea that caused his chariot-team to panic and wreck his vehicle. Hippolytus forgives his father before he dies and Artemis reveals the truth to Theseus before vowing to kill the one Aphrodite loves (Adonis) for revenge.

Glaucus of Corinth angered Aphrodite. When he was competing in the chariot race at the funeral games of King Pelias she drove his horses mad and they tore him apart. His ghost was said to frighten horses during the Isthmian Games.[23]

In one Greek myth, Aphrodite placed the curse of snakes for hair and the stone-gaze upon Medusa and her sisters. Aphrodite was jealous of the three sisters' beauty, and she grew so jealous, she cursed them.

Forms of Aphrodite

For the Amathusian Aphrodite, see Aphroditus.


By the late 5th century BC, certain philosophers had begun to draw a distinction between two separate "Aphrodites" (as opposed to a single Aphrodite whose characteristics varied slightly in different local cults of the goddess): Aphrodite Ourania, the celestial Aphrodite, born from the sea foam after Cronus castrated Uranus, and Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Aphrodite "of all the folk", born from the union of Zeus and Dione.[24] Among the neo-Platonists and, later, their Christian interpreters, Aphrodite Ourania is associated with spiritual love, and Aphrodite Pandemos with physical love (desire). A representation of Aphrodite Ourania with her foot resting on a tortoise came to be seen as emblematic of discretion in conjugal love. (We know of this representation, said to have been a chryselephantine sculpture made by Phidias for Elis, only from a parenthetical comment by the geographer Pausanias).[25]

Plato, in his Symposium,[26] has one of his characters, an Athenian named Pausanias (no relation to the geographer Pausanias), describe Aphrodite as two goddesses, one older, the other younger. The older one, Urania, is the daughter of Uranus, and inspires homosexual male (and more specifically, ephebic) love/eros; the younger is named Pandemos, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and all love for women comes from her. The speech of Pausanias distinguishes two manifestations of Aphrodite, represented by the two stories: Aphrodite Ourania ("heavenly" Aphrodite), and Aphrodite Pandemos ("Common" Aphrodite).[27]

Aphrodite is also known as Areia,[28] showing her connection to Ares, the god of war, whom she had extramarital relations with. As a result, she was, to some extent, made into a goddess of war. This is especially true in Sparta.

Comparative mythology

Ancient Near Eastern parallels

The religions of the ancient Near East have a number of love goddesses that can be argued to be similar to certain aspects of Aphrodite.

Her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia.

Hans Georg Wunderlich further connects Aphrodite with the Minoan snake goddess.[29]

The Egyptian snake goddess Wadjet was associated with the city known to the Greeks as Aphroditopolis (the city of Aphrodite).[30]

Pausanias states the first to establish a cult of Aphrodite were the Assyrians, after the Assyrians the Paphians of Cyprus and then the Phoenicians at Ascalon. The Phoenicians, in turn, taught her worship to the people of Cythera.[31]

An origin of (or significant influence on) the Greek love goddess from Near Eastern traditions was seen with some skepticism in classical 19th-century scholarship. Authors such as A. Enmann (Kypros und der Ursprung des Aphroditekultes 1881) attempted to portray the cult of Aphrodite as a native Greek development.

Scholarly opinion on this question has shifted significantly since the 1980s, notably due to Walter Burkert (1984), and the significant influence of the Near East on early Greek religion in general (and on the cult of Aphrodite in particular) is now widely recognized as dating to a period of orientalization during the 8th century BC, when archaic Greece was on the fringes of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.[32]

In native Greek tradition, the planet had two names, Hesperos as the evening star and Eosphoros as the morning star. The Greeks adopted the identification of the morning and the evening stars, as well as its identification as Ishtar/Aphrodite, during the 4th century BC, along with other items of Babylonian astrology, such as the zodiac (Eudoxus of Cnidus).

Comparison with the Indo-European dawn goddess

It has long been accepted in comparative mythology that Aphrodite (regardless of possible oriental influences) preserves some aspects of the Indo-European dawn goddess *Hausos (properly Greek Eos, Latin Aurora, Sanskrit Ushas).[33]

Janda (2010) etymologizes her name as "she who rises from the foam [of the ocean]" and points to Hesiod's Theogony account of Aphrodite's birth as an archaic reflex of Indo-European myth. Aphrodite rising out of the waters after Cronus defeats Uranus as a mytheme would then be directly cognate to the Rigvedic myth of Indra defeating Vrtra, liberating Ushas.[11]

Cult of Aphrodite

The epithet Aphrodite Acidalia was occasionally added to her name, after the spring she used for bathing, located in Boeotia (Virgil I, 720). She was also called Kypris or Cytherea after her birth-places in Cyprus and Cythera, respectively, both centers of her cult. She was associated with Hesperia and frequently accompanied by the Oreads, nymphs of the mountains.

Her festival, Aphrodisia, was celebrated across Greece, but particularly in Athens and Corinth. At the temple of Aphrodite on the summit of Acrocorinth (before the Roman destruction of the city in 146 BC), intercourse with her priestesses was considered a method of worshiping Aphrodite. This temple was not rebuilt when the city was re-established under Roman rule in 44 BC, but the fertility rituals likely continued in the main city near the agora.

Aphrodite was associated with, and often depicted with, the sea, dolphins, doves, swans, pomegranates, sceptres, apples, myrtle, rose trees, lime trees, clams, scallop shells, and pearls.

One aspect of the cult of Aphrodite and her precedents that Thomas Bulfinch's much-reprinted The Age of Fable; or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855 etc.) elided[34] was the practice of ritual prostitution in her shrines and temples. The euphemism in Greek is hierodoule, "sacred slave." The practice was an inherent part of the rituals owed to Aphrodite's Near Eastern forebears, Sumerian Inanna and Akkadian Ishtar, whose temple priestesses were the "women of Ishtar," ishtaritum.[35]

The practice has been documented in Babylon, Syria and Palestine, in Phoenician cities and the Tyrian colony Carthage, and for Hellenic Aphrodite in Cyprus, the center of her cult, Cythera, Corinth and in Sicily (Marcovich 1996:49); the practice however is not attested in Athens. Aphrodite was everywhere the patroness of the hetaera and courtesan. In Ionia on the coast of Asia Minor, hierodoulai served in the temple of Artemis.

Gallery

References and sources

References
Sources

External links

  • Theoi Project, Aphrodite information from classical literature, Greek and Roman art
  • The Glory which Was Greece from a Female Perspective
  • Sappho's Hymn to Aphrodite, with a brief explanation`

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