Valentine’s Day is only two days away! That makes it fitting to have the goddess most associated with love as our topic here today on Immortal Monday. And it has been long overdue that this series embrace some mighty girl power! I’ve wanting to do that for some time now. I am tickled pink that the beautiful and talented Karen Rought, known to many as The Midnight Novelist, has graciously offered to host this special event. I met Karen only a short time ago when we embarked upon our Row80 challenge. From the beginning we hit it off and now, here we are! Karen has a great love for art and Greek mythology, and she’s eager to share with us a little of her knowledge right now. With no further ado, I hand everything over to her. The floor is now yours, Karen.
I’d like to sincerely thank Debra for allowing me to contribute to Immortal Monday. This is one of my favorite series to read, and I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk about one of my all-time favorite subjects: Greek mythology! I hope you all enjoy this post as much as I enjoy reading Debra’s.
Aphrodite – the goddess of love. What an iconic figure. Her image and name are everywhere in our society: cupid on Valentine’s Day (that’s Eros, her son), Venus razors (“reveal the goddess in you”), and it doesn’t take a genius to see where the word “aphrodisiac” comes from.
So, do we really know her as well as we think we do? She’s often portrayed as finicky, vain, and jealous. She’s lustful and lures men into her open arms. You wouldn’t be wrong by stating this is true. But you might be surprised that she wasn’t always like this. For better or for worse, Aphrodite’s image has evolved right alongside the rest of us.
There are two distinct versions of Aphrodite’s birth. The most famous one tells us that she was born when Cronus castrated his father Uranus. As the pieces fell into the sea, Aprhodite was born of the foam and drifted to shore on a seashell. In this sense, we can understand why she is associated with lust and sex.
However, there’s another story to be told about her creation. This one involves two gods – Zeus and Dione, a mother goddess. Her birth here was simple and normal (if you can call the birth of a goddess such a thing). The Aphrodite from this story, which some scholars actually consider a separate entity all together, is often looked upon as the people’s goddess. She’s not as heavenly as her counterpart, and a little bit more common.
Either way, Aphrodite did turn out to be quite an independent and manipulative woman. One story tells us how she was forced to marry Hephaestus, the ugly and crippled god of blacksmithing. Well, that didn’t stop her. She went on to have many affairs (as so many of them did), her most famous one being with Ares, the god of war.
Hephaestus loved his wife and gave her many gifts to show his appreciation, but Aphrodite obviously wasn’t satisfied. She loved Ares and even had four children by him: Deimos (Terror), Phobos (Fear), Harmonia (Harmony), and Eros (Sexual Love). Nothing was hidden from Helios, the sun god, and when he spotted the affair, he immediately told Hephaestus. Hephaestus crafted a bronze net and hung it above the lovers’ bed to capture them. When he did, he put the couple on display for all of the other gods and goddesses to laugh at.
But Aphrodite wasn’t deterred and eventually went on to have affairs with others, including mortals like Adonis and Anchises. Adonis was killed by a jealous Ares, and sent to the Underworld. Aphrodite appealed to Zeus, and Adonis was allowed to spend half his time with Persephone (Hades’ wife) and half his time with Aphrodite. Even Anchises didn’t get off unpunished. He was sworn to secrecy about the affair he had with the goddess, but accidentally let it slip one night when he was drunk. As a result, he was blinded by Zeus.
(She really, really liked people with names that start with “A” apparently.)
In another story, we see just how cunning Aphrodite could be. Eris, the goddess of discord, was upset that she wasn’t invited to a party that Zeus threw for Achilles’ parents. As revenge, Eris threw a golden apple into the middle of the party and right at the feet of three of the most important goddesses: Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite. The apple was marked, “To the Fairest.”
Naturally, they argued over who should get the apple. Zeus, being the smart man that he was, refused to call judgment on the matter. (You see, Hera was his sister and his wife, Athena was his daughter, and Aphrodite was either his daughter or his aunt, depending on which story you go by.) Instead, he called for Paris to make the decision. Paris was a mortal, but he was considered to be the most beautiful man on earth. What better person to decide who was the most beautiful goddess, right?
Each goddess bribed Paris with what she thought he might like best. Hera offered to make him King of Europe and Asia. Athena offered him skill and victory in war. Aphrodite offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world – Helen of Troy. But this is the clincher: in many of the stories, Aphrodite was the only one who showed up stark naked.
Three guesses who Paris chose.
The only problem? Helen was married to Menelaus, the king of Sparta. When she ran off with Paris, tensions between Greece and Troy escalated. Thus, the Trojan War began.
Now, all of these examples point to one thing – Aphrodite’s open sexuality and often liberal behavior. But what if I told you she hadn’t always been like this? Would you believe me?
Surprisingly, Archaic Greek evidence depicts a fully clothed, veiled, and stern Aphrodite. She’s often shown with her children, such as Eros. This means that she wasn’t always associated with the erotic, but with conservative reproduction for the sake of procreation. In fact, in Roman mythology she was often worshipped in the spring as a fertility figure and a patron of gardeners.
So, why did Aphrodite change? Or, perhaps a better question would be: why did we change Aphrodite? What was the purpose of transforming her from mother to temptress? Any thoughts?
Fantastic, Karen! Very informative. I would step forward to answer your questions, but I think we should leave it open for the readers. Now, it wouldn’t be a typical Immortal Monday unless we did something fun, right? Aphrodite turned heads and had men quarrelling over her. She made a name for herself in more ways than one. For Aphrodite’s photo montage I present to you…
You know you’re famous when…
Damn girl! You are famous!
Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did. As well as found the ways Aphrodite has influenced our culture equally interesting. May I be the first one is saying, thank you, Karen for a wonderful post. I was honored to have you here today. *Stands and applauds*
o – o - o
You can find Karen Rought (A.K.A. The Midnight Novelist) hanging around her lovely blog, talking about art, history, music and writing. She loves people and making new friends. She’ll easily strike up a conversation with you if you look her up on twitter. And you should! Karen is currently working on her first novel .
If you enjoyed this post or any of my previous posts, I’d be delighted to have you follow by email or RSS for any future posts! Wouldn’t want you to miss out on an Immortal Monday installments.