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Aphrodite in the orchard

Aphrodite, also known as Venus, was an Isu who would later be revered as the Greek and Roman goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and femininity; she was even counted among the Twelve Gods, the mightiest deities of the Greek pantheon.

Myths

According to the stories, Aphrodite was born from sea foam near Kythera Island. The town of the same name was said to have been the first to welcome her, and thus Kythera Island became the goddess' home.[1] She was also considered "Zeus' enchanting daughter".[2]

Aphrodite also fell in love with the beautiful Adonis, whom the Greek god of war and violence, Ares slew in anger. For this, the Aloadai, the twin giant sons of the god Poseidon and Iphimedeia, imprisoned Ares in a bronze jar on Naxos Island.[1] In her guise as the Roman Venus, she had a relationship with Mars, the god of war.[3]

At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Eris dropped an apple into the proceedings as a prize for beauty. This led Hera, Athena and Aphrodite to compete, with the Trojan prince Paris called to judge. In order to ascertain her win, Aphrodite promised Paris Helen of Sparta as a reward. [citation needed]

Influence

6th century BCE

Despite knowing the consequences of failure, Kyros of Zarax wished to challenge the princess of Arkadia, Atalanta, to a race, in an attempt to win her hand in marriage. However, on knowing that he was no longer the champion he was in his youth, Kyros traveled to his mentor Pythagoras for help. Pythagoras directed him to an abandoned temple that was dedicated to Aphrodite, and told him that he would find what he needed there.[4]

On his advice, Kyros traveled to the temple but was struck by a fierce blizzard, causing him to pass out at its entrance. During his unconscious state, Kyros was shown a surreal vision of an orchard, where he witnessed a young woman pluck three apples and take them to the temple of Aphrodite. Despite his attempts, the young woman could not hear or see him, leaving Kyros confused.[4]

When Kyros came to, he was covered in snow and without any feeling in his limbs, though he managed to make his way into the temple. Following this, he looked at the spot where Aphrodite had left the three apples, but could only see a single golden apple.[4]

Kyros then took the Apple and used it to defeat Atalanta in a race, through using its power to occasionally interrupt her as she ran. Because of this, it led to Kyros' victory, much to Atalanta's relief, as she did not wish Kyros to have been killed on her father's orders should he have lost.[4]

5th century BCE

Aphrodite's presence in Greece during the Peloponnesian War was great, with statues of her and shrines, altars dedicated to her found almost anywhere, but especially on Kythera Island. Outside of that island, of special note were the Porneion district in Korinth and the Temple of Aphrodite on top of the Akrokorinth in Korinthia, famous for their hetaerae, as led by Anthousa. In Athens, brothels were considered her houses. [1]

17th century

Aphrodite was displayed in a painting given as a wedding gift to Elizabeth Jane Weston by her uncle, John Dee. In a related letter, Dee confirmed that the goddess was real.[5]

Symbols and emblems

Various things were associated with the goddess, one of the most remarkable being doves. On Kythera Island, where she was especially venerated, the island's own banner was emblazoned with the dove.[1]

The 'flowers of Aphrodite' that Kosta, the blacksmith of Opous, asked the Spartan misthios Kassandra to recover from the nearby forest of the Red Lake were another. The red flowers were said to have been planted and blessed by the goddess herself, and had an invigorating effect on humans, said to carry "the fire from one's heart to one's crotch".[6] Another was a type of ore found in a cave in Malis, requested by a Lalaian blacksmith.[7]

In addition, the Gilt-head bream and red apples were considered sacred to her.[1]

Trivia

  • Aphrodite's name is derived from the Greek word αφρός (afrós) meaning 'foam, froth, spume', referring the story of her origins in which the foam of the sea "gathered" and "grew" into the goddess following Kronus tossing the severed genitals of his father, Uranus, into the sea.
  • Several paintings of Venus were displayed at the Villa Auditore's painting gallery.
  • Aphrodite was represented by one of the statuettes that could be collected in Monteriggioni, and could be paired with a statue of Mars. The pair's description read "The god of rage and strength basks in his lover's radiant beauty. She tames his anger with her gentle touch."
  • Most of the statues of Aphrodite in 5th century BCE Greece as shown in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey are based on the Venus Genetrix style. The style is allegedly based on the original bronze sculpture by the Athenian sculptor Callimachus; according to Pliny the Elder's work Natural History, the statue was depicted holding the Apple the goddess had won from Paris.
  • The mural depicting Aphrodite on a goose in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey is based on a painting on a kylix from 5th century BCE.

Appearances

References

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Aphrodite

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