Aphrodite | Mythology, Worship, & Art (2024)

Greek mythology

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Also known as: Pandemos, Urania

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Top Questions

Who is Aphrodite?

Aphrodite is the ancient Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty, identified with Venus by the Romans. She was known primarily as a goddess of love and fertility and occasionally presided over marriage. Additionally, Aphrodite was widely worshipped as a goddess of the sea and of seafaring; she was also honoured as a goddess of war, especially at Sparta, Thebes, Cyprus, and other places.

Where was Aphrodite born?

The Greek poet Hesiod recounts in his epic Theogony that Aphrodite was born from the white foam produced by the severed genitals of Uranus, the personification of heaven, after his son Cronus threw them into the sea. Hence, the goddess’s name comes from the Greek word aphros, meaning “foam.”

What does Aphrodite look like?

In early Greek art, representations of Aphrodite are fully dressed and without features that differentiate her from other goddesses. Greek sculptors of the 5th century BCE were the first to endow her with unique features. Praxiteles’ statue of Aphrodite, carved for the Cnidians, was the first full-scale female nude, and it later became the model for Hellenistic masterpieces such as the Venus de Milo (2nd century BCE).

Who was Aphrodite married to?

Aphrodite was compelled by Zeus to marry Hephaestus, the god of fire. However, they were an imperfect match, and Aphrodite consequently spent time cheating with the god of war, Ares, as well as a slew of mortal lovers, such as the Trojan nobleman Anchises and the youth Adonis.

Who are Aphrodite’s notable offspring?

Aphrodite’s notable divine offspring include those from her affair with Ares, the god of war: Harmonia, the warrior twins Phobos and Deimos, and Eros, the god of love. From her relationship with the mortal Anchises, she became the mother of Aeneas, a mythical hero of Troy and Rome.

Aphrodite, ancient Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty, identified with Venus by the Romans. The Greek word aphros means “foam,” and Hesiod relates in his Theogony that Aphrodite was born from the white foam produced by the severed genitals of Uranus (Heaven), after his son Cronus threw them into the sea. Aphrodite was, in fact, widely worshipped as a goddess of the sea and of seafaring; she was also honoured as a goddess of war, especially at Sparta, Thebes, Cyprus, and other places. However, she was known primarily as a goddess of love and fertility and even occasionally presided over marriage. Although prostitutes considered Aphrodite their patron, her public cult was generally solemn and even austere.

Some scholars believe Aphrodite’s worship came to Greece from the East; many of her attributes recall the ancient Middle Eastern goddesses Ishtar and Astarte. Although Homer called her “Cyprian” after the island chiefly famed for her worship, she was already Hellenized by the time of Homer, and, according to Homer, she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione, his consort at Dodona. In Book VIII of the Odyssey, Aphrodite was mismatched with Hephaestus, the lame smith god, and she consequently spent her time philandering with the handsome god of war, Ares (by whom she became the mother of Harmonia, the warrior twins Phobos and Deimos, and Eros, the god of love).

Britannica QuizFrom Athena to Zeus: Basics of Greek Mythology

Of Aphrodite’s mortal lovers, the most important were the Trojan shepherd Anchises, by whom she became the mother of Aeneas, and the handsome youth Adonis (in origin a Semitic nature deity and the consort of Ishtar-Astarte), who was killed by a boar while hunting and was lamented by women at the festival of Adonia. The cult of Adonis had underworld features, and Aphrodite was also connected with the dead at Delphi.

Aphrodite’s main centres of worship were at Paphos and Amathus on Cyprus and on the island of Cythera, a Minoan colony, where in prehistoric times her cult probably originated. On the Greek mainland, Corinth was the chief centre of her worship. Her close association with Eros, the Graces (Charites), and the Horae (Seasons) emphasized her role as a promoter of fertility. She was honoured by the Roman poet Lucretius as Genetrix, the creative element in the world. Her epithets Urania (Heavenly Dweller) and Pandemos (Of All the People) were ironically taken by the philosopher Plato (in the Symposium) to refer to intellectual and common love; rather, the title Urania was honorific and applied to certain Asian deities, while Pandemos referred to her standing within the city-state. Among her symbols were the dove, pomegranate, swan, and myrtle.

Representations of Aphrodite in early Greek art are fully dressed and without distinguishing features that differentiate her from other goddesses. She first attained individuality at the hands of the great 5th-century-bce Greek sculptors. Perhaps the most famous of all statues of Aphrodite was carved by Praxiteles for the Cnidians. The first full-scale female nude, it later became the model for such Hellenistic masterpieces as the Venus de Milo (2nd century bce).

The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Meg Matthias.

Aphrodite | Mythology, Worship, & Art (2024)
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