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The Goddess of Love, Desire, and Beauty, Aphrodite, was Worshipped by Ancient Greece for Many More Reason

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Today we look at Aphrodite as a goddess of love, desire, and beauty, but in ancient Greece she was an Olympian who was worshipped on many other occasions for a great array of reasons. Her powers carried weight in the many realms of love, protection, desire, and even war.

Aphrodite was said to be born of the sea from the severed genitals of Ouranos. While the myth says she washed upon the shores of Cyprus in the foam of the ocean, her actual origins are more unclear. She does not seem to be native to early Greek religion and considering the location of Cyprus it is very likely that centuries of cultural interaction led to the formation of the goddess we now know as Aphrodite. Evidence to support this claim is found in knowing that she is very reminiscent of the Arkadian goddess Ishtar and Phoenician Astarte, both goddesses of power, fertility and war who, like Aphrodite, were known for their fierce jealousy and sexuality.

The Birth of Venus. Sandro Botticelli, 1485. In this painting we see Venus (the Roman name for Aphrodite) emerging from the sea. In art Aphrodite is often shown being transported by a giant sea shell as a reference to her birth from the sea onto the island of Cyprus.

Aphrodite was more than just a beauty in ancient Greece. The Greeks believed she could be useful in many situations. This is most likely why she typically has multiple shrines within one city. The themes are mostly sexual, but could also pertain to marriage and fertility. Her shrines in Korinthos were known centers for “sacred prostitution” where young priestesses would worship Aphrodite by offering their bodies to men, who pay by leaving sacrifices to the goddess. Sometimes these men would “pay” by leaving her more women. This act of “sacred pros...

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... her own anger and ultimately became one of her greatest joys and her deepest sorrow. (Martin, 94-95)

I. After reading these myths about Aphrodite, I am having trouble deciding if she was simply a selfish and malicious god who used her powers to take revenge on those who did not serve her (ex. Symrna), or was she mischievous and not fully aware of what problems her meddling would create (ex. Trojan War)?
Translated from German the title of this work is Aphrodite and Eros. Painted in 1785 by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowieki. It depicts Aphrodite with her almost constant companion Eros, also known as Love or Cupid. This painting is different from the norm in representations of Aphrodite because she is clothed. For the most part in art, Aphrodite is shown either completely naked with her hand covering her genitals (like above) or wrapped with a silk cloth around her hips.
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