She was the goddess of Love and Beauty, who beguiled all, gods and men alike; the laughter loving goddess, who laughed sweetly or mockingly at those her wiles conquered; the irresistible goddess who stole away even the wits of the wise.
In origin Aphrodite was obviously a fertility goddess whose domain embraced all of nature, animal and vegetable as well as human. Afterward she became a goddess of love in its noblest aspect, as well as its most degraded.
But perhaps these two have always existed side by side and are one and the same? She was not first a goddess of nature and then a goddess of love, but rather that nature was the more important at that time and therefore received the primary supplications. And so our earliest representations of Aphrodite relate to that thought.
Aphrodite Urania, or celestial Aphrodite was the goddess of pure and ideal love. Aphrodite Genetrix or Nymphia favored and protected marriage, unmarried girls and widows prayed to her in order to obtain husbands. Aphrodite Pandemos (common) or Aphrodite Porne (courtesan) was the goddess of lust or venal love, the patroness of prostitutes.
According to the Greek cosmogany of the universe, Aphrodite Urania was (or is) of a much older generation than Aphrodite Pandemos. Aphrodite Urania is literally the offspring of Uranus. When Gaea complained of the impossibility of her husband to her youngest son Cronus, the young infant honored his mother's wishes by taking care of her problem. Every night Uranus came to lie with Gaea. One night Cronus lay in waiting and as Uranus lay with Gaea, Cronus proceeded to sever his father's genitals. Needless to say, Uranus was rather surprised and removed himself so suddenly that heaven (Uranus) and earth (Gaea or Mother Earth) have ever since been separated.
When the blood of the severed testicles fell into the ocean, the foam which gathered around them sprang or transformed themselves into Aphrodite and she floated through the sea to the island of Cyprus, and this is the place where she is said to have come ashore after her birth.
But Aphrodite was also said to have resulted from the union of Zeus and Dione. This perhaps portrays the different levels of the energy of the two Aphrodites. One representing the celestial love and the other mundane love. Nevertheless the two represent the same fundamental energy.
She repulsed the advances of Hermes until Zeus took pity on him and sent an eagle to snatch her sandal and carry it to him. The goddess had to submit to him in order to recover it. From this union resulted Hermaphroditus, which is a composition of both names. What particular representation does the sandal have to Aphrodite?
Another myth which portrays the same notion follows. When the gods fled to Egypt to escape the monster Typhoeus and transformed themselves into animals, Aphrodite became a fish (Venus in Pisces, the sign of its exaltation). Hyginus added that the Syrians ate neither fish nor doves because of their version of the circumstances of the goddess's birth; a huge egg had fallen into the Euphrates, a fish had rolled it ashore and doves had hatched it; out stepped the goddess. The fish were placed in the stars and the doves were universally held sacred to the goddess, both as the Syrian goddess and as Aphrodite.
Aphrodite was often a goddess of war as well as of love. She had both of these functions in war-like Sparta. She was, moreover, often worshiped together with Ares and was mother by him of Phobus and Deimos (Fear and Panic), his constant companions in battle.
The Greeks made the planets the home of the gods. Aphrodite's home was called 'Phosphorus' which means light bringer.
'In cult to be sure, Aphrodite was called upon, as she was in the Near East, to help in the essential process of generation and fertility for all living things. The poets, however, began to see her more as the personification of the sex drive, the power of love, the rapture of the love embrace, the pleasures and the joys of lovemaking. In the Homeric hymn honoring the goddess, the poet invokes the Muse in these words: "Muse, tell me of the deeds of golden Aphrodite the Cyprian, who stirs up sweet passion in the gods and subdues the tribes of mortal men and birds that fly in the air and all the many creatures that the dry land rears, and all that the sea: all these love the deeds of rich-crowned Cytherea".'
-Classical Mythology in Literature, Art and Music
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