Aphrodite Goddess: Love, Beauty and Sensuality
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, lust, physical attraction, and sex. In a world like ancient times, in which sexual relations were not considered sinful or negative, the sphere of influence of the goddess Aphrodite was wide and varied, which explains the great attention that this goddess received, both from the point of view of in view of the development of their myths and the appearance of all kinds of cults throughout the Mediterranean. Indeed, Aphrodite was one of the most revered deities in ancient times, with large temples in major cities and sanctuaries. Such was the strength of this goddess that she ended up absorbing all the minor deities with whom she shared some kind of sphere, in a complex process of religious syncretism that gave rise to a wide variety of different cults and invocations of Aphrodite herself.
The myth of the origin of Aphrodite is related to the very etymology of her name. The Greek term aphrós means foam, and this could lead to the consolidation of the belief that this goddess was born from the sea. According to the oldest myth that has come down to us, collected by the poet Hesiod, after Cronus ripped the genitals from his father, Uranus threw the spoils of this action into the sea, off the coast of Paphos, on the island of Cyprus. From the mixture of the semen and blood of Uranus with the foam of the ocean, the goddess of love was born, already an adult. This version of the birth of Aphrodite has been the most famous, inspiring artists of all times. However, there are other traditions that speak of a different origin for this goddess.
The goddess Aphrodite was given in marriage to the deformed Hephaestus, according to some authors as compensation for the treatment he had received from his parents during childhood due to his ugliness and malformations. Aphrodite's marriage was not at all happy, because the ugliness of Hephaestus ended up disgusting the goddess. She ended up falling into the arms of the handsome Ares, god of war. Both began an adulterous relationship, a relationship that they tried to hide from the rest of the divinities. However, the deception did not last long. Helios, god of the sun, who from the top of the firmament contemplates all the activities of gods and mortals, discovered Aphrodite's infidelity and ran to the forge of Hephaestus to reveal the deception to the god. This, irritated, decided to devise a deception to humiliate his wife and her lover. In his forge he wove an unbreakable silver web. At a time when Ares and Aphrodite were copulating in bed, Hephaestus surprised them and threw the magic net over them. The lovers were trapped by the artifact. Hephaestus, to humiliate them and expose his wife's betrayal, called all the gods to see their intertwined naked bodies. Aphrodite, ashamed, begged her husband to release her, promising to break off her relationship with Ares. Hephaestus, softened by his wife's pleas, decided to remove the net and end the ordeal to which he had subjected the two lovers.
The goddess Aphrodite had a leading role in numerous episodes of the Trojan cycle, helping Priam's armies at all times. The origin of his relationship with the Trojans dates back to a few decades before the war broke out. During the wedding celebration of Thetis and Peleus, the goddess Eris, divinity of discord, angry at not having been invited to the event, made an appearance and threw a golden apple in the middle of the meeting. "For the most beautiful", were his only words before disappearing. The goddesses then began to argue to decide which of them had the right to keep the apple. Three divinities opted for the title of the most beautiful goddess: Athena, Aphrodite and Hera. To prevent the discussion between them from turning violent, Zeus decided to find an impartial judge to settle the dispute. He chose Paris, a shepherd who grazed his cattle on Mount Ida, near Troy. He gave Hermes the golden apple with the order that he take it to the shepherd, so that he would offer it as a present to the goddess he considered most beautiful.
Hermes appeared on Mount Ida and informed Paris of the plans of Zeus. The shepherd accepted the commission, so that the three goddesses appeared before him at the height of their beauty. To try to bribe the judge, each of them offered him a gift if they were chosen. Athena offered him wisdom. Hera conjugal happiness and family happiness. Aphrodite finally promised him the love of the most beautiful mortal woman in the world. Paris did not hesitate for a moment and, either because her gift seemed the most appetizing, or because she considered that this really was the most beautiful goddess, she chose Aphrodite and gave her Eris's apple. In this way, Hera and Athena swore eternal hatred to the shepherd, while Aphrodite became his protector. The goddess wasted no time in fulfilling her promise. When years later Paris discovered that he was not a simple shepherd, but one of the sons of Priam, king of Troy, he returned to the city and began to lead the life that corresponded to him as a prince.
As such, Priam sent him as an ambassador to Sparta, a city in the Peloponnese with which Troy wanted to establish a commercial relationship. When Paris arrived in Sparta, he discovered that their king, Menelaus, was out of town, and that it was his wife, Helen, who acted as regent. Helena was a young woman, daughter of Zeus, considered the most beautiful woman on earth. Paris fell in love with Helena's beauty, and at that moment, Aphrodite kept her promise, causing Helena to fall madly in love with the Trojan prince. Paris kidnapped the young woman and departed on his ships, also taking with him a part of the treasures of Sparta. When Menelaus returned and discovered the kidnapping of his wife, he decided to declare war on the city of Troy, this being the origin of the conflict.
During the war, Paris continued to enjoy Aphrodite's protection. Since he was not a great warrior, every time he had to go into battle, the goddess took care that the mighty Greek heroes did not harm his protégé. Whenever Paris was threatened, Aphrodite covered him with a thick cloud that made him invisible to his enemies and later carried him through the air to his chambers in Priam's palace, where Helen impatiently awaited his return.
Her role as protector of Paris was not the only reason Aphrodite had for protecting the Trojans in battle. She herself, decades before the conflict, had loved a young Trojan named Anchises, with whom she had a son, little Aeneas. Aeneas had grown to become one of Priam's mightiest warrior allies. Anchises, however, had grown old as a mortal, and by the time the Trojan War broke out, Aphrodite had already lost interest in him. The goddess did care at all times to protect her son in battle, covering him with a protective cloud whenever Aeneas was in danger of being injured by Greek weapons. Aphrodite was responsible for warning Aeneas that Troy would fall into the hands of the Greeks, thanks to which the hero left the city before the Argives destroyed it, thus managing to save his life and that of his family.
The scope of action of the goddess Aphrodite was always passionate love, lust and sex, but sometimes she is also associated with motherhood and fertility. Due to the importance that all these aspects had in the ancient world, the cult of Aphrodite was widespread throughout the Mediterranean. In fact, the goddess Aphrodite was one of the divinities that developed a more complex syncretism complex, being assimilated to numerous minor deities of a local type and even to great Eastern goddesses such as Astarte or Isthar.