The Ancient Library

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On this page: Aphrodite (continued)


their native notions in very old times. This double nature appears immediately in the contradictory tales of her origin. To the oldest Greeks she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione (and is sometimes called that name herself); yet from a very early time she appears as Aphro-glneia, the " foam-born " (see uranus), as AnadydmSne, " she who rises " out of the sea, and steps ashore on Cyprus, which had been colonized by Phoenicians time out of mind; even as far back as Homer she is Kypris, the Cyprian. The same transmarine and Eastern origin of her worship is evidenced by the legend of the isle of Cythera, on which she was supposed to have first landed out of a sea-shell.

Again, the common conception of her as goddess of love limits her agency to the sphere of human life. But she is, at the same time, a power of nature, living and working in the three elements of air, earth, and water. As goddess of the shifting gale and changeful sky, she is Aphrodite Ur&nia, the " heavenly," and at many places in Greece and Asia her temples crowned the heights and headlands; witness the citadels of Thebes and Corinth, and Mount Eryx in Sicily. As goddess of storm and lightning, she was represented armed, as at Sparta and Cythera; and this perhaps explains why she was associated with Are (Mars) both in worship and in legend, and worshipped as a goddess of victory.

The moral conception of Aphrodite Urania as goddess of the higher and purer love, especially wedded love and fruitfalness, as opposed to mere sensual lust, was but slowly developed in the course of ages.


With the sacred cone, or sym­bol of Aphrodite, in a conven­tional representation of the tem­ple at Paphos.

As goddess of the sea and mari­time traffic, espe­cially of calm seas and prosper­ous voyages, she was widely wor­shipped by sailors and fishermen at ports and on sea-coasts, often as the goddess of calm, while Poseidon was the god of distur­bance. Next, as regards the life of the earth, she is the goddess of gardens and groves, of Spring and its bounties, especially tender plants and flowers, as the rose and myrtle; hence.

as the fruitful and bountiful, she was wor­shipped most of all at that season of the year in which her birth from the sea was celebrated at Paphos in Cyprus (comp. cut). But to this, her time of joyful action, is opposed a season of sorrow, when her creations wither and die : a sentiment ex­pressed in her inconsolable grief for her beloved adonis (q.v,), the symbol of vege­tation perishing in its prime.

In the life of gods and men, she shows her power as the golden, sweetly smiling goddess of beauty and love, which she knows how to kindle or to keep away. She outshines all the goddesses in grace and loveliness; in her girdle she wears united all the magic charms that can bewitch the wisest man and subdue the very gods. Her retinue consists of Eros (Cupid), the Hours, the Graces, Peitho (persuasion), P8th5s and HimSrfis (personifications of longing and yearning). By uniting the generations in the bond of love, she becomes a goddess of marriage and family life, and the conse­quent kinship of the whole community. As such she had formerly been worshipped at Athens under the name of PandemOs (= all the people's), as being a goddess of the whole country. By a regulation of Solon, the name acquired a very different sense, branding her as goddess of prostitution; then it was that the new and higher mean­ing was imported into the word Urania. In later times, the worship of Aphrodite as the goddess of mere sensual love made rapid strides, and in particular districts assumed forms more and more immoral, in imitation of the services performed to love-goddesses in the East, especially at Corinth, where large bands of girls were consecrated as slaves to the service of the gods and the practice of prostitution. And later still, the worship of Astarte, the Syrian Aphrodite, performed by eunuchs, spread all over Greece.

In the Greek myths Aphrodite appears occasionally as the wife of Hephaestus. Her love adventures with Ares are notorious. From these sprang Eros and Anteros, Har-monia, the wife of Cadmus, and Deim6s and Ph6b5s (fear and alarm), attendants on their father. By Anchises she was the mother of ^Eneas. The head-quarters of her worship were Paphos, Amathus, and IdiliSn (all in Cyprus), Cnidus in Dorian Asia Minor, Corinth, the island of Cythera, and Eryx in Sicily. As mother of Harmonia, she was a guardian deity of Thebes. Among plants, the myrtle, the rose, and the apple

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