Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty. It was said that any man who gazed into her eyes would find himself hopelessly full of desire. She is often shown riding in a golden chariot drawn by lovely white swans. Doves and sparrows were sacred to her as well as the myrtle tree. The story of Aphrodite's birth is somewhat of a mystery. According to Homer she was the daughter of Zeus and the Titan goddess Dione, but the writings of Hesiod tell a completely different tale. His account takes us far back to the castration of Uranus.
In the earliest of times, Uranus of the heavens frequently came and covered over Mother Gaia of the earth, causing her to conceive many children. After giving birth to the twelve Titans, she bore to Uranus the three Cyclopes, powerful giants with one eye in the center of their foreheads.
Her next encounter with Father Sky brought about another trio of behemoths known as the Hecatoncheires. These enormous creatures all donned fifty heads and one hundred hands. Though Uranus felt little affection for any of his children, he found this latest brood to be particularly undesirable. In order to rid himself of these unwanted offspring, he hid them away deep inside the pit of Tartarus.
Heavyhearted and filled with grief, Gaia begged the Titans for help, but only her youngest son Cronus had the courage to come forward and avenge the fate of his siblings. Gaia supplied him with a flint-bladed sickle and while Uranus was sleeping Cronus snuck into his bedchamber and sliced off his testicles. He then tossed the pair into the sea causing a layer of thick foam to bubble on top of the water. It is from this divine spray that the goddess Aphrodite was born.
Yet another version tells us that Aphrodite independently rose from the froth of the sea. Sailing atop a scallop shell, the goddess first rode to the Island of Cythera, but finding its size to be quite small continued on to Cyprus where she took up residence in Paphos. There she was met by the four Seasons, who draped her in beautiful robes and adorned her hair with flowers.
Aphrodite was known to have many different sides to her personality. To some she was the sweet laughter-loving goddess whom the forlorn and anguished sought for help. She was beauty personified, for without her the world would be a place without pleasure and joy. Her every movement filled the breeze with song and the scent of sweet perfume.
But there were others who saw Aphrodite in a different light. To some she was nothing more than a scheming vixen whose bewitching powers often tricked men into doing her bidding.
Ironically, Aphrodite was the wife of Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and blacksmiths. The two made a curious couple, for Hephaestus was much older than his bride and was considered to be the most unattractive of all the Olympians.
The unlikely union was initiated by Zeus who thought it would be a good way of keeping Aphrodite out of trouble. Though Hephaestus considered himself to be quiet lucky, one could say that Aphrodite was less than happy with the arrangement and often sought out the company of other suitors.
Aphrodite's most constant companion was Ares, the god of war. One night while visiting her paramour in his Thracian palace, she lost track of time and stayed to long in Ares' bed. As Helios slowly drove the sun chariot across the misty heavens he happened to catch a glimpse of the two unsuspecting lovers. Unable to keep quiet, the sun god quickly flew to Hephaestus and reported everything he saw. Feeling very hurt and angry, the god of fire stood before his forge and hammered out a bronze hunting net, which he took and secretly fastened to the posts of his marriage bed.
Unaware that Hephaestus was on to her tricks, Aphrodite blamed her absence on some important business she had been conducting in Corinth. Pretending not to mind, the scorned god excused himself stating that he had affairs of his own to tend to on the isle of Lemnos.
As soon as Hephaestus was out of sight, Aphrodite sent word to her beloved Ares to come and join her for another evening of romance. Unaware of the trap that awaited them, the two sweethearts happily climbed into Aphrodite's bed and it was not until the first rosy hints of dawn appeared in the early morning sky that the unscrupulous couple found themselves hopelessly caught in the net of bronze.
Finding the rueful pair naked and unable to escape his finely made snare, Hephaestus invited the other gods to come and witness the injustice that had been done to him. Considering the matter to be in poor taste, the goddesses politely declined leaving the gods to act as enthusiastic spectators.
"I fancy you would not mind being in Ares' position, net and all" Apollo slyly whispered to Hermes. "Even with three hundred nets and all the goddesses as an audience" Hermes replied and both gods laughed at the prospect.
Hephaestus promised to release his prisoners if and when Zeus returned to him the marriage gifts that were paid for his unfaithful wife. Not wanting to get involved in a matrimonial quarrel, Zeus instead scolded Hephaestus for being foolish enough to turn a private disagreement into a public scandal.
Desiring to obtain some of Aphrodite's attention for himself, the sea god Poseidon pretended to take pity on Hephaestus and offered to intervene on his behalf. He loudly proclaimed that Ares should be the one to repay the wedding gifts back to Hephaestus, since it was he not Zeus who was caught frolicking with Aphrodite.
Hepheastus agreed under the condition that if for any reason Ares did not follow through Poseidon would step in and replace him under the net. Not wanting too appear to eager, Poseidon nobly stated that he trusted Ares to keep his word.
Then, in a loud and overly dramatic voice he declared "If in the slim chance that he does not, I will marry Aphrodite myself." This brought about more laughter from Hermes and Apollo who were having no problems seeing through Poseidon's scheme. Ares was set free and returned to his home in Thrace while Aphrodite traveled back to Paphos where she performed a sea ritual to restore her virginity.
Hermes' flattering remarks did not go unnoticed. Aphrodite consented to spend the night with him and together they produced Hermaphroditus, a child having both male and female reproductive organs. Poseidon was also rewarded with a night of love from whence came the birth of two sons; Rhodus and Herophilus. The debt of the marriage gifts was never repaid, as Ares felt he was no more responsible for the situation than Zeus.
In the end Hephaestus forgave Aphrodite and the entire ordeal was soon forgotten. He was one of many who could not break free from Aphrodite's magical spell.
The Trojan War is one of the best known stories of ancient Greece. It is a tale full of mighty warriors and exciting battles, but its origins lie far from the plain of Troy and deep within the realm of love and jealousy. It all started with the wedding of Peleus and the nymph Thetis. All of the Olympians had received an invitation except the war god Ares and his sister Eris, the goddess of discord.Eris took this insult very much to heart and in order to teach the couple a lesson devised a plan that would bring ruin and misery to their happy day. The spiteful goddess hid herself amongst the shadows, and just as the wedding feast was about to begin, quietly rolled a small golden apple into the hall. The brilliant sparkle emanating from the fruit mesmerized the guests until one of the wedding attendants picked it up and read what was inscribed across its gilded middle.
"To The Fairest" he called aloud as he raised the apple above his head. Naturally all of the goddesses deemed themselves worthy of the prize and it was not long before a large squabble broke out amongst the group. After much discussion the choices were narrowed down to three; Hera, Athena and Aphrodite.
The goddesses demanded that Zeus act as judge and award the coveted prize to the most deserving of the bunch. Being too wise to place himself in such a risky predicament, Zeus quickly suggested the trio journey to the city of Troy where Paris, the son of King Priam could be found tending his sheep.
Many years before as Queen Hecuba of Troy lay asleep in her bed, she began to dream of giving birth to a flaming sword. The queen who was very heavy with child called her stepson Aesacus into her chamber for he was blessed with the ability of second sight. Aesacus warned Hecuba that her vision foretold the city of Troy was destined to fall by the deeds of her unborn child.
When Paris was born neither Priam or Hecuba could bring themselves to destroy the infant so the king called forth his best herdsman Agelaus and instructed him to carry out the grizzly deed.
Unable to strike the baby with his sword, Agelaus decided to take him to the top of Mount Ida and leave him there to die. Luckily for Paris he was nursed by a lactating bear and when Agelaus returned a few days later he found the happy boy alive and well.
Agelaus brought the infant home and raised him as his own son. Paris worked as a shepherd and together with his wife Oenone lived a carefree and simple life. One day as he was busy tending his flocks, to his surprise appeared the three bickering goddesses accompanied by Zeus' messenger Hermes. As the rivals paraded before him, Hermes requested that Paris award the apple to the fairest of the three.
Each goddess, in order to improve her chance at winning offered the impressionable young man a bribe. Hera promised that if he chose her she would make him lord of all Europe. Athena promised that if he gave her the apple she would raise Troy up in victory against the Greeks, leaving their homeland in ruins. But Aphrodite, understanding the wants and desires of young men, promised to give Paris the most beautiful woman in the world as his wife.
Paris immediately handed the apple to Aphrodite, and with nary a thought of Oenone accompanied the goddess to the Greek city of Sparta. It was here that Helen of Greece, acclaimed by many to be the most beautiful woman in the world lived with her husband King Menelaus. Fair Helen, radiant as the sun and more lovely than the dawn was regrettably Paris' promised treasure.
Menelaus, unaware of Paris' true motives welcomed the young man into his home. After swearing a bond of allegiance to each other, the king left Sparta and journeyed to the island of Crete. When he returned to the palace he found that both his wife and his handsome young guest were gone.
Filled with rage, Menelaus called upon his brother Agamemnon, the mighty king of Mycenae to come to his defense. Together they vowed to return the Spartan queen home to her lawful husband and slay the traitor that carried her away.
Word of Menelaus' plight spread quickly, and before long a brigade of vessels carrying the bravest warriors in Greece departed the harbor of Aulis and set their eyes on Troy. The vicious battle raged on for ten years. Believing that the end would never come, Odysseus shrewdly devised a plan to dissolve the stalemate and bring a much desired victory to the Greeks.
Under the supervision of the architect Epeius the Greeks fashioned a colossal wooden horse complete with a hollow belly and trap door on its side. It was then inscribed with the words "For their return home the Achaeans dedicate this thank-offering to the goddess Athena" and placed atop of a wheeled platform.
After its completion, thirty of the best Greek soldiers climbed inside of the massive stomach before placing the would be peace offering outside of the gates of Troy.
Leaving on mann behind to act as a sentry, the rest of the army set fire to their tents and sailed off in an imaginary retreat back to their homelands. The Trojans were overjoyed to see the Greek ships drifting away from their shoreline. Could the blood shed really be over? And what was to be made of the perplexing gift that had been left for them?
Rejecting the warnings of both the priest Laocoon and Priam's daughter Cassandra, (who had been given the gift of second sight by Apollo, but later angered the god by not fulfilling a promise and was cursed into having no one believe her prophecies) the Trojans happily accepted the token and wheeled it inside of the city gates.
The people of Troy were delighted over the departure of their enemy. The sounds of celebration and merriment filled the air and the alters were abundant with offerings of gratitude for the gods.
This continued until the shadows of night softly descended over the land and called the weary Trojans into the realm of sleep.
When all was quiet, the Greek soldiers climbed out of the belly of the horse and opened the gates allowing their comrades to enter and take the city by surprise. The attack on Troy was merciless and her walls were burned to the ground.
Those that were not slaughtered were taken as slaves. All that was left of the great empire was a pile of rubble. There is much more to the story of the Trojan War as this is just a small piece used to illustrate the erotic nature of the the goddess Aphrodite.
If you are wondering what happened to Paris, he was killed by Philoctetes before the final siege on Troy. Menelaus returned home to Sparta with Helen by his side and Aphrodite kept the golden apple for herself.
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