Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty, and my favorite of all the goddesses. It is said that any man that gazed into her eyes would find himself hopelessly entranced by her elegance and charm.
She is often depicted riding inside of a golden chariot which was drawn by a bevy of lovely white swans. Doves and sparrows were known to be sacred to her as well as roses, pearls, cockle shells and the myrtle tree.
Below please find two well loved tales which feature the goddess Aphrodite and her propensity for mischief. I hope you enjoy them.
The Birth of Aphrodite
The story of Aphrodite’s birth is shrouded in a clouded of mystery. While Homer clearly states that she was the daughter of Zeus and the Titaness Dione, Hesiod traces the goddess’s beginnings to a much earlier point in time.
To understand Hesiod’s interpretation of the lineage of Aphrodite, one must travel far back in antiquity to the hour of the castration of Uranus. It seems that in the earliest of days Uranus of the heavens frequently covered over Gaia of the earth, causing her to conceive many children.
After giving birth to the twelve Titans, Gaia bore to Uranus the Cyclopes, three powerful giants all bearing one large eye in the center of their foreheads.
After her next encounter with Father Sky, Gaia brought forth another trio of behemoths known as the Hecatoncheires. These were enormous creatures who all conveyed upon their person 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 cruelly hid them away deep inside the pit of Tartarus.
With her heart laden with grief, Gaia desperately begged the Titans for help, but sadly only her youngest son Cronus had the courage to come forward and avenge the fate of his siblings.
Gaia supplied her champion with a flint-bladed sickle, and when Cronus was sure Uranus was sound asleep, he quietly entered his father’s bedchamber and swiftly sliced off his testicles.
He then tossed the pair into the sea causing a thick layer of foam to bubble on top of the water. It is from this divine spray that the goddess Aphrodite first made her entrance into the world.
A slightly different version tells us that Aphrodite independently rose from the froth of the sea. Sailing atop of a scallop shell, the goddess first rode to the Island of Cythera. But because she found 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 those she was nothing more than a scheming vixen who often used her bewitching powers to trick men into doing her bidding.
Aphrodite, Ares and the Net of Hephaestus
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 quite 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 while lingering about in Ares’ bed. Now it came to be that Helios happened to catch a glimpse of the two unsuspecting lovers as he was slowly driving the sun chariot across the vast and misty heavens.
Unable to keep quiet, Helios quickly flew to Hephaestus and reported everything he saw. Feeling very hurt and angry, the fire god stood before his forge and hammered out a bronze hunting net, which he then 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 matters that had come to light in the city of Corinth. Pretending not to mind, the scorned god politely excused himself, stating that he had affairs of his own to tend to on the isle of Lemnos.
But 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 warmly embraced and then happily climbed into Aphrodite’s marriage bed. The evening moved along in its usual fashion, but when the first hints of dawn began to color the early morning sky, it became apparent to the unscrupulous couple that something was very wrong.
For no matter how hard they tried, neither could release themselves from the clutches of the brazen net! 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 only 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 heartily at the prospect.
Hephaestus promised to free his prisoners if and when Zeus returned to him the marriage gifts that were paid to secure the hand of 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.
In an attempt 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 responsible for paying back the wedding gifts, since it was he not Zeus who was caught frolicking with the goddess.
Hepheastus agreed, but only under the condition that if for any reason Ares failed to comply, Poseidon would step in and replace him under the net. Not wanting to appear overly eager, Poseidon slyly stated that he fully trusted Ares to keep his word.
Then, in a loud and overly dramatic voice he added “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 shallow scheme.
Ares was set free and promptly returned back to his home in Thrace, while Aphrodite traveled back to Paphos and 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 obligated to the calamity than Zeus.
In the end Hephaestus forgave Aphrodite and the entire ordeal was forgotten. In truth, Hephaestus was just one of many who could not break free from the magical spell of the goddess of love.
The Judgement of Paris
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. To find its true beginnings one must look deep into the realm of love and jealousy.
It all began with the wedding of Peleus and the nymph Thetis. It seems that all of the Olympians had received an invitation except for 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 kept the guests mesmerized until finally 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 high above his head. Naturally all of the goddesses deemed themselves worthy of the prize and to the delight of Eris a large squabble soon broke out amongst the group. After a good deal of 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 travel to the city of Troy where Paris, the son of King Priam could be found tending his sheep.
According to the legend, when Queen Hecuba of Troy was very heavy with child, she began to dream of giving birth to a flaming sword.
Knowing that her stepson Aesacus was blessed with the gift of second sight, she invited him into her bedchamber to interpret the meaning of her vision.
Aesacus warned the queen that the images clearly indicated the city of Troy was destined to fall at the hands of her unborn child. However when Paris was born neither Priam nor Hecuba found themselves able to take the life of their new son.