The Gods of Greek and Roman Mythology - Aphrodite (Venus)
Role in the Mythos: Goddess of Love
- Patron of Beauty and Procreation
- Protector of Lovers
- Parents: The Sea
- Spouse: Hephaestus
- Famous Children: Eros (Cupid), Harmonia, Aeneas
- Conch shell
- Myrtle tree
- Beguiling to both gods and men
- Sometimes deadly or destructive
Myths to Know:
Birth from the Sea
After Cronus overthrows his father, Uranus, to become king of the gods, he castrates Uranus and throws his genitals into the sea. As they sink into the ocean, Uranus’s genitals make a great foam from which Aphrodite arises. Surrounded by foam, she is blown to shore by a sweet wind. In this same castration, the Furies and nymphs arise from Uranus’s blood.
Aphrodite and Adonis
Adonis is a beautiful youth, probably the most beautiful man in the world. After he is born, Aphrodite falls in love with him and gives him to Persephone to raise. Persephone refuses to relinquish him when he has come of age, so Zeus decides that Adonis will spend the summers and springs with Aphrodite and the winters and falls in the underworld with Persephone. One day while Adonis is in the world of the living with Aphrodite, he encounters a wild boar. In some versions of the story, the boar is Ares in disguise, jealous that his paramour Aphrodite is so taken with this youth. The boar gores Adonis before Aphrodite can stop it. He dies in her arms as she kisses his face. The blood that falls from him sprouts crimson flowers.
Persecution of Psyche
Aphrodite becomes jealous of a mortal woman named Psyche, who surpasses even Aphrodite in beauty. Aphrodite sends her son Eros (Cupid) to force Psyche to fall in love with a hideous beast. However, when Eros sees her, he falls instantly in love with her and decides to hide her from his mother. He tricks Psyche and all the mortals into believing that she has been stolen away by a horrific serpent, and he instructs Psyche to never look at him. However, Psyche’s sisters convince her that she is being tricked by her husband and is in danger, so Psyche looks at him while he sleeps. Because she has betrayed his trust, Eros leaves her instantly. Psyche goes to Aphrodite to beg forgiveness. Aphrodite devises a series of tasks to punish the girl: she ordered Psyche to separate a heap of miniscule seeds by type; she told Psyche to collect the golden wool from vicious sheep; she told Psyche to fill a flask with water from the River Styx; and she sent Psyche to ask Proserpine for some of her beauty. Psyche succeeded at all of her tasks with supernatural help, until her vanity urged her to open the vial filled with Proserpine’s beauty. Rather than giving her beauty, whatever was in the box cast her into a deep sleep. Cupid, longing to be reunited with his love, found the sleeping Psyche. He took the sleep from her eyes, and the two were reunited. Cupid, determined to keep his wife forever, convinced Jupiter to make her immortal.
Pygmalion is a sculptor who scorns women and refuses to marry. He decides to sculpt a statue of a perfect woman to show all men the imperfections of the women they love. After he is done, the woman he has created is so beautiful that he falls desperately in love with her. He is tortured day and night by her lifelessness. He desperately pretends she is real, dressing her in costumes and tucking her in at night, but she remains a statue. Finally, Pygmalion prays to Aphrodite, begging her for a woman like his statue. Aphrodite transforms the statue into a real woman, whom Pygmalion then names Galatea.