Classic Literature | 22 January 2016Mythological Love: Aphrodite and Venus Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. In light of the upcoming day of love, let’s look at the Greek and Roman goddesses of love and beauty. In E.M. Berens’ Mythology: Who’s Who in Greek and Roman Mythology, he gives an in-depth overview of Aphrodite and Venus, including their origin and important relationships. APHRODITE & VENUS Aphrodite (from aphros, “sea-foam,” and dite, “issued”), was the Goddess of Love and Beauty. As she was the most beautiful of the goddesses, the gods all vied with each other in aspiring to the honor of her lovely hand, but Hephæstus became the envied possessor of her hand in marriage when she was given to him by Zeus, as a gift in thanks for forging his thunderbolts. The marriage brought much unhappiness, owing to the preference Aphrodite showed at various times for some of the other gods and also for mortal men. Aphrodite was the mother of Eros (Cupid), the God of Love, who she had with Ares (Mars). She was also the mother of Æneas (with the mortal Anchises), the great Trojan hero and the head of the Greek colony that settled in Italy that became the city of Rome. As a mother Aphrodite claims our sympathy for the tenderness she exhibits towards her children. Homer tells us in his Iliad, how, when Æneas was wounded in battle, she came to his assistance, regardless of personal danger, and was herself severely wounded in attempting to save his life. The celebrated Venus de Milo, now in the Louvre museum, is an exquisite statue of this divinity. The head is beautifully formed; the rich waves of hair descend on her rather low, but broad forehead and are caught up gracefully in a small knot at the back of her head; the expression on her face is most bewitching, and bespeaks the perfect joyousness of a happy nature combined with the dignity of a goddess; the drapery falls in careless folds from the waist downwards; and her whole attitude is the embodiment of all that is graceful and lovely in womanhood. She is of medium height, and the form is perfect in its symmetry and faultless proportions. Aphrodite is also frequently represented in the act of confining her dripping locks in a knot, whilst her attendant nymphs envelop her in a gauzy veil. Her usual attendants are the Charites or Graces (Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia), who are represented undraped and intertwined in a loving embrace. The animals sacred to her were the dove, swan, swallow, and sparrow. Her favorite plants were the myrtle, apple tree, rose, and poppy. Aphrodite possessed a magic girdle (the famous cestus) that she frequently lent to unhappy maidens suffering from the pangs of unrequited love, as it was endowed with the power of inspiring affection for the wearer, whom it invested with every attribute of grace, beauty, and fascination. The Birth of Aphrodite In Hesiod’s Theogony Aphrodite is supposed to belong to the more ancient divinities, and, whilst those of later date are represented as having descended one from another, and all more or less from Zeus, Aphrodite has a variously accounted for, yet independent origin. Some myths say she was the daughter of Zeus and a sea-nymph called Dione, who gave birth to her beneath the waves; but the child of the heaven-inhabiting Zeus was forced to ascend from the ocean-depths and mount the snow-capped summits of Olympus in order to breathe that ethereal and most refined atmosphere that pertains to the celestial gods. The most poetical version of her birth, however, is that when Uranus was wounded by his son Cronus, his blood mingled with the foam of the sea, whereupon the bubbling waters at once assumed a rosy tint, and from their depths arose, in all the surpassing glory of her loveliness, Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty! Shaking her long, fair tresses, the water-drops rolled down into the beautiful seashell in which she stood, and became transformed into pure glistening pearls. Wafted by the soft and balmy breezes, she floated on to Cythera, and was thence transported to the island of Cyprus. Lightly she stepped on shore, and under the gentle pressure of her delicate foot the dry and rigid sand became transformed into a verdant meadow, where every varied shade of color and every sweet odor charmed the senses. The whole island of Cyprus became clothed with verdure, and greeted this fairest of all created beings with a glad smile of friendly welcome. Here she was received by the Horæ (Seasons), who decked her with garments of immortal fabric, encircling her fair brow with a wreath of purest gold, whilst from her ears depended costly rings, and a glittering chain embraced her swan-like throat. And now, arrayed in all the panoply of her irresistible charms, the nymphs escorted her to the dazzling halls of Olympus, where she was received with ecstatic enthusiasm by the admiring gods and goddesses. Aphrodite and Adonis Aphrodite was most tenderly attached to a lovely youth, called Adonis, whose exquisite beauty has become proverbial. He was a motherless babe, and Aphrodite, taking pity on him, placed him in a chest and entrusted him to the care of Persephone, who became so fond of the beautiful youth that she refused to part with him. Zeus, being appealed to by the rival foster-mothers, decided that Adonis should spend four months of every year with Persephone, four with Aphrodite, whilst during the remaining four months he should be left to his own devices. He became, however, so attached to Aphrodite that he voluntarily devoted to her the time at his own disposal. Adonis was killed, during the chase, by a wild boar, to the great grief of Aphrodite, who bemoaned his loss so persistently that Hades, moved with pity, permitted him to pass six months of every year with her, whilst the remaining half of the year was spent by him in the lower world. The Roman Venus The Venus of the Romans was identified with the Aphrodite of the Greeks. The worship of this divinity was only established in Rome in comparatively later times. Annual festivals, called Veneralia, were held in her honor, and the month of April, when flowers and plants spring forth afresh, was sacred to her. She was also worshipped as Venus Cloacina (or the Purifier), and as Venus Myrtea (or the Myrtle Goddess), an epithet derived from the myrtle, the emblem of Love. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: Explore classic stories of the great Greek and Roman heroes, gods, and monsters. Who’s Who in Classical Mythology is an indispensable guide to all the Greek and Roman mythological characters, from major deities such as Athena and Bacchus, to the lesser-known wood nymphs and centaurs. Also included, of course, are the heroic mortals, figures such as Jason, Aeneas, Helen, Achilles, and Odysseus, all brought to life in a fascinating series of portraits drawn from a wide variety of ancient literary sources. Each entry offers a small window into a timeless mythological world, one filled with epic battles, bizarre metamorphoses, and all sorts of hideous and fantastic monsters. The perfect book for casual browsers and folklore enthusiasts alike, Who’s Who in Classical Mythology offers a rich and readable guide to some of the greatest stories ever told. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.