Ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, desire, and all aspects of sexuality, Aphrodite could entice both gods and men into illicit affairs with her good looks and whispered sweet nothings. Aphrodite had a much wider significance than the traditional view as a mere goddess of love and sex. Worshipped by men, women, and city-state officials, she also played a role in the commerce, warfare, and politics of ancient Greek cities. In addition, Aphrodite was honored as a protector of those who travelled by sea and, less surprisingly, courtesans and prostitutes.
In mythology, the goddess was born when Cronos castrated his father Uranus with a sickle and cast the genitalia into the sea from where Aphrodite appeared amidst the resulting foam. In other versions, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, the Titaness. Believed to have been born close to Cyprus, Aphrodite was especially worshipped in Paphos on the island – a geographic location which hints at her eastern origins as a fertility goddess.
More certain than her origins are that the goddess’ birth and consequent association with the sea was manifested in the location of many coastal sanctuaries dedicated to her and several common epithets such as Aphrodite Pontia (‘of the deep sea’) and Aphrodite Euploia (‘of the fair voyage’). Aphrodite was associated with the brightest planet, Venus, and this, always a valuable navigational aid, may be another connection with ancient mariners.
Aphrodite often represented unity and concord, as well as mixes or ‘mingling’, and this may explain the goddess’ wide range of associations such as warfare and politics, arenas where disparate groups had to work together as one. She was specifically the protectress of city magistrates, too.
Cartwright, Mark. “Aphrodite.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 24 Oct 2018. Web. 24 May 2019.