Hera- Zeus’ Queen
Hera (Juno to the Romans) was one of the 12 great Olympian Gods, sister and wife of Zeus, and the Queen of Heaven. When she and Zeus wed Gaia gave her a gold apple bearing tree in a beautiful western garden, beyond the sunset as a wedding gift.She was the goddess of marriage and childbirth. Forget the Disney version of Hera. In myth and literature Hera is most often represented as a capricious and vindictive figure.
She and Zeus had 3 children together: Ares, the god of war, Eleithyia, goddess of childbirth and Hebe, the goddess of youth. Her fourth child Hephaestus was said to have been born of Hera alone (i.e. he had no father). Hephaestus was born lame, Hera was so humiliated that she threw him from Olmypus. He fell into the sea and was brought up by Thetis and Eurynome. He eventually took revenge on his mother. He sent her a glistening golden throne which invisibly bound her in place a soon as she sat down. He refused to release his mother, despite appeals by the other gods, until Dionysus got him drunk.
Hera was continually jealous of Zeus’ many affairs and often punished his lovers and children with other women. The most famous of which was Heracles, son of Zeus and Alcmene.
First Hera delayed his birth, then sent snakes to kill him in his cradle. Unfortunately for her, even as a baby Heracles was heroic and strangled the snakes. She continued to afflict him throughout his life. She nurtured the Hydra and Nemean Lion personally to be formidable enemies for the hero and worse of all drove Heracles temporarily insane, in this mad rage Heracles murdered his wife and their children. At the end of his laborious life Heracles became a god, Hera finally made peace with him and gave him her daughter Hebe as his wife.
She tried to deny Leto, pregnant with the twins Artemis and Apollo by Zeus, any place to give birth. Fortunately for Leto she found the floating island of Delos who agreed to let her give birth there. However Hera kept Eileithyia on Olympus. The labour continued for 9 days until the other gods demanded the goddess of childbirth be allowed to deliver the babies.
Io, an Argive priestess of Hera, was seduced by Zeus who then turned her into a cow to hide her from Hera. Hera found out and sent a gadfly to torture the poor girl in cow form and chase her all over the earth. When Io gave birth to her son by Zeus, Epaphus, Hera had him stolen and Io was forced to wander the earth again to look for him.
As the protector of marriage, Hera had no lovers herself. However several attempts were made on her virtue. Ixion, a mortal tried to rape her. She told Zeus and he fashioned a cloud in the likeness of Hera. He put the cloud in Ixion’s bed and Ixion promptly ravaged the cloud (I have no idea how that is even possible…). Zeus hen punished him by binding him to the spokes of an ever-turning wheel of fire for eternity.
When the judgement of Paris went against her, Hera firmly sided with the Greeks in the Trojan war. In one instance she wishes to distract him from the battlefield and so seduces him. She borrows Aphrodite’s golden girdle which makes Zeus overwhelmingly attracted to her. Zeus tells her “Never before have I wanted anyone so much, not when I love Ixion’s wife, not when I love Danae, not when I loved…” chronicling his many infidelities.
She blinded Teiresias for siding with Zeus against her in an argument whether a man or a woman experienced the great sexual pleasure. Hera must have been arguing that Zeus was enjoying sex more than her because the answer was that woman experience 10 times more pleasure than a man. Teiresias was asked because he was in the unique position of being a man who turned into a woman for 7 years and then turned back into a man again (how is a very strange story about hitting copulating snakes near Thebes…).
When Side, wife of Orion, claimed that she was as beautiful as the goddess Hera. Hera cast her into Hades. She also took away Echo’s voice other than the ability to repeat what others had said as punishment for helping Zeus’ lover escape by distracting Hera with constant chatter.
There are so many other examples I could include but I think you’ve started to get a real measure of Hera’s character now. She was not a goddess to be trifled with.
Hera was worshipped throughout the Greek world. Festivals celebrating her marriage to Zeus took place all over Greece. The Argive believed that once a year she descended from Olympus to bathe in their sacred spring, each time she did this they thought her virginity was restored. She was an incredibly important goddess of cult for women.
The oldest and most important temples in Greece were dedicated to her. The two best known were on the island of Samos (6th century BC and one of the largest temples in Greece) and her Argive temple between Argos and Mycenae. In the Argive Heraion there was a colossal ivory and gold statue of Hera enthroned.
In art Hera often carries a sceptre and/or wears a crown. She had a proud and regal demenor in her statues, along with being shown as a great beauty. Her bird was the Peacock. She decorated it’s tail with the many eyes of the All seeing Argus, her faithful watchman, after he was killed by Hermes. Another bird associated with her was the cuckoo. It was in the form of a cuckoo that Zeus seduced Hera before their marriage; Hera took the bird and held it to her breast intending it to be her new pet (rather than a future husband).
Homeric Hymn 12 to Hera:
“I sing of golden-throned Hera whom Rhea bare. Queen of the Immortals is she, surpassing all in beauty: she is the sister and wife of loud-thundering Zeus,—the glorious one whom all the blessed throughout high Olympos reverence and honour even as Zeus who delights in thunder.”
Bacab is the generic Yucatec name for each of the four pre-Spanish, aged Maya deities of the interior of the earth and its water deposits. The Bacabs have more recent counterparts in the lecherous, drunken old thunder deities of the Gulf Coast regions. The Bacabs are also referred to as ‘Pauahtuns’.
The Bacabs “were four brothers whom God placed, when he created the world, at the four points of it, holding up the sky so that it should not fall. […] They escaped when the world was destroyed by the deluge.” Their names were Hobnil, Cantzicnal, Saccimi, and Hosanek. Each ruled one of the directions and the associated Year Bearer day (one of four New Year days). The four brothers were intimately associated with the four Chaacs, or rain deities, and the Pauahtuns, or wind deities, who were equally associated with the four directions. The Maya of Chan Kom referred to the four skybearers as the four Chacs (Redfield and Villa Rojas).
According to Francisco Hernández (quoted by Las Casas and Diego López de Cogolludo), Bacab was the son of the creator god, Itzamna, and of the goddess Ixchebelyax; he had once been humbled, killed, and revived. The Bacabs played an important role in the cosmological upheaval associated with Katun 11 Ahau, when Oxlahuntiku ‘Thirteen-god’ was humbled by Bolontiku ‘Nine-god’. According to the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, “then the sky would fall, it would fall down, it would fall down upon the earth, when the four gods, the four Bacabs, were set up, who brought about the destruction of the world.”
Since they were Year Bearer patrons, the Bacabs were important in divination ceremonies. They were approached with questions about crops, weather, or the health of bees (Landa), and often invoked in curing rituals (which is the basic reason why the most important early-colonial collection of Yucatec curing texts, the Ritual of the Bacabs, has been named after them).
Of the ‘Grandfathers’ of the Gulf Coast corresponding to the Bacabs, the most powerful one is responsible for opening the rainy season. The four earth-carrying old men are sometimes conceived as drowned ancestors who are serving for one year; then, other drowned men are substituted for them. Together with this comes the concept that the powerful ‘Grandfather’ only grows old over the course of the year.
In earlier representations (which are not restricted to the Yucatán), the Bacabs who carry the sky are represented by old men carrying the sky-dragon. They can have the attributes of a conch, a turtle, a snail, a spider web, or a bee ‘armour’. In the rain almanacs of the Post-Classic Dresden Codex, the old man with the conch and the turtle is put on a par with Chaac. This old man corresponds to god N in the Schellhas-Zimmermann-Taube classification, a god of thunder, mountains, and the interior of the earth.
In Classic Maya iconography, the Bacab occurs in various stereotypical situations:
- Fourfold, the Bacabs are repeatedly shown carrying the slab of a throne or the roof of a building. In this, young, princely impersonators can substitute for them (see fig.), a fact suggestive of the Gulf Coast traditions about drowned ancestors mentioned above. On a damaged relief panel from Pomona, four of these young Bacab impersonators appear to have held the four Classic Year Bearer days in their hands.
- A Bacab inhabiting the Earth Turtle is part of the scenes with the resurrection of the Maya maize god.
- Still unexplained is a recurring scene in which the Bacab, half-hidden in his conch, is held by his wrist, about to be sacrificed with a knife.
The Bacab has a peculiar netted element as a distinguishing attribute serving as a headdress, which might conceivably belong to the sphere of the hunt or of beekeeping. It recurs as a superfix in his hieroglyphical names; its reading is uncertain. Hieroglyphically, one finds conflations of Itzamna (god D) and Bacab (god N), recalling the mythological filiation of the Bacab mentioned above.
7 Wonders of the Ancient World
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Let me set the scene, Ancient Ephesus, one of the greatest harbours on the Eastern Aegean, served as a major link on the chief line of communication between the East and Greece and Rome. It was the gateway to the East for the West. Any Roman governor of the Asia province was bound to first land in Ephesus when he entered his office.
Now days, Ephesus lies several miles from the coast, as the gulf that lead to it has silted up, in Turkey.
Ephesus, as well as a great port, was a religious centre in the ancient world. Near the hill of Ayasaluk lies the site of the great Temple of Artemis, or Diana as she was called by the Romans. The temple once stretch c. 2 km above the city centre however, even the very site of it remained hidden for centuries, buried deep beneath the soil of the plain.
The temple of Artemis was built, and rebuilt several times. The remains visible from its excavation are from its 4th century BC temple. This was built to replace the 6th century temple, which had had columns built by Croesus, King of Lydia (Herodotus tells us, and pieces of column bearing his name have been found. Its great when ancient literature matches the archaeology). This temple was burned down by a man named Herostratus the night Alexander the Great was born. He was said to have done this in the hope of achieving everlasting fame however the Ephesians issued a decree forbidding the mention of his name for all time. Furthermore, they sold treasure and the columns of the old temple to raise funds for a final, spectacular temple on the site. They made the base of this c. 2.7 m higher than the previous temple in an attempt to prevent flooding. The final temple was eventually ransacked and destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD.
The 4th century BC temple was named as a Wonder of the World, partly due to it sheer size, but also because of its beautiful and lavish decoration both inside and out. It’s more unusual features were the use of sculpted column drums on some columns, each nearly 20 ft. in circumference and 6 ft. high. It attracted thousands of pilgrims in antiquity.
The temple was excavated by Mr. Wood in 1870, however the remains were scanty. This was due to the temple being used as a quarry in later centuries and its stone reused in other buildings. This lack of evidence has lead to much debate over the architecture of this vast structure.
A number of reconstructions of the wonder have been produced, some extremely fanciful, others not so much, based on the archaeology, the written sources, and of course the artists imagination.
Pliny (10.36.95) describes the temple as the largest ever built, made entirely of marble, 425 feet long and 225 feet wide (close to double the size of the Parthenon at Athens), with 127 columns 60 feet high of which 36 were carved with reliefs. He also states that it took 120 years to complete. It was said to reach into the clouds themselves. Some ancients proclaimed it the only temple on Earth to be fit for a god, and as the greatest wonder the sun would ever see, only surpassed by Olympus itself.
Practically, the temple functioned as a bank and as a place of asylum, as well as the focal point of worship and festivals in the goddess’s honour.
The temple was dedicated to the goddess, Artemis Ephesus, a “multi-breasted” and distinct facet of Artemis said to have fallen from the sky. This version of Artemis was equated by the Greeks with the original goddess at the site, an Anatolian earth mother goddess when they took over the site. This Artemis appears on statues and works of art wearing a headdress and veil and with bands of animals around her midriff. Her many “breasts” are sometimes thought by scholars to be adornments or part of the goddesses costume rather than her actual breasts, particularly as most of the time they lack nipples. Theories about the “breasts” are numerous. One scholar recently suggested that they were actually the scrotal sacs of sacrificial bulls, said to “masculinise” the goddess and represent “power” and “virility”.
The primary function of the goddess Artemis at Ephesus was that of a protector and a provider. Inscriptions in the city link her to all walks of life, from health to citizenship and debt collecting. The goddess was a central symbol of the city and its people. She was honoured with a great festival and procession past all of the city’s greatest monuments ending at the Great temple itself.
Gold Bangle with Gold and Silver amulets
Middle Kingdom, 1991-1785 BC
Made of two bangles of beaten gold separated by alternating amulets of silver and gold. It is a very rare example, unique for this period. The amulets include animals figures: turtle, hare, snake, baboon and falcon, and symbols: ankh, wedjat eye, djed pillar, bat emblem and two-finger amulet.
The turtle was a symbol of evil, rendered harmless by being shown immobilized. The hare, noted for its fertility and survival skills symbolised life. The snake represented new life. The baboon, the herald of the rising sun, was also a manifestation of the god Thoth. The ankh was the heiroglyph for life. The wedjat was the powerfully protective healed eye of the falcon-god Horus. The djed pillar was the hieroglyph for stability. The Bat emblem was the face of the protective cow-eared goddess. The two-finger amulets may represent the fingers of the embalmer, giving extra protection.
Statue of Ptah
Made of Bronze and Gold
This masterpiece statuette depicts standing Path, the main deity of Memphis. His body is enveloped by a tightly fitting robe leaving exposed only his hands with bracelets on wrists holding a was-scepter and an ankh-sign; he wears a scull-cap, a broad collar and a pleated artificial beard. The eyes, collar, bracelets, beard and the eye and the ear of the finial of the scepter are inlayed with gold. The statuette had originally been held up by a long tenon.
Enthroned Goddess (probably Astarte)
First half of the 6th Century BC
Astarte was the Phoenician goddess of fertility, love and death. She is often shown in this manner sitting on a throne.
Bronze Figure of Nike, Goddess of Victory
Greek c.550 BC
Made in South Italy
Probably a from a large bowl
Nike is shown running forwards with her right foot placed delicately on a rising scroll. It may have been one of a series that ran around a bowl.
Her wings are intricately worked into an out stretched arch enhancing the feeling of movement. Her hair sweeps backwards and she pulls her dress up with her left hand.
Amun, reconstructed Egyptian imn (imun) (also spelled Amon, Amoun, Amen, Zeus Amun, and rarely Imen or Yamun, Greek Ἄμμων Ammon, and Ἅμμων Hammon), was a god in Egyptian and Berber mythology who in the form of Amun-Ra became the focus of the most complex system of theology in Ancient Egypt. Whilst remaining hypostatic, Amun represented the essential and hidden, whilst in Ra he represented revealed divinity. As the creator deity “par excellence”, he was the champion of the poor or troubled and central to personal piety.
Amun was self-created, without mother and father, and during the New Kingdom he became the greatest expression of transcendental deity in Egyptian theology. He was not considered to be immanent within creation nor was creation seen as an extension of himself. Amun-Ra did not physically engender the universe. His position as King of Gods developed to the point of virtual monotheism where other gods became manifestations of him. With Osiris, Amun-Ra is the most widely recorded of the Egyptian gods. He was also widely worshipped in the neighboring regions of Ancient Libya and Nubia.
Amun created himself alone. His first wife was Wosret, but he later married Amunet and Mut. Along with Mut he is a father of the moon god Khonsu and the three of them become what is known as the Theban triad.
When the army of the founder of the Eighteenth dynasty expelled the Hyksos rulers from Egypt, the victor’s city of origin, Thebes, became the most important city in Egypt, the capital of a new dynasty. The local patron deity of Thebes, Amun, therefore became nationally important. The pharaohs of that new dynasty attributed all their successful enterprises to Amun and they lavished much of their wealth and captured spoil on the construction of temples dedicated to Amun.
As the Egyptians considered themselves oppressed during the period of the Hyksos rule, the victory accomplished by pharaohs who worshipped Amun, brought him to be seen as a champion of the less fortunate. Consequently, Amun was viewed as upholding the rights of justice for the poor. By aiding those who traveled in his name, he became the Protector of the road. Since he upheld Ma’at (truth, justice, and goodness), those who prayed to Amun were required, first, to demonstrate that they were worthy by confessing their sins. Votive stelae from the artisans’ village at Deir el-Medina record:“[Amun] who comes at the voice of the poor in distress, who gives breath to him who is wretched..You are Amun, the Lord of the silent, who comes at the voice of the poor; when I call to you in my distress You come and rescue me…Though the servant was disposed to do evil, the Lord is disposed to forgive. The Lord of Thebes spends not a whole day in anger; His wrath passes in a moment; none remains. His breath comes back to us in mercy..May your ka be kind; may you forgive; It shall not happen again.”
Much later, because of the evidence of the adoration given to Amun in many regions during the height of his cult, Greek travellers to Egypt would report that Amun—who they determined to be the ruler of the Egyptian pantheon—was similar to the leader of the Classical Greek pantheon, Zeus, and therefore they became identified by the Greeks as the same deity. Likewise, Amun’s consort Mut became associated by these Greeks with Zeus’s consort in the Classical pantheon, Hera.
Praises of Amun on stelae are strikingly similar in language to those later used in the reign of Akhenaton, in particular the Hymn to the Aten:“When thou crossest the sky, all faces behold thee, but when thou departest, thou are hidden from their faces … When thou settest in the western mountain, then they sleep in the manner of death … The fashioner of that which the soil produces, … a mother of profit to gods and men; a patient craftsmen, greatly wearying himself as their maker..valiant herdsman, driving his cattle, their refuge and the making of their living..The sole Lord, who reaches the end of the lands every day, as one who sees them that tread thereon … Every land chatters at his rising every day, in order to praise him.”
Subsequently, when Egypt conquered Kush, they identified the chief deity of the Kushites as Amun. This Kush deity was depicted as ram-headed, more specifically a woolly ram with curved horns. So Amun became associated with the ram: indeed, due to the aged appearance of the Kush ram deity.
Since rams were considered a symbol of virility due to their rutting behavior, Amun also became thought of as a fertility deity, and so started to absorb the identity of Min, becoming Amun-Min. This association with virility led to Amun-Min gaining the epithet Kamutef, meaning Bull of his mother, in which form he was found depicted on the walls of Karnak, ithyphallic, and with a scourge, as Min was.
In areas outside of Egypt where the Egyptians had previously brought the cult of Amun his worship continued. In Nubia, where his name was pronounced Amane, he remained a national deity, with his priests, at Meroe and Nobatia, regulating the whole government of the country via an oracle, choosing the ruler, and directing military expeditions. According to Diodorus Siculus, these religious leaders even were able to compel kings to commit suicide, although this tradition stopped when Arkamane, in the 3rd century BC, slew them.
In Libya there remained a solitary oracle of Amun in the Libyan Desert at the oasis of Siwa. The worship of Ammon was introduced into Greece at an early period, probably through the medium of the Greek colony in Cyrene, which must have formed a connection with the great oracle of Ammon in the Oasis soon after its establishment. Ammon had a temple and a statue, the gift of Pindar, at Thebes, and another at Sparta, the inhabitants of which, as Pausanias says, consulted the oracle of Ammon in Libya from early times more than the other Greeks. At Aphytis, Chalcidice, Ammon was worshipped, from the time of Lysander, as zealously as in Ammonium. Pindar the poet honoured the god with a hymn. At Megalopolis the god was represented with the head of a ram (Paus. viii.32 § 1), and the Greeks of Cyrenaica dedicated at Delphi a chariot with a statue of Ammon.
Such was its reputation among the Classical Greeks that Alexander the Great journeyed there after the battle of Issus and during his occupation of Egypt, where he was declared “the son of Amun” by the oracle. Alexander thereafter considered himself divine. Even during this occupation, Amun, identified by these Greeks as a form of Zeus, continued to be the principal local deity of Thebes. Iarbas, a mythological king of Libya, was also considered a son of Hammon.
The Ancient Olympics
In honour of the modern Olympic Games, starting officially tonight in London, I thought we’d put out a post about the original Greek games that inspired the modern revival.
According to traditional records, the very first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC at the Greek city of Olympia in honour of their patron deity Zeus. They continued to be staged there for 12 centuries until the emperor Theodosius in 339 AD banned all ‘pagan’ cults.
Olympia is located in the western part of the Peloponnese. Here there was a vast sanctuary of temples, shrines, votive buildings and sporting facilities. The grandest temple was dedicated to Zeus himself and contained a great gold and ivory statue which was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. There was a smaller temple dedicated to Hera parallel to Zeus’. From as early as the 10th century BC Olympia functioned as a meeting place not only for worship but also other religious and political practices.
Sporting facilities included a stadium and hippodrome.
The games were held every 4 years and were closely linked to the festivals of the cult of Zeus. At the height of the games 100 bulls were sacrificed to Zeus. During the Games young men would complete to show their physical prowess and they encourage good relations between the Greek city states.
During the games an ‘Olmypic Truce’ was enacted so that athletes could travel to the games to compete.
All free male Greek citizens were entitled to take part in the games regardless of their social status. There are records of all walks of society taking part, from generals to shepherds, from kings to philosophers. Married women could not attend however unmarried women could (though they were almost certainly chaperoned) and there was a seat in the stadium reserved for the priestess of Demeter. There were a separate games held at Olympia for women, the Heraea Games, dedicated to the goddess Hera.
At the Olympics athletes competed in the nude as the festival was supposed to celebrate in part the achievements of the human body. They would also covered themselves in olive oil to make skin feel smooth and provide an appealing look for the participants.
Events of the Ancient Olympics included:
- Penthathlon: inc. Wrestling, jumping, discus throw and running races
- Wrestling: which only ended when one admitted defeat
- Running races: Various distances and one in full armour
- Jumping with lead weights
- Discus and Javelin
- Boxing: with straps worn on the hands
- Pankration: a form of martial art, a combination of wrestling and boxing. Considered one of the toughest events. It was said to have been created by Theseus when he defeated the Minotaur.
- Equestrian Events: Chariot races and horse races.
One of the greatest victors of the ancient games was a man named Leonidas from Rhodes. He won a total of 12 Olympic wreaths, all in running events at four consecutive games. An impressive feat even by today’s standard.
The victors were rewarded with a palm branch, and a wreath on his head which he was expected to dedicate to Zeus in the temple. He would also have red ribbons tied to his hands and head as a mark of victory. The major appeal to the victor however was to achieve a sort of immortality. The deeds of victors were recorded for posterity and poems were written for them so their memory would survive long after their death.
Greek goddess of the hearth and its fire, she was called Vesta by the Romans. She was a goddess central to every home. Daughter of Cronos and Rhea, she was both the first and last born of their children. Since Cronos swallowed each of his children at birth, and disgorged them in the same order.
Both Poseidon and Apollo attempted to woo the goddess but instead of marrying she renounced sexual love and swore an oath of chastity. To compensate this Zeus granted her special honours, for as goddess of the hearth she was worshipped in every household and in all the temples of the gods (rather than having numerous temples of her own).
She appears little in art and myth, however she was an important goddess who received part of every burnt sacrifice made and who was worshipped in every home.
Her Homeric Hymn (29.1-6) reads:
Hestia, you have won an eternal home and the greatest of honours in the high dwellings of all, both immortal gods and men who walk the earth.
Glorious is your privilege and your praise.
For without you men can have no feasts, and to you the sweet wine is poured both first and last
For more information see:http://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Hestia.html
Necklace with the head of the Egyptian God Bes
6th-4th Century BC
In the 5th century B.C. a homogeneous style of Persian court art and architecture was created that derived from the practices of the peoples that the Achaemenid kings ruled over: Ionian Greeks, Lydians, Mesopotamians and Egyptians.
Rich in figural imagery, this necklace is made up of Achaemenid elements, with a head of Bes, an Egyptian god; plaques of a male figure with a horse; and lotus terminals. Depictions of a double-winged Ahura Mazda are rendered in cloisonné on a circular gold earring. Parallels for this jewelry come from the sites of Susa and Pasargadae in southern Iran.
Pair of Gold Earrings with Ganymede and the Eagle
c. 300 BC
Source:The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Under a large honeysuckle palmette, hang the finely worked figures of the Trojan prince Ganymede and Zeus, in the for of an eagle. Ganymede was said to have been so beautiful that Zeus carried him off to Mt. Olympus and made him his immortal cup bearer. In return for taking Ganymede, Zeus gave the boys father Tros some of the divine horses of the gods.
Zeus put Ganymede in the stars as the constellation of Aquarius who is associated with that of the eagle Aquila.
Aphrodite was one of the 12 great Olympian deities. She was the goddess of erotic love, the giver of beauty and sexual attraction, and was identified as Venus by the Romans. The planet Venus was named after her and is the only planet named after a goddess (the rest are gods).
There are two myths surrounding Aphrodite’s birth which are commonly cited by ancient writers. To Homer she was simply the daughter of Zeus, the king of the Gods, and Dione, whose name literally means “the goddess”. According to Hesiod, Aphrodite has a much more interesting birth, she was created when Cronos, son of Uranus and Gaia, hacked off his father’s genitals (on his mother’s orders) with a sickle and threw them into the swirling ocean. The genitals floated around in the waves, eventually becoming surrounded by foam. It was from this foam, “aphros”, that Aphrodite was born.
She washed ashore, either on Cythera or Cyprus (depending on which Greek tradition you are following). She emerged already in the form of a beautiful woman and was immediately attended to by the Hours and Graces who adorned her with fine jewels and took her to Olympus.
The gods immediately began to quarrel which of them would marry her, when they saw the beautiful goddess. Zeus, fearing a war between the gods, gave her to the lame smith-god Hephaestus. However, being the goddess of sexual desire, was not a faithful wife.
Her most regular lover was Ares, the god of War. Hephaestus found out about this affair from the sun-god Helios who sees all things. Hephaestus made a golden net and set it up above the bed. He told his wife he was going to the Lemnos and naturally Aphrodite decided to use this opportunity to meet with Ares. The net descended on them both. Hephaestus then called in all of the other gods in order to shame the pair (the goddesses stayed away out of modesty). Hermes confessed to Apollo that to be in bed with Aphrodite was worth a far greater penalty.
Aphrodite and Ares had two children, a daughter Harmonia and son Eros (though in some traditions Eros was born at the beginning of time out of nothing). She had many other children from other lovers too. These include Priapus to Dionysus and Hermaphroditus to Hermes (I guess he got to her bed eventually).
She wore an enchanted girdle which made her so overwhelming attractive that men could not resist their desire for her. She lent this to Hera during the Trojan War so she could distract Zeus’ attention from the battlefield.
In literature, Aphrodite was celebrated for the power of love and extent of her dominion. The only living beings immune to her influence were the three virgin goddesses: Athena, Artemis and Hestia. Every other living thing, mortal and immortal alike, were open to the power and pain of love. She often inflicted helpless love on her fellow immortals, so Zeus made her fall in love with the Trojan prince, Anchises, so she would know what it was like to be tormented by love for a mortal. She bore him a son called Aeneas.
She adored another mortal, a huntsman called Adonis. She was so infatuated with him that she took up hunting herself. She pulled up her skirt to her knees and ran through the woods like Artemis. Tragically Adonis was killed by a wild boar and Aphrodite created the blood red anemone from his blood as a token of her grief.
She was often involved in mortal concerns by aiding lovers and punishing those who rejected love. She helped Hippomenes win Atalanta’s love (in a footrace by dropping shiny apples to distract the girl), and made Dido fall in love with Aeneas and shelter him in Carthage. Most famously she gave Helen’s love to Paris and so started the Trojan War. However, Hippolytus rejected love in honour of the virgin goddess Artemis. So Aphrodite made his step mother Phaedra fall in love with him. This lead to Theseus, his father, to curse him and Poseidon sent a bull to spook Hippolytus’ horses and he was dragged to death when his chariot overturned. The women of Lemnia were said to have neglected Aphrodite so she inflicted them with a terrible smell.
Her concerns even spread to the animal world. An individual called Glaucus kept his prize winning mares from mating to improve their performance on the race course. This upset Aphrodite so she made the mares mad, they tore Glaucus to pieces and then ate his remains.
Pottery Kernos (multiple vessel)
Phylakopi I Culture
Kernos with twenty narrow cups around central bowl. Painted with black zigzag lines on cups and stand. Traces of white paint on supports between cups.