Symbols: Swan, mirror, apple, scallop shell
Parents: Uranus (or Zeus and Dione)
Children: Eros, Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, Aeneas
Abode: Mount Olympus
Roman name: Venus
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She is a member of the Twelve Olympian gods who live on Mount Olympus. She is famous for being the most beautiful of the goddesses. She even won a contest!
How was Aphrodite usually pictured?
As you might expect, Aphrodite was usually depicted as a young beautiful woman by the Greeks. She was often pictured with an apple, scallop shell, dove or swan. Eros, the Greek god of love, was sometimes attending to her in art. Aphrodite rode a flying chariot that was pulled by sparrows.
What special powers and skills did she have?
Like all the Greek Olympic gods, Aphrodite was immortal and very powerful. Her special powers were those of love and desire. She had a belt that had the power to cause others to fall in love with the wearer. Some of the other Greek goddesses, such as Hera, would borrow the belt from time to time. Aphrodite had the ability to cause fighting couples to fall in love again.
Birth of Aphrodite
There are two stories in Greek mythology that tell of Aphrodite's birth. The first says that she was the daughter of Uranus, the Greek god of the sky. She appeared out of the foam of the sea, floating on a scallop shell to the island of Cypress. The second story says that she was the daughter of Zeus and the Titaness Dione. Dione helps tend to Aphrodite's wounds in the story of the Trojan War.
Marriage to Hephaestus
Because many of the gods were in love with Aphrodite, Zeus was afraid that a great battle would break out over her. He arranged a marriage between her and the god Hephaestus. In some ways this was funny to the Greeks as Hephaestus was a lame and ugly god. Aphrodite wasn't faithful to Hephaestus, however, and had affairs with several other gods (Ares, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus) and mortals (Adonis, Anchises).
Winning a Beauty Contest
When the goddess Eris was turned away from a party, she tossed a golden apple among the other goddesses that said "To the Fairest" on it. The goddesses Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena all wanted the apple. Zeus decided that a mortal named Paris would decide who deserved the apple.
The three goddesses visited Paris and he had to decide who was the most beautiful. All three goddesses offered him something if he would chose them. Hera offered him power, Athena offered him wisdom and fame, and Aphrodite offered him the love of the most beautiful mortal woman in the world, Helen. Paris chose Aphrodite. However, when Paris stole Helen from a Greek king and took her to Troy, he started the Trojan War.
Aphrodite sided with the Trojans in the Trojan War. This was because both Paris and her son, the hero Aeneas, were Trojans. She also persuaded the god of war, Ares, to support Troy during the war. Aphrodite was very involved in the war, protecting both Paris and Aeneas during battle. At one point she even gets injured and has to return to Mount Olympus for healing.
Interesting Facts About the Greek Goddess Aphrodite
- Many famous works of art have Aphrodite as the subject including the sculpture Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.
- The Greeks would not sacrifice a pig to Aphrodite as one tale tells how a wild boar killed a mortal she loved named Adonis.
- She is sometimes called the Lady of Cyprus.
- When the sculptor Pygmalion fell in love with a statue he had carved, Aphrodite granted his wish and had the sculpture come alive.
For more about Ancient Greece: