Aphrodite And Demeter: Two Very Different Goddesses Aphrodite And Demeter: Two Very Different Goddesses Every culture has some form of higher being, to be a model for their behaviour, as well as to look up to. In Greek times, these were the gods and goddesses who made their home on Mount Olympus. Women identified with the goddesses because they shared some feminine attributes. Goddesses were a "symbol of motherhood and fertility, but also of strength, wisdom, caring, nurturing, temperance, chastity, cunning, trickery, jealousy, and lasciviousness' (Clarke, 1999). However, not all of the goddesses possessed all of these attributes. The goddess Aphrodite, for instance, was not nurturing, nor was she very caring.
Aphrodite was one of the nine that were known as the Great Goddesses, "an awful and lovely goddess,' according to Hesiod (Theogony), born of the foam that ensued when Kronos cut off Uranos' genitals and they fell into the sea. She first walked ashore in Cyprus, and was welcomed by the Seasons (Hours): "The breath of the west wind bore her Over the sounding sea, Up from the delicate foam, To wave-ringed Cyprus, her isle. And the Hours golden-wreathed Welcomed her joyously. They clad her in raiment immortal, And brought her to the Gods. Wonder seized them all as they saw Violet-crowned Cytherea.' (Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite). She tempted many, even Zeus: "she beguiles even his wise heart...
mates him with mortal women, unknown to Hera' (Hesiod). The goddess of love, "she was a particular favourite with the city's many prostitutes but also supervised the sexual life of married women' (Blundell, 1998). To curb her promiscuity, Aphrodite was married to Hephaistos (god of the forge), who cared deeply for her, and made her many things, including a girdle woven with magic. When wearing it, Aphrodite was irresistible to all men who knew her.
She encouraged Hephaistos, who was ugly and lame, to sleep separately from her, and had many affairs with both mortal men and gods. She also aided in adultery between mortals, and seemed to even promote it. Zeus, resisted in his advances by Aphrodite, decides to make her desire a mortal man, a cattle-herder by the name of Anchises. However, he looks like an immortal, and Aphrodite falls in love with him. She decks herself out in finery and goes back to where Anchises is on the pastures, "comely as the gods... And Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus stood before him, being like a pure maiden in height and mein, that he should not be frightened of her when he took heed of her with his eyes' (Hesiod).
Anchises wonder out loud if she is indeed one of the Goddesses, and Aphrodite tells him that she is not; she is a mortal that was told by the Slayer of Argus that she should marry him [Anchises] and have children. She puts much love in his heart for her, and they lay together, after which he falls asleep. Meanwhile, Aphrodite changes form, then awakens him and asks him, "'consider whether I look as I did when first you saw me with your eyes'' (Hesiod). Anchises realizes who she really is, and is instantly afraid. Aphrodite assures him, however, that he is liked by the gods, and will have a son by the name of Aeneas "because I felt awful grief in that I laid me in the bed of mortal men' (Hesiod). The Nymphs will bring up the child until he's about five, wherein Aphrodite will bring him to Anchises to see.
If anyone is to ask Anchises about his son, he is to tell him the child was begotten of a Nymph; if he tells about his sexual conquest of Aphrodite, Zeus will destroy him. (Of course, he did tell people, and while he was not killed, he was indeed lamed). Lyr us is also thought to have been the second child of these two. In addition to these lias ions, Aphrodite also carried on an affair with Ares, the god of war.
They had three children together (Phobos, Deimos, and Harmonia), which were probably passed off as the children of Hephaestus. They were caught eventually. The sun observed Aphrodite and Ares together and told Hephaestus, who conspired to catch them. He placed a net in her bed, and they were caught for all the Olympians to see. "She remained married to Hephaestus, but the sight of her voluptuous body tangled in the net probably ignited the passions of her father, her uncle, and her half brother,' (Bell 2000), Zeus, Poseidon, and Hermes, respectively. Hermaphroditus is the child born of Aphrodite's escapade with Hermes; he had both sex organs after conjoining with a nymph in the river.
She also had a child with Dionysus, known as Priapus. Her most well-known child (of unknown parentage) is Eros, known better as the Romans called him, Cupid. As promiscuous as Aphrodite was, she did take pity on others and did help them when they were in need. Melian on was given the golden apples by Aphrodite to win the footrace. She gave Medea passion for Jason so that she would help him obtain the Golden Fleece. She bestowed beauty upon Pandora.
Pygmalion's ivory statue became a living entity because of her. "He used to kiss and fondle it, and bring it presents of flowers, pet birds and jewellry. Eventually Aphrodite took pity on him, and the next time he kissed the statue he felt its body stir beneath his own: ‘ Then Pygmalion poured out his grateful thanks to the goddess, and once again pressed his own lips to lips that were real at last' (Ovid, 8). All ended happily, and Aphrodite herself attended their wedding' (Blundell 1998). On the other hand, those who neglected to worship her, denied love, or compared themselves in beauty to her were punished accordingly. The Sirens, remaining virgins, were made to grow wings.
When some of Poseidon's sons insulted her, she caused them to go mad, so much so that they raped their own mother. Aegeus had no children until he introduced her worship in Athens. Aphrodite also had a hand in the cause of the Trojan War. When King Peli us wedded the sea nymph Thetis, a huge banquet was held in celebration of the union. All the gods and goddesses were invited save one: Eris, the goddess of discord. Eris placed a golden apple into the hall where the banquet was taking place, labeled "for the fairest.' Of course, some infighting began over who the apple was for, Hera, Athena, or Aphrodite.
Zeus refused to make a judgement, so they entreated Paris, prince of Troy, to decide. Each offered him a bribe: Hera, that he would be a powerful ruler; Athena, that he would achieve great military fame; and Aphrodite, that he should have the fairest woman in the world. Paris selected Aphrodite as the fairest and chose as his prize Helen of Troy, the wife of the Greek king Menelaus. Paris's abduction of Helen led to the Trojan War. Aphrodite was worshipped throughout Greece in many ways, "with common elements being dove sacrifices and incense: [also] temple prostitution in Corinth, [and] solemn rites in Athens' (Garriso, 2000). In Sparta, she was worshipped as a battle goddess.
Many of the rites were secret and performed far away from men. In stark contrast to Aphrodite is Demeter. Described by Hesiod as "venerable' and "pure,' she is an agrarian goddess, but is also associated with fertility. Demeter was the daughter of Kronos and Rhea, making her a sister to Zeus. Along with Dionysus, she is one of the few immortals to have known true grief and suffering. Demeter had a daughter, Persephone, from a union with Zeus.
One day, Persephone was out picking flowers with some other girls, when "the wide-patched earth yawned there in the plain of Nysa, and the lord, Host of Many, with his immortal horses sprang out upon her – the Son of Kronos, he who has many names.' Persephone screamed for help as Hades dragged her away on his chariot, but Zeus did not heed, "in his temple where many pray, and receiving sweet offerings from mortal men' (Homer). Demeter did, in fact, hear her daughter, but when she rushed to find her, it was too late and she was gone. "No one would tell her the truth, neither god nor mortal men; and of the birds of omen none came with true news for her.' For nine days Demeter searched, "with flaming torches in her hands,' for Persephone (Homer). On the tenth day of her search, Hecate came to her and told her that, while she had heard Persephone yelling for help, she did not see who it was that had bore her off.
Together they went to Helios, where Demeter beseech ed him to tell her where her daughter had been taken; he told her "cloud-gathering Zeus [who] gave her to Hades, her father's brother, to be called his buxom wife.' In disguise, she goes into town, and is met by four daughters, whose household takes her in. She shows herself to them, and takes care of their infant son. She nursed the boy during the day, but at night put him in the fire, to make him immortal. His mother sees this happen, upon spying one night and is upset about it.
"And the bright goddess, lovely-crowned Demeter, heard her, and was wroth with her... cast [the child] from her to the ground, for she was terribly angry in her heart' (Homer). Demeter leaves then, and that household sought to appease the goddess by having a temple built for her. Demeter herself withdraws from the rest of the immortals, pining for her daughter. "Then she caused a most dreadful and cruel year for mankind over the all-nourishing earth: the ground would not make the seed sprout, for rich-crowned Demeter kept it hid.' Zeus notices this and sends Iris to Demeter, to have her come and see him.
She doesn't heed this, so he sends many other immortals to her, "[Y]et no one was able to persuade her mind and will, so wrath was she in her heart; but she stubbornly rejected all their words: ... [she'd] never set foot on fragrant Olympus nor let fruit spring out of the ground, until she beheld with her eyes her fair-faced daughter' (Homer). Zeus, upon hearing this, sends the Slayer of Argus to Hades, to hopefully sweet-talk him into letting Persephone see her mother. He speeds down to the Underworld and tells Hades of the situation. Hades lets Persephone go, "[B]ut he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter.' Hermes brings Persephone back up by chariot, straight away to Demeter. They embrace, and Demeter asks her daughter if she ate anything while in the Underworld.
Persephone tells her, that against her will, she was given a pomegranate seed. Because of this, for one-third of the year Persephone must stay in the Underworld, but the other two-thirds with all the other immortals. This myth was used to explain the seasons, for when Persephone is in the Underworld, Demeter refuses to let the crops grow, and the soil is barren (winter). This is the most concrete example of what kind of a goddess Demeter was. "Aphrodite had little or no contact with her children... [Demeter] presented an image of a selfless and devoted mother' (Blundell 1998).
Demeter, also, had secret rites performed for her. These were known as the Eleusian Mysteries, and were held in the town of the same name. The ceremonies were held twice every five years, in September and in March. Initiation was open to all; they were sworn to secrecy.
Initiates were purified in the sea, then proceeded from Athens to Eleusis. This all took place over a period of nine days, after which the initiates went back to their very ordinary lives. Bibliography References Blundell, S. (1998). Women in Classical Athens. London: Bristol Classical.
Clarke, A. (2000). The Greek (and Roman) Goddesses. web /> Hesiod. Theogony.
Homer. The Homeric Hymns. Garriso, M. (2000). Classical Mythology – Aphrodite (Venus).