Bullfinch once said, Mythology is the handmaid of literature Yet, I disagree with this statement. Mythology is not subordinate to literature, but instead it reveals an important part of history. Through a greater understanding of mythology we can comprehend ancient cultures better. In Greek Mythology, Aphrodite was one of the most important goddesses of the Olympian pantheon (Dexter, 112). Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty. All the gods desired her, and she was irresistible when she wore her magic girdle.
It was said that she could make any man fall in love with her and, in doing so, she caused many scandals. In today s society her promiscuous ways would be frowned upon, however her sense of independence, glamour, and female sexuality serves as a model for all women. The birth of Aphrodite is unclear. Homer believed her to be the daughter of Zeus and Dione. Yet, Hesiod believed that Kronos castrated Uranus and that Aphrodite was born out of his genitals that had been cast into the sea. In Greek, aph ros means from the foam.
Because her name means foam-born, Hesiod s version of Aphrodite s the agony tends to be more widely accepted. Many tried to win her heart, but she ended up in an arranged marriage to Hephaestus. He was a lame blacksmith who was ugly and deformed. She thought that he would be humble because of his physical attributes; therefore, guaranteeing her freedom. However, she was wrong.
Her husband crafted an invisible, bronze hunting net. He used it to ensnare Aphrodite in bed with her lover, Ares. The other gods came to look on and laugh. Yet, Hephaestos concluded (and the other gods concurred) that he would rather be married to an unfaithful Aphrodite than to not have her at all because Aphrodite s beauty was so insurmountable. Ares was the god with whom she had the most passionate love affair. In fact, their passion came to symbolize the archetypal connection between the feminine and masculine principles the integration of polar opposites in an unbreakable intimate bond, (Aphrodite in myth, history and art).
Aphrodite and Ares are Venus and Mars and the relationship between them is still recognized today (note such popular books as Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus). Although she was married, Ares fathered three of her children: Phobos, Dem us, and Harmonia. She produced more offspring with other men (mortal and immortal), yet she never had any children with her husband, Hephaestos. Aphrodite intervened in the lives of many, and she would often help young lovers. One famous account of this was between Atalanta and Melanion.
Many wooed Atalanta for marriage. The only way to win her hand in marriage was to win in a race against her. However, Atalanta was undef eatable, and all her suitors were sentenced to death when they lost the race. Melanion evoked the help of Aphrodite in order to avoid the inevitable fate that plagued the other suitors.
Aphrodite gave Melanion golden apples with which to drop during the race. Aphrodite knew that Atalanta would not be able to resist stopping to pick them up therefore, allowing Melanion to be victorious. Another story in which a golden apple was involved was the judgement of Paris. Eris, after not being invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, dropped a golden apple with the inscription to the fairest. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite were all contending for this golden apple, a prize of beauty.
Paris (or Alexandros) was to make the decision; he being the handsomest mortal man. Each goddess made him an offer but he chose Aphrodite who promised him that his wife would be the loveliest woman in the world. Yet, fulfilling her promise led to tragedy; Aphrodite helped to fuel the Trojan War. She tried to help Alexandros win Helen away from Menelaus. War broke out between Menelaus (leading the Greeks) and Alexandros (leading the Trojans). Aphrodite aided the Trojans and protected Paris.
The Trojan War was not Aphrodite s fault, though her love for Alexandros and her meddling caused much misery and death among both the Trojan and Greek armies, (Aphrodite, Greek Goddess). Aphrodite may have been scandalous, but everything she did was for love. She never had any kids with her husband because she did not believe in sex in the absence of desire. Considering this, Aphrodite s definition of love may have been similar to the great philosopher Plato s definition: Passion aroused by beauty. Aphrodite was very passionate, and she still serves as the archetype for the ideal female today. 522 Aphrodite, Greek Goddess.
2 p. p. Online. Internet. 17 October 1998. Available: web Aphrodite, Greek Mythology Link.
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28 October 1998. Available: web Dexter, Miriam Robbins. Whence The Goddess: A Source Book. New York: Pergamon Press, 1990.