Aphrodite


The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been reading a mythology based fiction novel to the child again. She simply can’t get enough Greek mythology. She’s discovered that our library has the entire Percy Jackson collection on cd and even though I have read them to her, and she has read some of them herself, she’s decided to start at the beginning and hear them again.

The book I am reading to her places the Greek gods and goddesses in a special high school where they are supposed to learn about their gifts and to be “better” deities. It’s a series and this particular volume deals with Aphrodite trying to atone for her faux pas with Paris and Helen, which launched the Trojan War, by helping a young sculptor named Pygmalion find true love.

Of course, the story of Pygmalion and Galtea has nothing to do with the Trojan War (or the Egyptian Goddess, Isis), and I have to give the author an “A” for her knowledge of myths in general and the clever idea of plucking them all in a high school setting. The gods of Ancient Greece were nothing if not teen-like in their demeanor and outlook.

Aphrodite is a fitting Valentine’s Day topic. Her Roman son, Cupid, after all, is one of today’s symbols and his arrows are supposedly the root cause of what we call romantic love. She herself, however, is not such a simple creature. To the Greeks she represented more than just love and superficial beauty. She is in fact one of the oldest deities in human history and might be among the first gods human beings worshipped.

According tot he Greeks, Aphrodite’s birth was the direct result of Kronos’s gelding of their father. As his manhood sunk to the bottom of the sea, semen and blood mixed with the salty waves and Aphrodite rose from the stew riding a conch shell. Like the goddess Athena later on, Aphrodite has no mother. She was sired only and as a result is quite a forceful deity who wore the pants in all her relationships.

She has many aspects that run the gamut of female existence, but she also held dominion over male potency and war. Currently an exhibit of her history and the art it’s inspired is running at a museum in Boston. One of the sculptures has never been out of Italy before and depicts Hermaphrodite, her son with Hermes. From the back it appears to be a sleeping woman but walk around to the front and there is a penis protruding from between the sleeper’s legs.

Dee is a bit young for Aphrodite’s full history. Rick Riordan, who authors the Percy Jackson series, deftly works around the fact that his demi-god characters are all products of adultery. Last night, Dee and I discussed the fact that Percy’s father was married but had girlfriends. She didn’t seem to think this was too awful until I asked her what she would think of Dad having girlfriends on the side. She wrinkled her nose in her most disapproving manner,

“I wouldn’t like that.”

I wouldn’t care for it much myself.

“So that’s why Hera is also so angry at Zeus then,” she continued as more pieces fell into place.

“Exactly,” I said.

“But why does Hephaestus need to spy on Aphrodite all the time to catch her with Ares if he has girlfriends too?”

“He’s just being mean.”

More puzzled forehead frown lines and pursed lips followed but no more questions – yet.