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Who is the Greek Goddess Aphrodite? - Mythology & Facts

Instructor: Trenton Mabey

Trenton has a master's degree in global history and has developed college Asian history courses.

Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Learn about her birth and the role she played in the Trojan War. Of all the goddesses, she was crowned the fairest of them all.

Aphrodite

In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, desire and beauty. She is associated with sexuality and physical attraction. She is usually depicted naked in Greek sculpture. Though born from a Titan in the Greek myths, Aphrodite bears resemblance to earlier goddesses from other Mediterranean areas, particularly the Babylonian goddess Mylitta and the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar.

Statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite

Aphrodite is considered one of the twelve major Olympian gods, ruling from Mount Olympus under the leadership of Zeus; however, she is the only Olympian not fathered by the Titan Kronos or the god Zeus.

The Birth of Aphrodite

Aphrodite is the daughter of Uranos, who is also the father of the Titan Kronos. This would make her Zeus' aunt. The Titan Kronos was manipulated by his mother Gaia to castrate his father Uranos and overthrow his rule. Gaia was angry because Uranos had imprisoned many of her children, specifically the Cyclopes and the Hekatonkheires, or the hundred-handed monsters. Kronos castrated Uranos and tossed the severed parts into the ocean. White foam formed on the surface of the ocean, and from this foam Aphrodite was born. The name Aphrodite means 'born of foam.'

The birth of Aphrodite

Following her rise from the sea, she floated on a seashell to Cyprus. Upon arrival, Aphrodite was dressed and anointed by the Graces and the Seasons.

The Judgment of Paris

At the wedding feast of King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis (the parents of the Greek hero Achilles), the goddess of strife Eris delivered a golden apple with the words 'For the Fairest' written on its side. Eris was mad because she was not invited to the feast. Immediately, three of the goddesses in attendance claimed the golden apple for their own. Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera all wanted the golden apple. Zeus appointed Paris of the city of Troy to judge.

The Judgment of Paris

Each of the goddesses promised Paris gifts if he would give them the apple. Athena promised wisdom and victory, Hera promised royal power, and Aphrodite promised the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris gave the golden apple to Aphrodite, and Aphrodite gave Paris Helen, the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Paris took Helen back to Troy and the Greek army followed, led by Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon. This was the beginning of the Trojan War.

Aphrodite supported the Trojans in the conflict, while Athena and Hera, not surprisingly, sided with the Greeks. Although the gods were not supposed to interfere in the war, Aphrodite saved the life of Paris during one of the battles. Paris faced off with Menelaus in individual combat, a battle between the two lovers of Helen. Menelaus dominated the battle, but before Paris could be killed, Aphrodite rescued him and took him to safety behind the walls of Troy.

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