Just who is Aphrodite, anyway? Here is a quick introduction to the Greek goddess of love.
Basic Story: The Greek goddess Aphrodite rises from the foam of the waves of the sea, enchanting anyone who sees her and inciting feelings of love and lust wherever she goes. She is a contender in the story of the Golden Apples, when Paris chooses her as the fairest of the three goddesses (the others were Hera and Athena) and Aphrodite decides to "reward" him for giving her the Golden Apple (the prototype of most modern awards) by giving him the love of Helen of Troy, something of a mixed blessing that led to the Trojan War.
Aphrodite's Appearance: Aphrodite is a gorgeous, perfect, eternally young woman with a beautiful body.
Aphrodite's Symbol or Attribute: Her Girdle, a decorated belt, which has magical powers to compel love.
Strengths: Potent sexual attractiveness, dazzling beauty.
Weaknesses: A bit stuck on herself, but with a perfect face and body, who can blame her?
Aphrodite's Parents: One genealogy gives her parents as Zeus, King of the Gods, and Dione, an early earth/mother goddess. More commonly, she was believed to be born of the foam in the sea which bubbled around the severed member of Ouranos when Kronos slew him.
Aphrodite's Birthplace: Rising from the foam off of the islands of Cyprus or Kythira. The Greek island of Milos, where the famed Venus de Milo was found, is also associated with her in modern times and images of her are found throughout the island. When originally discovered, her arms were detached but still nearby - they were lost or stolen afterwards.
Children: The son of Aphrodite is Eros, who is both a Cupid-like figure and an early major god.
Sacred Plants: The myrtle, a type of tree with fragrant, spicy-smelling leaves. The wild rose.
Interesting Facts about Aphrodite: The island of Cyprus has many places believed to have been enjoyed by Aphrodite when she was on earth. Recently, the Cypriots have revived a tourist-friendly version of some of Aphrodite's festivals at the town of Paphos.
In 2010, the still-potent image of Aphrodite hit the news, as the island nation of Cyprus released a new passport with a nearly-naked image of Aphrodite on it; some in the government were scandalized that this image was now so official and worried that it would cause problems for travelers to conservative Muslim nations.
Aphrodite is also in the news lately as supporters strive to save an ancient site of a temple of Aphrodite in Thessaloniki from being paved over by developers.
Some claim that there were many Aphrodites and that the different titles of the goddess were remnants of entirely unrelated "Aphrodites" - similar but essentially different deities who were popular in local places, and as the better-known goddess gained power, they gradually lost their individual identities and the many Aphodites became just one. Many ancient cultures had a "love goddess" so Greece was not unique in this regard.
Other Names of Aphrodite: Sometimes her name is spelled Afrodite or Afroditi. In Roman mythology, she is known as Venus.
Aphrodite in Literature: Aphrodite is a popular subject for writers and poets. She also figures in the tale of Cupid and Psyche, where, as the mother of Cupid, she makes life difficult for his bride, Psyche, until true love ultimately conquers all.
There is also a touch of Aphrodite in pop culture's "Wonder Woman" - that magic lasso compelling truth is not so different from Aphrodite's magical girdle bringing love, and Aphrodite's physical perfection is also similar, though the Greek goddess Artemis also influences Wonder Woman's story.
More Fast Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses:
The 12 Olympians - Gods and Goddesses - Greek Gods and Goddesses - Temple Sites - The Titans - Aphrodite - Apollo - Ares - Artemis - Atalanta - Athena - Centaurs - Cyclopes - Demeter- Dionysos - Eros - Gaia - Hades - Helios - Hephaestus - Hera - Hercules - Hermes - Kronos - Medusa - Nike - Pan- Pandora - Pegasus - Persephone - Rhea - Selene - Zeus.