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Re-post – The Birth of Aphrodite

July 7, 2013

The Rock of Aphrodite

I have re-posted this as it seemed appropriate to do so in preparation for my trip to the beautiful island of Cyprus but also to honour the island’s Goddess Aphrodite.

Petra Tou Romiou or Aphrodite’s Rock is the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite the goddess of love and beauty. There are two myths of Aphrodite’s birth the first being that she sprang from the foam that came from Uranus’ genitals, which Cronus had cut off. The second is that she was the illegitimate child of Zeus and Dione. The major centre of Aphrodite’s cult was Paphos in Cyprus where the ruins of her sanctuary can still be seen today. There is evidence of the worship of a fertility god dating back centuries before Aphrodite became the pre-eminent deity of worship. The island of Cyprus has a number of fantastic archaeological sites, impressive sculptures and artifacts which are well worth seeing.

Just as an aside, legend has it that if a person swims around the rock of Aphrodite they will be blessed with eternal beauty.

There are many myths surrounding Aphrodite, a number of which relate to her promiscuity. One such example tells how Hephaestus, Aphrodite’s husband, caught her and Ares in bed together, trapping them under an unbreakable net. Hephaestus then publicly embarrassed Aphrodite in order to get his revenge. Aphrodite returned to Paphos following this incident to renew her virginity in the sea.

The development of a cult site was exceptionally important and being able to claim to be the birth place of a god was invaluable. Mythic places would have drawn suppliants to the city not just from the locality but from all over the Greek world. This, in turn, brought economic activity. There was no greater honour than having a God or Goddess connected with your city and places fought to make such claims. Dowden (1992:69) provides one such example, ‘Zeus can be born on Mt Lykaion in Arcadia, as we shall see – though Rhea’s girdle was loosened at a certain Mt Thaumasion, also in Arcadia, where her cave was. According doubtless to Cretans, Zeus was born in a cave on Mt Dikte (Ap 1.1.5), and he was reared on Mt Dikte – or in another tradition Mt Ida (depicted in Apollodoros as Rhea giving him to the nymphs Ida and Adrasteia to rear)’. Furthermore, the mythic birth of a deity has another important significance in identifying the transition from one period to the next in human existence (Dowden 1992). Clearly such acclaim was exceptionally important to the Ancient Greeks and could, in part, explain why there are a number of myths in relation to the Olympian Gods that contradict each other. Dowden’s argument certainly demonstrates the importance of Aphrodite to Cyprus, particularly Paphos, in the Ancient Greek World. However, Aphrodite is as important to Cyprus today, drawing visitors to the ancient sites, museums and even the hope of eternal beauty.

Bibliography

Dowden, K. The Uses of Greek MythologyLondon: Routledge, 1992.

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From → Mythical Figures

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