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Chapter Three – Aphrodite and Peitho

Aphrodite’s activities in respect of romance tie into aspects of the power of persuasion,151 which in turn develop into a goddess in her own right named Peitho.152 The purpose of this chapter is to analyse the depictions of Peitho alongside Aphrodite and the role persuasion plays in supporting her. Peitho is regularly represented alongside Aphrodite and appears to be a close companion of her.153 In part this is accounted for as, in some literary traditions, Aphrodite is referred to as the mother of Peitho.154 The concept of Peitho as the personification of persuasion is important as the depictions in red-figure vase painting are indicative of the connection between Aphrodite and persuasion. It will be argued that although it is difficult to depict the cultic aspects of Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho in vase painting the use of Peitho in other scenes, such as marriage, conveys the influence Aphrodite was perceived to have over mortals.

Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho

Pausanias clearly indicates that in some instances Aphrodite and Peitho were worshipped together, specifically at Athens and Megara.155 On the Athenian Acropolis, Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho shared a cult site.156 The worship of these two figures in a joint sanctuary is acknowledged in scholarship to represent the bringing together of the demos into a single political unit.157 Aphrodite was celebrated in Athens under two main cult epithets: Pandemos and Ourania.158 These epithets, according to Burkert, were old and widespread.159 Aphrodite Pandemos is celebrated as belonging to all the people and Aphrodite Ourania as a higher celestial love.160 Epithets link the gods to specific domains and functions ‘in which their influence can be obtained and experienced’.161 This is in part through the personifications, abstractions and epithets that are within their retinue.162

Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho in cult, art and literature ‘symbolise the concepts of unification and harmony in all of their public and private expressions’.163 Aphrodite Pandemos is believed to bring about civic unity through the unity of marriage.164 Breitenberger argues that marriage is valued by the community as it is a reflection of civic harmony.165 This desire for unity and civic harmony can be identified in the declaration of Cos; through the offering of post-nuptial sacrifices civic concord is guaranteed by Aphrodite Pandemos.166 Dillon considers Aphrodite Pandemos to be the deity associated with unifying the demos.167 The unity of the demos through the political means of meetings and rhetoric is depicted in the myth or story of Theseus’ unification of Attica and founding of the cult of Aphrodite Pandemos. Pausanias states that upon the unification of the demos, Theseus founded the cult of Aphrodite Pandemos in Athens.168 Plutarch does not mention the foundation of the cult but does explain the process of persuasion that Theseus had to undertake. 169 Therefore, Aphrodite can be identified as the protector of unity of the demos through the power of persuasion and the oversight she has in the role of belonging to all the people. The act of persuasion according to Breitenberger is being undertaken through the agora and meetings of the people via the arguments that were presented to the demos.170 Though this is myth, the importance of the cult of Aphrodite Pandemos can be inferred and also that persuasion held an important role in the foundation story. This can be identified through the association of Peitho to the cult of Aphrodite Pandemos and the importance of persuasion in the art of rhetoric.171 The foundation story, according to Smith, emphasises the role of Aphrodite and Peitho in ‘civic cooperation and the democratic spirit on which their polis was supposed to have been founded’.172 Smith argues that Peitho is an important political and civic personification as she, amongst other personifications such as Ploutos (Wealth), Opora (Harvest) and Eudaimonia (Happiness, Prosperity), demonstrate the fertility and prosperity that Athens desired particularly as a result of the Peloponnesian War.173 The association of Peitho to Aphrodite Pandemos indicates her important civic role as a key personification in assisting in the persuasion of the demos alongside the goddess.

Aphrodite Pandemos is one of the many cultic aspects of Aphrodite; for example she appears in other respects as a protectress of seafarers (Aphrodite Pontia).174 Though these epithets are key aspects of Aphrodite’s character, they are not represented in the vase paintings of her. It is aspects such as Pandemos and Pontia that would have been particularly difficult to depict as how would a painter show Aphrodite as belonging to all the people or as protectress of seafarers. Certain aspects of Aphrodite can indicate her nature as a foam-born goddess which associates her with the sea.175 However, the attributes and instruments of Aphrodite identified previously, for example, the apple, sceptre, birds and wreath, do not necessarily show her belonging to the people but instead represent her authority as a goddess.

Depicting Peitho

The depictions of Aphrodite with Peitho do not show this aspect of Pandemos. This may in part be a result of the development of the goddess Peitho. Breitenberger observes that, at least within early poetry, Peitho does not appear in her own right as the personification of persuasion.176 The concept of persuasion and seduction leading to love, Breitenbeger argues, develops in Pindar, who describes Peitho as holding the ‘secret keys to holy love’.177 The catalogue indicates that the majority of depictions with Peitho date from 450-401.178 The increase in depictions, therefore, correlates with Pythian 9 which was written for the victory of Telesicrates of Cyrene in the Hoplite Race of 474.

Though Peitho is normally depicted with Aphrodite there are instances of her appearing with other gods or mortals.179 One particular example from the catalogue is a depiction alongside Paris.180 In this representation Peitho appears with Eros and is positioned behind Paris. If this image is considered to be prior to the Judgement of Paris it can be viewed as an indication of the importance of Peitho in her own right. However, such representations are few in number and in some depictions it is often not clear whether the figure is Peitho or Aphrodite. 2017-02-26One such example is a lekythos with a woman seated on a stool surrounded by other women, one of which may be Peitho or Aphrodite, and Eros (Figure 28).181 It is possible that within this depiction Peitho can be viewed as a separate figure or, as she is a personification, she may represent the persuasive power of Aphrodite. Borg argues that in depictions Peitho’s appearance can be understood metaphorically as a means of communicating all forms of persuasion and seduction.182 It is possible that persuasion warranted personification within the artistic form in order to indicate this power of the goddess over the person depicted alongside her. Bridal preparation scenes are an example of this. Auanger comments that Peitho’s presence in the visual arts that depict marriage scenes is not to be unexpected.183 Certainly an element of persuasion is required when arranging marriages and subsequently during the marriage itself. One specific example is the marriage scene on a red-figure onos from Eretria. 2017-02-26-1This scene, Figures 29a and b, can be identified as any Athenian bride preparing for her wedding. However, the participants are all named and this is a depiction of the myth of Alcestis.184 Alcestis is attended by mortal women in Figure 29a and on the other side, Figure 29b, Aphrodite is depicted accompanied by Harmonia (goddess of harmony) and personifications of Peitho, as well as Hebe (youth) and Himeros (desire). The intention of such a gift given to a bride, Sparkes argues, was to remind her of her duty to be a good wife.185 In the mythological context that means to be as dutiful as Alcestis.186 However, the personifications are also important aspects of a newly-wedded couple: persuasion, youth and desire. Taking into consideration that Peitho is most usually represented within vase painting alongside Aphrodite this argument can be taken further. Woodford describes how, on a red-figure amphoriskos, Helen, accompanied by Aphrodite, is located between Peitho and Himeros forming an emotional trap through the use of personifications (Figure 30a and b).187 2017-02-26-2Furthermore, Woodford notes that the presence of other 2017-02-26-3personifications underpins the context of the vase painting through the inclusion of Hermarmene (Destiny) and Nemesis (Retribution) (Figures 30c and d). There are a number of examples in the catalogue where the 2017-02-26-4personification of Peitho alongside Aphrodite can be identified as bringing about a semblance of Aphrodite’s power, authority and influence provided through the presence of her mythological relative, for example Figure 31a and b. 188 Aphrodite and Peitho are involved in the adornment of Pandora during her creation.189 The charm provided by Aphrodite and the necklaces given by Peitho imbue Pandora with abilities to ingratiate herself amongst men.190 Ordinary items can assist in overcoming a timid nature and as such Peitho is often depicted wearing jewellery, adjusting clothes or holding other items, for example Figure 32.191 Peitho, whilst appearing in representations as an attendant or maid to Aphrodite, is also depicted as working with Hebe and Himeros (Figure 29b).192 The depiction alongside the personifications of youth and desire can be seen as representations of how young love was generally considered to bloom. It is clear that the personification of goddesses had an important role to play within the artistic representations of the vase painters in order to communicate messages and ideas.

Aphrodite and Peitho – Conclusions

The importance of persuasion as an aspect of Aphrodite is drawn out through its personification into the goddess Peitho who serves as her attendant. An important aspect of Aphrodite Pandemos was the unification of the demos achieved through persuasion in the form of rhetoric and the democratic process. However, the concept of Aphrodite Pandemos and the role of Peitho within this would have been difficult to depict on vase painting. Given the difficulties of representing the civic functionality of Peitho, conclusions can be drawn that she is depicted alongside Aphrodite where an element of persuasion is required in other scenes. It can be inferred that Peitho in these depictions appears alongside Aphrodite, whether as a distinct representation of Aphrodite’s power or a goddess in her own right, to assist her in her seduction or control of the mortals that are present with her. In the depictions referred to it can be concluded that Aphrodite and Peitho are shown to have influence over the mortals they appear with.


151 Cyrino 2010:35
152 Cyrino 2010:37; Breitenberger 2007:117
153 BA 1199, 1282, 2724, 7782, 9662, 9976, 17046, 204681, 209975, 215554, 216944, 216971, 220497, 220524, 220655 and LIMC Aphrodite 1250, 1252, 1259, 1271, 1368, 1384, 1416, 1517, 1562, 1569
154 Aphrodite as Peitho’s mother – Sappho Frag.96, 200; Aesch. Supp. 1039. However, other literary traditions name Peitho’s parents as: Hes. Theog. 349 – Okeanos and Tethys; Aesch. Ag. 385 – Ate as one of Peitho’s parents; Alcm. Frag.64 – Prometheus was her father
155 Paus. 1.22.3 and 1.43.6
156 Paus. 1.22.3
157 Dillon 1999:68; Scholtz 2003:232; Rosenzweig 2004:19
158 Pl. Symp. 180d-e; Paus. 1.14.7 and 1.22.3
159 Burkert 1985:155
160 Pl. Symp. 180d-e;
161 Burkert 1985:184
162 Burkert 1985:184
163 Cyrino 2010:38
164 Breitenberger 2007:28
165 Breitenberger 2007:36-7
166 SEG 43-549 cited in Breitenberger 2007:28
167 Dillon 1999:68-9
168 Paus. 1.22.3 describes the myth of how Theseus united Athens into one state and then founded the cult of Aphrodite Pandemos.
169 Plut. Thes. 24.1-5
170 Breitenberger 2007; Robertson 1998:300 n. 80 suggests that this is what should be interpreted from Apollodorus of Athens FGrHist 244 F.112-4
171 Arist. Rh. 1.2 describes the importance of discovering the means of persuasion in respect of a subject.
172 Smith 2005:11
173 Smith 2005:10-1
174 SEG 50-766; SEG 50-206; In Apollodorus’ discussion of Aphrodite the epithet Pandemos is only one aspect of her: Apollodorus of Athens FGrHist 244 F.112-4
175 Examples of depictions that represent Aphrodite’s cultic connection to the sea include her riding a swan over the sea, covered by a shell, the presence of Poseidon, fish and dolphins BA 8002, 14847, 41013. Additionally there are a number of scenes of Aphrodite emerging. However, it is not always clear whether this is from the sea or not: BA 211143, 211902, 213534, 216599, 230968.
176 Breitenberger 2007:123 notes that in Hesiod’s Op. 65-79 and Homer’s Il. 14.216 the art of persuasion was the domain of Aphrodite.
177 Breitenberger 2007:123 citing Pind. Pyth. 9.39
178 Within the catalogue 3% of Peitho images were attributed to 550-501, 9% 500-451, 59% 450-401 and 28% 400-320. BA 1199, 1282, 2724, 7782, 9662, 9976, 9988, 13687, 17046, 43454, 204681, 207336, 209975, 213449, 215554, 216944, 216971, 217215, 220497, 220522, 220524, 220655. LIMC Aphrodite 1252, 1259, 1271, 1368, 1384, 1416, 1437, 1517, 1526, 1562, 1569.
179 BA 13687, 43454, 207336, 213449, 217215
180 BA 20542. It should be noted that the identification of the mythological scene depicted is uncertain.
181 BA 220522
182 Borg 2005:196
183 Auanger 2002:236 – though Auanger does not suggest a reason why Peitho’s presence is not unexpected.
184 BA 216971
185 Sparkes 1996:71
186 Sparkes 1996:71
187 Woodford 2003:172; Berlin Antikenmuseen inv. 30036
188 BA 2724, 9662, 204681,209975, 215554, 216944, 216971, LIMC Aphrodite 1250, 1252, 1259, 1271,
1368, 1384, 1517, 1562, 1569
189 Hes. Op. 63-78
190 Brown 1997:30; Burnett 2011:53
191 LIMC Peitho 29; LIMC Peitho 50 shows Peitho facing Himeros holding a phiale; Burnett 2011:53
192 BA 216971 and LIMC Peitho 50; Kousser 2010:288

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