More than a Goddess of Love: The Many Other Aspects of Aphrodite

More than a Goddess of Love: The Many Other Aspects of Aphrodite

(Read the article on one page)

The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, has a very distinctive image in classical arts. In 458 BCE, the playwright Aeschylus, in his play Agamemnon, used the name of Aphrodite to denote “beauty, charm, and grace”. Her birth from the sea in a bas-relief dating from 470 to 460 BCE depicts her as a grown woman fully aware of her charms. No other Greek goddess was sculpted emphasizing her physical beauty as frequently as Aphrodite. Statues of Aphrodite from Cyrene and the Esquiline, both from the first century BCE, were even named Aphrodite Kallipygos , which means “Aphrodite with a beautiful derriere”.

Aphrodite Kallipygos, meaning “Aphrodite with a beautiful derriere”.

Aphrodite Kallipygos, meaning “Aphrodite with a beautiful derriere”. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

But if the gorgeousness of the Greek goddess of love has been established as scholarly facts, what else can be said about her? Looking at classical arts alone, Aphrodite seems to have no distinctive attributes other than her beauty, however, she was much more than just beautiful. The goddess was worshiped by everyone from prostitutes to magistrates, virgins to soldiers, sailors to poets – and not always for her beauty and domain over love.

Worshiping the Goddess of Love

Aphrodite’s cult was very popular in ancient Greece with numerous shrines and temples. Her main cult centers included the city of Corinth, as well as the islands of Cythera and Cyprus. Ancient travel writer Pausanias mentions that mothers of brides sacrificed to an ancient wooden image of Aphrodite Hera, a hybrid apparently confirming a link between love and marriage. He mentions a seated figure of Aphrodite Morpho (“The Fair Shaped Aphrodite”) wearing a veil on her head and chains on her feet. Pausanias states that Tyndareus, the father of Helen and Clytemnestra, dedicated the figure to demonstrate that wives were faithful to their husbands. These images indicate Aphrodite’s association to brides, as well as the expectations attached to them.

Aphrodite - The Great Goddess of Cyprus, from Idalion, 450 - 425 BC

Aphrodite - The Great Goddess of Cyprus, from Idalion, 450 - 425 BC ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

In a more unromantic sphere, although still related to women and society’s expectations of them, there were a group of magistrates worshiping Aphrodite called gynaikonomoi (magistrates in charge of women) at Sparta. This magistracy was said to be kata ta archaia ethe kai tons nomous (“in accordance with ancient custom and laws”) and first attested at Sparta in an inscription from early first-century CE.

Although Aphrodite had many cult-sites in Athens, that of Pandemos was the oldest. In 230 BCE, the Athenian Council dedicated an inscription to Aphrodite Pandemos (“Aphrodite who is Common to all the People”). Aphrodite Pandemos was associated with the hero Theseus. Worshipers sought her blessings in uniting the people of Athens in both personal relationships and the political realm. Older sources link this cult with the foundation of democracy.

Venus Pandemos: A nude Venus riding a goat in a seaside setting.

Venus Pandemos: A nude Venus riding a goat in a seaside setting.  ( Public Domain )

Different bodies of magistrates in Thasos between 3 to 1 BCE offered inscriptions to both Aphrodite and Hermes, as well as to Hestia, Aphrodite and Hermes together. In Samos, officers dealing with import of corn made dedications to both Hermes and Aphrodite. In Delos, the police officers offered a number of inscriptions to Hermes and Aphrodite together, as well as to Aphrodite alone. A temple with portico to Ares and Aphrodite was built in Crete, and on the island of Cos, an army officer and his detachment offered a dedication only to Aphrodite.


This is a free preview of an exclusive article from Ancient Origins PREMIUM.

To enjoy the rest of this article please join us there . When you subscribe, you get immediate and full access to all Premium articles , free eBooks, webinars by expert guests, discounts for online stores, and much more!

Top Image: Relief from the main panel of the Ludovisi Throne, “Aphrodite rising from the sea”. Believed to be Thasos marble, Greek artwork, ca. 460 BC.  ( Public Domain )

By Martini Fisher

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article