Aphrodite Rock: The Birthplace of a Goddess
Aphrodite Rock is a landmark located off the shore along the main road from Paphos to Limassol, on the island of Cyprus. As its name suggests, the rock is associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. According to legend, this was the place where the goddess was born. Aphrodite Rock is known also as Petra tou Romiou, a name which is derived from a later legend. The beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters make the site a well-known tourist destination today.
View of Aphrodite Rock area. (Ioannis Syrigos)
Was Aphrodite Not Originally a Greek Goddess?
Many scholars today believe that Aphrodite was not originally a Greek goddess, but one that came from the east. Cyprus has a particular connection the goddess. For instance, the cities of Paphos and Amathus, both located on the island, were among her main centers of worship. Additionally, one of Homer’s epithets for Aphrodite was ‘the Cyprian’, while the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite calls her ‘the one from Cyprus’. Although she is widely remembered today as the Greek goddess of love and fertility, she was also worshipped as a war goddess, and a goddess of the sea and sea-faring.
Aphrodite - Goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality. (Marsyas / CC BY-SA 3.0)
How was Aphrodite Born?
Aphrodite’s association with the sea may be explained through the myth of her birth. There are two versions of this myth, one of which is found in Hesiod’s Theogony. In this myth, Cronus had castrated his father, Uranus and flung his genitals into the sea. A white foam formed in the waters, from which a fully grown maiden, Aphrodite arose. The goddess was blown by the winds and eventually arrived on Cyprus. According to Hesiod, Aphrodite derived her name from the Greek word ‘aphros’ (meaning ‘sea foam’), though this is likely to have been a poetic invention.
The Shore Line at Aphrodite Rock – the rock is a steep vertical of column of rocks. (Ioannis Syrigos)
What is Aphrodite Rock?
Aphrodite Rock is a sea stack, a geological feature consisting of a steep, often vertical column of rock near a coast. Geologically speaking, a sea stack is formed as a result of continuous wave erosion. Local legend, however, states that the Aphrodite Rock and the other smaller sea stacks in the surrounding area were once part of the shell that carried Aphrodite to the island. Additionally, under certain weather conditions, the waves that break on the rock would form a pillar of water. The pillar dissolves into foam, and on-lookers with some imagination may see it taking on a surreal human shape.
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Another view of the shore line at Aphrodite Rock. (Ioannis Syrigos)
Aphrodite Rock is Claimed to Possess Magical Powers
Due to the rock’s connection to Aphrodite, some claim that the Aphrodite Rock and its surroundings possess magical properties. One of these beliefs, for example, is that by swimming around the boulder three times anti-clockwise a person would attain eternal beauty. Another belief is that swimming in the area at midnight or finding a heart-shaped stone on the shore will aid one’s love life.
A unique rock formation next to Aphrodite rock. (Ioannis Syrigos)
What are the Other Myths about Aphrodite Rock?
Not all the myths surrounding the Aphrodite Rock, however, are related to the Greek goddess of love. The rock is known also as Petrou tou Romiou, which means ‘Rock of the Roman’, and relates to the story of the hero Basil. Between the 7 th and 12 th centuries, the Byzantines and the Arabs were almost continuously at war. The soldiers guarding the eastern frontier of the empire were known as the Akritai (meaning ‘frontiersman’). The exploits of these soldiers were celebrated through the Acritic songs, the most famous of which being Digenes Akrites.
Controversy Regarding Which Rock is Actually Aphrodite Rock
This epic poem recounts the deeds of the warrior Basil, whose epithet was Digenes Akrites, which means ‘Two-Blooded Frontiersman’. This is a reference to the fact that Basil had an Arab father and Byzantine mother. According to legend, Basil was skilled at hurling boulders. When the Arabs attempted to invade the island, Basil took huge rocks from the Troodos Mountains and threw them at the invaders. One of the rocks that fell into the sea was Aphrodite Rock. Incidentally, there are two other large rocks near the Aphrodite Rock and there is a division in opinion as to which of the three is the real one.
Part of Troodos Mountains. (Tech bro / CC BY-SA 3.0)
Top image: Aphrodite Rock. Source: Ioannis Syrigos
By Wu Mingren
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