Imagine you are the most beautiful Goddess in creation; the very sight of you inspires desire in the hearts – and groins – of Gods and Goddesses alike, not to mention what the slightest mention of your name does to mere mortals.
The most beautiful planet in the skies, Venus, bears one of your names. However, like your planet, your outer beauty hides an inner tempest, an unquenchable ferocity.
You were born from an act of violence; during the first War of the Gods, the Titan Cronus attacked the All-Father Uranus (Space), castrating him and hurling his testicles into the ocean. You arose, fully formed and resplendent, from the sea foam that gathered around the spot where Uranus’ genitals hit the waters.
You are motherless; potentially fatherless.
You are Aphrodite; you are Venus. You are probably Ishtar and Inanna as well.
And here is one of your stories…
Hesiod’s Theogeny gives the preceding birth account for the Goddess of Love, Beauty, Pleasure and Procreation. Homer, in his Iliad, gives a different account – according to Homer, Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus and Dione (for more on Dione (both her myths and the moon), click here: Myths of the Moon: Dione (Saturn)).
Since both Hesiod and Homer were -and are – considered authoritative when it comes to the Greek Pantheon, one can imagine the problems that arise from these two opposing narratives.
Leave it to clever old Plato to solve this conundrum: in his Symposium, he reconciles both origin stories: Hesiod’s version refers to Aphrodite Ourania (note the Uranus in Ourania), or the “heavenly Aphrodite” (which makes sense, since Uranus was the God of Space, i.e., the Heavens). Meanwhile, Homer’s Aphrodite is Aphrodite Pandemos, or the Aphrodite for the people (Pan meaning all, Demos meaning people, as in democracy).
Either way, Aphrodite was too beautiful for even the Gods. Something had to be done to contain her.
Zeus had a solution…
Hephaestus was a most skilled artisan. An Olympian unto his right, he made the armor of the Gods. He built their chariots, he forged their weapons, and in his spare time, he tinkered with robotics.
He had machine assistants, and he built living machines, statues that would come alive to defend the Gods.
You might recognize him by his Roman name, Vulcan.
What you may not know was that he terribly deformed, possibly through birth, possibly from a terrible fall, a fall from the heights of Mt. Olympus.
No matter how the story starts, the ending is the same; Hephaestus, the most skilled of craftsmen, was not easy on the eyes.
What a perfect match for the Goddess of Insurmountable Beauty, thought Zeus…
Aphrodite didn’t have much of a say in the matter, which was how these things tended to go.
And so, in what might be the Ur-version of Beauty and the Beast, she and Hephaestus were wed.
It was not a faithful marriage…
Athena is often regarded as the Goddess of War, but her form of war is thoughtful; she plans, she strategizes, she makes careful decisions.
This puts her at odds with her brother Aries, possibly better known by his Roman name, Mars.
Mars, God of War.
If Athena is a general making decisions behind the lines, Aries is at the forefront, ignoring rules, charging the enemy, leading a defiant battle-cry.
Athena wages for war in the hopes of peace.
Aries wages war for the love of war.
Why do good girls always fall for bad gods?
So, while Hephaestus went about his daily labors, forging the latest in God-technology, Aphrodite was busy getting it on with Aries.
In their (Hephaestus’ and Aphrodite’s) marriage bed.
In other words, she and Aries were adding insult to injury.
And they did it during daylight.
And never forget that the sun – in this case, the Titan Helios – sees everything.
What Helios saw; he did not approve of.
Helios went to Hephaestus and told him what he had witnessed.
A lesser God than Hephaestus might have flown off in a blind rage.
He might have sulked.
He might have been depressed, even contemplating Deicide (dei=God, cide= to kill).
But Hephaestus was bound to have his revenge by using his skills, not his anger.
You are the Goddess of Beauty, and next to you lies the God of War.
You are warm, both of you naked, lying in a close embrace.
Lying on your wedding bed, while your husband toils away among his furnaces.
Unbeknownst to you and your lover, your bed has undergone an upgrade.
Wedding bed 2.0 now comes equipped with a mesh of nearly invisible, thoroughly unbreakable chains.
Worse than a nanny cam, you are physically caught in your act of marital transgression.
Hephaestus dragged the naked couple, bed and all, to Mt. Olympus, hoping to shame them before the Gods.
The reaction he received wasn’t quite what he expected. Instead of somber reprimand, the host of Olympians broke into laughter.
And then more laughter.
The sight of the two illicit lovers ensnared to the bed was too much for the Gods.
When they were done mocking the pair, Poseidon, God of the Oceans, persuaded Hephaestus to let Aries pay him Aphrodite’s dowry, and just the let the whole thing slide.
Hephaestus relented and freed the pair.
And did he and Aphrodite live happily ever after?
A short list of Aphrodite’s other lovers:
If you’re feeling bad for Hephaestus, don’t.
Just like Stella, he got his groove on again. And again. And again.
But those are different stories, for a different time.
What’s the upshot of all this?
(and this is just me talking – I can’t speak on behalf of Greek deities, or anyone else for that matter)
Love the one you’re with.
Especially if they’re tech savvy.