The Birth of Venus: Aphrodite through the Ages

If the name Aphrodite evokes images of sensuality, it honestly should.

Aphrodite is so ingrained in our linguistic memory that we use a derivative word – Aphrodisiac – without even thinking about the Goddess being invoked.

Love, desire, rapture, heat…

The Goddess of prostitutes.

The Morning Star.

Inanna, by another name…

Venus.

800px-Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Venus_Verticordia
Venus Verticordia (1868) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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We’ve encountered the Goddess of Love a few times before:

She had an affair with Ares, the God of War. Her husband, Hephaestus (Vulcan) was none to pleased.

She really messed with her son’s lover (Cupid and Psyche).

Her egomania (along with Hera and Athena, all targeted by Eris) led directly to the Trojan War.

And Pandora, the lady with the box that brought all of our miseries? Dressed head to toe by Aphrodite and her attendants; more specifically, Aphrodite “spills grace” over Pandora’s head and equips her with a “painful desire and knee-weakening anguish”.

Aphrodite’s attendants, Peitho, the Charites, and the Horae then adorned Pandora with gold and jewelry…leading to the Flood of Zeus.

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Let’s take a look at Aphrodite:

1920px-Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_nascita_di_Venere_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited
The Birth of Venus (c. 1485) by Sandro Botticelli, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

The Italian artist Sandro Botticelli managed to create not one, but two of the most famous paintings in the world. The other, the Primavera, is also centered around the Goddess; both were probably commissioned by a member of the de Medici family.

1920px-Botticelli-primavera
Primavera, by Sandro Botticelli (late 1400s), Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. Venus in the center, with her son Cupid above.

Back to the Birth…

What is Aphrodite’s back story?

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It was always comes down to two versions of everything, doesn’t it?

Yin against Yang, Coke vs. Pepsi?

And so we get to the two major mythic narrators of the Ancient Greek World: Hesiod and Homer, each weaving their own yarns…

The problem is that Homer seems to want to reduce Aphrodite to an Olympian, a child of Zeus and the Titaness Dione.

Hesiod’s tale is darker, and identifies Aphrodite as a true Titaness, or even something greater, a direct progeny of Uranus, the Original Sky Father…

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Excluding Neptune (and the now de-planeted Pluto), the gas giants reflect the order of the Sky Fathers:

The first is Uranus (Planet 7), who fathered the Titans. His son Cronus rebelled against by castrating him and flinging his testes into the ocean. More on this in a second.

The second is Saturn (Planet 6), which is another name of Cronus, who we saw above. He in turn was imprisoned for all eternity in a depths of Tartarus by his son, Jupiter/Zeus.

Finally, we have the third Sky Father, Zeus/Jupiter (Planet 5). While he revolted against his father’s generation, he did welcome a handful of Titan era divinities to rule by his side…

Lets back to Uranus, who was castrated by his own son. When his testes hit the water, something startling happened.

Foam started bubbling to the surface.

The Greek word for foam is Aphros (aphrós)….

As foam came up, out came a being…

A beautiful woman…

Scratch that.

The most beautiful woman…

A Goddess who emerged from an act of violence against a violent tyrant…

Though the liberator (Chronos) would end being a tyrant all over again…

Still, the Greeks loved a metaphor.

They also loved a good secret…

Whatever the intent, the outcome was clear:

Venus was born, and the world would never be the same again…

Don’t believe me?

The proof is in the paint…

Aphrodite_Anadyomene_from_Pompeii_cropped
A wall painting from Pompeii(!!!) of Venus rising from the sea on a scallop shell
1863_Alexandre_Cabanel_-_The_Birth_of_Venus
The Birth of Venus (1863) by Alexandre Cabanel
800px-The_Birth_of_Venus_by_William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1879)
The Birth of Venus (c. 1879) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

 

 

 

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