Greek & Roman Mythology – Aphrodite or Venus

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Aphrodite or Venus

Aphrodite or VenusWas the goddess of love in that wide sense of the word which in early times embraced also the love of animals, and the love which was thought to be the cause of productiveness throughout nature.  

Accordingly we find in her character, side by side with what is beautiful and noble, much that is coarse and unworthy.  In the best times of Greece the refined and beautiful features of her worship were kept in prominence, both in poetry and art; but these, when times of luxury succeeded, had to give way to impurities of many kinds.  

The feelings awakened by observing the productive power of nature had, it would seem, given rise to a divine personification of love in very remote early times among the nations of the East.  The Phoenicians called this personification Astarte, and carried her worship with them wherever they established factories or markets in Greece, in the islands of the Mediterranean, and on to Italy.  The early Greeks coming in contact with these traders, and obtaining from them a knowledge of coinage, weights, measures, and other necessaries of commerce and trade including, it is said, a system of writing appear to have transferred some of the functions of the oriental goddess to their own Aphrodite, as, for instance, the function of protecting commerce.  The earliest known Greek coins – those of Aegina – the weights of which correspond accurately with the oriental standard, have the figure of a tortoise, the well-known symbol of Aphrodite.  How much else of the character of their goddess the Greeks may have derived from the Phoenicians it would be impossible to say.  But the extraordinary zeal with which she continued to be worshipped in Cyprus, Cythera, Corinth, Carthage, Sicily, and wherever in early times the Phoenicians had made settlements, may signify that others of her functions besides that of protecting commerce had been borrowed from the oriental goddess.  The older Aphrodite worshipped in Greece previous to the introduction of Phoenician elements in her character is described as a daughter of Zeus (Iliad v. 312) and Dione, and through her mother was associated with the ancient worship at Dodona.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897

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