This page is dedicated to Klay, aka Heliokles, of Hellenic Faith, and their wonderful spouse-to-be. All blessings of Dionaia to you!
- Is Aphrodite (Venus) One?
- Aphrodite’s Domains : offices, astrology, marriage
- Worshipping Aphrodite : incenses, libations, dedications, sacrifices, purity, garlands, times
- Some Names and Bynames of Aphrodite
- Gods and Daemons in the Train of Aphrodite
- Animals Sacred to Aphrodite
- Plants Sacred to Aphrodite
- Stones Sacred to Aphrodite
- The Girdle of Aphrodite
See also: Lydus on Aphrodite [WIP], Cornutus’ Compendium of Greek Mythology [WIP], Athenaeus on Garlands [WIP], Cyranides 1κ (on making a girdle of Aphrodite).
1 Is Aphrodite (Venus) One?
1a The goddess(es) Aphrodite–Venus in Greco-Roman sources
Not everyone looking for information about Aphrodite or Venus will be happy to see that I treat her as one goddess, not separate Greek and Roman goddesses. But I own that Aphrodite/Venus is not necessarily one. The dream interpreter Artemidorus of Daldis, for instance, in his very useful catalogue of the gods (Onirocriticon 2.34) lists Aphrodite Ourania (‘the celestial, heavenly’) among the Olympian or aetherial gods – while Aphrodite Pandemos (‘of the whole people, vulgar’) is taken to be one of the deities upon the earth (epigeioi).
Xenophon writes: “Whether there is one Aphrodite or two, that is, Ourania and Pandemos, I do not know; for Zeus, while seeming to be the same, also has many names. But that there are separate altars, temples and sacrifices to each, those to Pandemos more unscrupulous, those to Ourania purer, I do know. And you may conjecture that Pandemos sends the desires (lit. ‘the Eroses’) for bodies, and Ourania those of the soul, for friendship and for noble deeds” (Xenophon, Symposium 8.9–10).
A much more definite metaphysical interpretation is given by the Platonic philosopher Plotinus: “We call Aphrodite twofold, since we are in the habit of saying that, on the one hand, there is a celestial one (Ourania), the daughter of Heaven (Ouranos), while the other, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, is the overseer attached to sex here (on Earth). And the former is motherless and aloof from sex because there is no sex in the heavens.” Plotinus goes on to say that Aphrodite Ourania must be Soul itself, and truly a goddess, while he implies that the other is merely a daemon (Enneads 3.5.2).
Later Platonists would give up the equation of Aphrodite with Soul, but firmly believed that from the “first Aphrodite”, there sprang a whole procession of Aphrodites (Aphroditai), as well as of Eroses (Erōtes), since these also possess “something Aphrodisian” (ti aphrodision; Damascius, On Principles p.247). As Proclus says, “around each god, there is a number of his own angels, heroes and daemons; for each is the leader of a multitude receiving its shape from it”; the Aphrodisiac (Aphrodisiakoi) deities belong to the group of life-originating goddesses (like Rhea and Hekate), and there are angels, daemons, heroes and souls suspended from these Aphrodisiac goddesses (Proclus, On the Timaeus vol. 3, p. 166), down to “certain Aphrodisiac daemons who are guardians (prostatai) of the visible beauty which has its existence in matter” (Proclus, On the Republic vol. 1, p. 109).
For these same philosophers, the late Neoplatonists, the celestial goddess Aphrodite was principally embodied in the planet Venus – in contrast to Artemidorus, for whom both Aphrodite Ourania and Pandemos are both imperceptible –, but they also held on to the notion of an Aphrodite Pandemos; Damascius, indeed, reckons that there are many Aphroditai Pandēmoi, who are demiurgic rather than life-originating deities (Damascius, On Principles p.247).
Lest we descend into ever deeper complexities, let us jump from metaphysics back to genealogy, and to John Lydus, who gives us an already familiar version and two variations of a new one: “Plato handed down that there are two Aphrodites, Ourania and Pandemos; and that the former attends the gods, the latter humans.
“But others among the poets hand down that there are four: one born of Ouranos and Hemera (Day); another from foam (aphros), who had Eros with Hermes; third, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, who they say had Anteros with Ares; fourth, the daughter of Syria and Cyprus, who is called Astarte.” (The first and second version are based on Hesiod, who describes the birth of Aphrodite from the foam of the semen of Ouranos spilled during his castration; the third is based on Homer; the fourth on Phoenician tradition.)
“But others say that the first is the daughter of Ouranos and Hemera, called Ourania; the second, the daughter of Aphros and of Eurynome, the daughter of Oceanus; the third, who came together with Hermes, the son of the Nile, and whose son is the second Eros, the winged one; and the fourth, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, whom Hephaestus married, and with whom Ares, secretly meeting her, begot Anteros” (John Lydus, On the Months 4.64; according to this tradition, there are also three different Eroses; the first has nothing to do with Aphrodite, but Anteros is the third.)
We have now established quite clearly that the ancients conceived of Aphrodite as being potentially multiple (albeit, perhaps, springing from a single source), and could also identify a foreign goddess, Astarte, as an Aphrodite without entirely conflating the two.
And yet, no ancient author draws a distinction between the Greek Aphrodite(s) and the Roman Venus as two distinct goddesses. On the contrary, we read that “Aphrodite is the overseer of the Romans” (John Lydus, On the Months 3.7); likewise, Latin-language writers took it for granted that all the Aphrodites were Venuses (Veneres), and they never posit a distinct Roman Venus.
This we can see most clearly in the Latin versions of the catalogue also used by Lydus. Firstly, there is Cicero: “The first Venus is born of Caelus (Heaven) and Dies (Day), and we can see her temple at Elis. The second was generated from foam, and we are told that the second Cupid (=Eros) was born of her and Mercury (=Hermes). The third is the daughter of Jupiter and Diona, who married Vulcan, but who is said to have been the mother of Anteros with Mars (=Ares). Fourth, the one conceived by Syria and Cyprus, who is called Astarte, and of whom it is handed down that she married Adonis” (Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 3.59).
Then, there is an abbreviated version in Ampelius: “The first is the daughter of Caelus and Dies. The second, who was born from foam, is said to be the daughter of Aether and of Oceanus. The third is the one who married Vulcan; and who had sex with Mars, whence Cupid is said to have been born. The fourth is the daughter of Cyprus and Syria, whom Adon had.”
From the four versions of the catalogue, we can build the following synoptic version:
- Aphrodite Ourania, the daughter of Ouranos and Hemera, worshipped at Elis.
- The second Aphrodite, born either of foam or a certain Aphros (‘foam’), who had Eros with Hermes.
- The daughter of Zeus and Dione, who married Hephaestus, had an affair with Ares, and had Anteros with the latter.
- Astarte, who was worshipped as the spouse of Adonis in Cyprus and Syria (and is therefore called Aphrodite, the daughter of Syria and Cyprus).
This list is far from a direct representation of what the majority of ancients believed, but unlike the modern convention to speak of one Greek goddess, Aphrodite, and one Roman deity, Venus, it at least has ancient precedent. (Which is not to say that those who draw a distinction are wrong, per se – but that is a matter of theology, not history.)
There is, finally, also a distinction between two Venuses that is unique to one Roman author, although he attributes his framework to Pythagoras: “Pythagoras says that there are two hemispheres, to which he assigns their own respective (proprii) gods; of the upper hemisphere, Jupiter is king and Juno queen, and of the lower, Dis (=Hades) is the infernal Jupiter, Proserpine the infernal Juno. Also two Venuses, one above (supera) and the other Libitina” (Lactantius Placidus, On Statius’ Thebaid 4.526-527).
Plutarch, by contrast, considers the Roman goddess Libitina to be identical to the ordinary Aphrodite: “The pontiffs (ποντίφικες) also explain the ancestral customs concerning burials to those who wish, for Numa taught them not to believe there is any pollution (miasma) in such things, but to worship even the gods there (=in the underworld) with customary rites, since they receive the most principal parts of us (=our soul); and especially to honor the one who is called Libitina (Λιβίτινα), the goddess who oversees (episkopos) the sacred rites relating to the dead, who is either Persephone or rather, as the most intelligent of the Romans conclude, Aphrodite, thereby quite fitly attaching the matters relating to birth as well as death to the power of a single goddess” (Plutarch, Numa 2.1).
1b The planetary goddess in Levantine and Mesopotamian sources
It has already been mentioned that, for the late Neoplatonists, the planet we call Venus was seen as the embodiment of the goddess. But this was not something just these philosophers believed. Everyone called the planet ‘Aphrodite’ or ‘star of Aphrodite’ in Greek, or ‘(star of) Venus’ in Latin, and when the planet was depicted anthropomorphically, it was represented as the goddess herself. The planet was, quite simply, considered to be the Aphrodite’s astral body.
This idea, although very nearly universal by the Roman imperial period, is absent from the early Greek sources. Instead, it comes out of the Levant and Mesopotamia, where Venus, alongside Sun and Moon, had always been recognized as a great deity. Most well-known today are the Sumerian and Akkadian names, both spelled 𒀭𒈹, and pronounced Innin (aka ‘Inanna’) and Ištar, respectively. As the ancient sources – including, most poignantly, several bilingual hymns – univocally attest, these names referred to the same goddess, who is none other than the planet Venus, technically called Dilbat or Delebat in astronomy. This does not mean, to be clear, that Ištar is only the planet Venus – for instance, the constellation ‘Bow’ (i.e. Canis Major) is also said to be (or belong to) her; but this is secondary.
Etymologically related to Akkadian Ištar is the Phoenician name ˤAštart (Ugaritic ˤAthtartu), known in Greek as Astarte, also meaning the planet as well as a prominent goddess, or rather a prominent goddess who is the planet. In cuneiform, her name could also be written as 𒀭𒈹, conflating her with Innin–Ištar (see Akkadian Spellings of Phoenician Gods), although in some contexts, she is treated as a distinct deity.
There is an unprovable but not altogether implausible theory that the Greek name Aphrodite actually derives from the Phoenician ˤAštart. Whether this is the case or not, Greek-language sources often refer to Phoenician worship of Aphrodite, and while they do not always have the same Phoenician goddess in view (e.g., Herodotus 1.105 may well be calling Derketo rather than Astarte ‘Aphrodite Ourania’; Lucian identifies Astarte as the Moon, and Aphrodite as the Lady of Byblos), still the perception that a single goddess was worshipped under different names by different peoples was not a Greek innovation.
Herodotus writes: “Originally, they (=the Persians) sacrificed to these alone (=Heaven, Sun, Moon, Earth, Fire, Water and Winds), but they later learned to sacrifice to Ourania, learning this from the Assyrians and Arabs; and the Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta, the Arabs Alilat, the Persians Mitra” (Histories 1.131). He is evidently less than perfectly informed about Persian religion, mistaking Mitra as the name of a goddess rather than a god, but if he is referring to cult statues of the Iranian goddess Anahit, then another source (Berossus) confirms their relatively late invention, and the fact that her name (Nahid) is attached to the planet Venus at least in later Persian is consonant with the translation as Aphrodite Ourania. The Assyrian Mylitta (Mullittu) too is sometimes equated with Ištar–Venus, or at least with an Ištar (see the Mystical Miscellanea).
So, while the exact reasons for Herodotus’ belief that these are the same goddess are not clear – is he already connecting them to the planet Venus, like later Greek writers? –, his attitude is at least partly overlapping, and structurally analogous, to preexisting attitudes among non-Greek peoples. And the perception of a planetary goddess Venus shared among many peoples only strengthened as astrology became ever more popular and better known across the entire region of Mesopotamia and the Greater Mediterranean.
Beˀnūs (? bʔnws)
Belathī (! blty)
Mlkta … (mlkt šmyʔ)
Bar Bahlul on the other names?
Hesychius: Bêlthis; strong connections with Chaldaea via astrology (cf. Book of Zodiac, Book of Medicines); Phoenicians interestingly less straightforward (shift Baalat Gubal, change of the meaning of certain words, Classical Syriac: ܬܪܥܬܐ (trʿtā), ܐܷܣܬܪܴܐ (ʾestərā) Jewish Babylonian Aramaic: עַשְׁתָּרוֹת (ʿaštārōṯ) and עַשְׁתְּרָתָא (ʿaštərāṯā, “Ashtoreth”), אׅיסְתְּרָא (ʾistərā, “female spirit”))
III.75: As for the Astartes, whether they are one or more, it is the same. It is a star which, in the time of autumn, rises in the East. It has an abundance of names according to the variety of languages. The Tayaye call it Uzi, the Greeks Aphrodite, the Qadsiens Tasmaqit, the Chaldaeans Balthi, the Aramaeans Astara, the Rodneens Malkat smaya, the Arabaye Nani.
-Ishodad of Merv III, 17,25-19,14 = 22,16-24,6
Harran (should have its own page)
distinct phenomenon from this: ’syncretic‘ hymns; also note distinction of different Ishtars! What about Hittites: Shaushka? Ereshkigal?
2 Aphrodite’s Domains
2a The offices of the goddess
Aphrodite is often called the goddess of beauty or or love in modern times, and this is almost accurate. Only the ancients were little inclined to use the phrase “god(dess) of X”,* just as we would not call a treasurer a “financial human”, but a “financial officer”. Similarly, when speaking about the domains or offices of a deity, the ancients used terms like “overseer” (gr. ephoros) or “steward” (gr. prostatēs).
*However, there is some use of such phrases; Servius auctus,
e.g., calls Venus a “goddess of prostitutes” (dea meretricum).
Aphrodite, in particular, was described as “the goddess overseeing (ephoros) beauty and making the beautiful shine upon all” (Hermias, On the Phaedrus, p. 43); she “was allotted to be the overseer of the bridal chamber and of weddings” (Choricius, Oration 29.2), and “over the intercourse of living beings” (Damascius, On the Philebus 18), in short, “overseer of sex (synousia)” (Etymologicum Magnum s.v. Ἀφροδίτη). “Sex and intercourse are the work of Aphrodite” (Plutarch, Dinner of the Seven Sages 156c), and sex acts are even called aphrodisia (cf. Michael Apostolius, Collection of Sayings 4.50). “Aphrodite is the steward (epistatis) of aphrodisia; for she is the overseer of weddings, and makes sex pleasurable” (Scholia on Prometheus Bound 864.
Put abstractly, Aphrodite is “the cause of all harmony and unification of male with female, and of form with matter” (Proclus, On the Timaeus, vol. 1, p. 34); more bluntly, “she is pleasure (hēdonē)” (Athenaeus, Deiphnosophistae 12.2, pace Plato).
From Aelius Aristides’ Encomium of Rome, we have a nice description of the panoply of the gods, with Aphrodite in their midst: “It seems to me that the watching gods help you (=the Romans) correct your beneficial rule and grant you a firm possession of it:
- “Zeus, because you nobly govern the whole inhabited part of his noble creation, as they say;
- “Hera, because she is honored by the lawful (or ‘customary’) marriages;
- “Dionysus and Demeter, because their fruits are not ruined;
- “Poseidon, because his sea is kept clear of ship battles, and military vessels have been exchanged for mercantile ships;
- “The dancing troupe (khoros) of Apollon, Artemis and the Muses, because it never misses seeing its servants in the theaters;
- “Hermes because there is no lack of contests and honors.
- “When has there been a better season for Aphrodite’s harvests* and graces? Or when have the cities had a more successful lot?
- “The favors of Asclepius and the gods of Egypt have now been bestowed most fully to humanity.
- “Nor does Ares fail to be honored by you, lest fear disturb all things, as occurred at the banquet of the Lapiths; but he dances an unceasing dance on the hills beyond the rivers, preserving his arms pure of blood.
- “And the Sun (Helios), who beholds (ephorōn) all things, sees nothing violent or unjust under you, nor such things as happened in previous times; so that he rightly beholds your rule with the greatest pleasure.”
*Literally, ‘seeds’, referring to all kinds of fertility,
and perhaps also sexuality in and of itself.
2b Aphrodite’s significance according to Artemidorus
I have already mentioned Artemidorus, the dream interpreter, for his catalogue of the gods. But this is not the only place he mentions Aphrodite, and his information is rarely limited to the immediate purpose of dream analysis, but rooted in common ideas of the day. For instance, he quotes Iliad 5.429 to make a point about the goddess’ nature when appearing in a dream: “Aphrodite is a symbol of sex (gamos) and reproduction (paidopoiïa), according to the Homeric line, ‘But you attend the lovely acts of sex’” (Artemidorus, Onirocrition 5.39).
Artemidorus on Pandemos etc.
2c Aphrodite’s astrological associations
There are many stars which, depending on the astrological system in question, depend on Aphrodite. Servius wrote, for instance, that “Venus has one star that is her own in heaven, which appears as the morning-star (lucifer) in the East and as the evening-star (vesper) in the West. […] She also has two other stars, one in the constellation of Taurus and one in Ursa Major (septentrio), whence Taurus is also said to be the domicile of Venus” (On the Aeneid 8.590). But whether there are three stars, many more, or only one, the goddess is the same, and substantially the same as the Aphrodite of myth, worship and philosophy:
“Aphrodite is desire (epithymia) and erōs, and she signifies the mother and nurse (or ‘nanny’).
“She produces priesthoods, appointments as superintendent of a gymnasium, (offices/honors that permit) wearing gold ornaments or wearing of crowns, pleasures, friendships, conversations, aquisitions of property, purchases of ornaments, favorable exchanges, marriages (or ‘sexual encounters’), clean professions (tekhnai katharioi), good voices, musicality/poetic talent, sweet singing, beauty of shape, painting, mixing of colors and embroidery, crimson-dying and unguent-making, the forefathers and masters of these crafts, craft and commerce dealing with emerald and precious stones, ivory-working.
“And she makes people gold-spinners, gold-workers, hairdressers, inclined to cleanliness and fond of playthings in hers terms and degrees of the zodiac.
“She grants appointments as aedile (or ‘overseer of the market’), measures and weights, commerce, shops, gifts, gains, laughter, joy, ornament/order, hunting in watery places.
“She grants extraordinary help and and approval from royal women or from one’s own, and (if?) she assists in such matters.
“Of the parts of the body, she rules the neck, the face, the lips, the sense of smell, the front parts from the feet to the head, the sexual parts, and of the inner organs, the lungs.
“She is receptive (i.e., those under her influence receive) support (trophē) from others and pleasure.
“She rules the substances of precious stones and ornaments of all sorts, and of fruits, the olive.¹
“She is of the nocturnal sect.²
“In color, she is white, in taste, very greasy”³ (Vettius Valens, Anthologies 3.16).
1: Otherwise associated with Athena, here usurped
by Aphrodite because Athena is not a planet.
2: An astrological technicality.
3: These are associations, not properties of the planet itself.
“When the star of Aphrodite (Venus) is the sole ruler of an event that occurs, […] her particular effect, in regard to people, is to produce fame, honors, pleasure, prosperity, happy marriages, many children, satisfaction in every relationship and increase in possessions, clean and orderly lifestyles, in which venerable things are honored;
“Further, bodily health, association with people in power, the charm (epaphrodisia) of rulers;
“In regard to the winds of the air, (it produces) temperateness of moist and especially nourishing ones; also good air conditions, clear sky and abundant showers of fertile waters;
“And for fleets of ships, (it produces) good sailing, good luck, profits, and full swelling of rivers;
“Further, it especially brings about abundance, fertility and profit from useful animals and crops of the Earth” (Ptolemy, Apotelesmatica 2.9.15).
“When the star of Aphrodite rules action, she makes people whose business lies in the fragrances of flours or perfumes, in wines, colors, dyes, fragrant herbs (arōmata) or ornaments (‘make-up’ and/or ‘jewelry’), such as perfume-merchants, garland-makers, inn-keepers, wine-merchants, druggists, weavers, sellers of fragrant herbs, painters, dyers and clothes-dealers.
“When the star of Kronos (Saturn) is in aspect with it: merchants of things relating to pleasure and ornamentation, sorcerers (goētai), wizards (or ‘poisoners’, pharmakoi) and those who make business from things similar to these.
“When Jupiter is (in aspect with it): athletes, people (honored with the right of) wearing wreaths, those distinguished with honors, those exalted by female persons” (Ptolemy, Apotelesmatica 4.4.4).
All this fits into a system of planetary associations that can be summed up as follows: “The Sun signifies the pattern concerning the soul, the Moon concerning the body, Saturn acquisitions, Zeus money, Ares things relating to warfare, Venus things relating to desire and interaction, Mercury the way of life (tropos), behavior (ēthos) and rationality/speech (logos)” (Excerpt from Teucer of Babylon about the Seven Stars).
Ptolemy, in his descriptions of the influence of the planets on various lands, understands the star of Aphrodite to be worshipped regionally under the names of Isis (Apotelesmatica 2.3.23), as the Mother-of-Gods under various local names, alongside Mars as Adonis (Apotelesmatica 2.3.38). Of course, this is rather simplistic, as Isis, the Mother-of-Gods and Aphrodite were in many places worshipped alongside each other. (Both Isis and the Mother were more commonly identified with the Earth, with Isis also understood as, or connected with, the Moon or the star Sirius; cf. Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 359d;368d;372d).
As Plotinus notes, the planet Venus was sometimes also assigned to Hera, on the basis of which he conflates the two goddesses and makes them the soul to the intellect of Zeus (whereas for later Neoplatonists, Zeus, Hera and Aphrodite each have their own intellects and souls): “If we position the male gods in accordance with (or ‘as’?) intellects, and say that the female ones are in accordance with souls, as there is a soul joined to each intellect, then by that account, Aphrodite would again seem to be the soul of Zeus; and the priests and mythological poets testify to the same reasoning, since they refer Hera and Aphrodite to the same thing, and they say that the star of Aphrodite in heaven belongs to Hera” (Plotinus, Enneads 3.5.8).
or is it intellects of gods?
2d Aphrodite as one of the deities of marriage
Speaking of Hera and Aphrodite, they were both worshipped under the byname Gamēlios, ‘nuptial, martial’. In a Laconian temple dedciated to Hera Hypercheiria (‘protectress’), there was even an ancient statue “of Aphrodite Hera; it was customary for mothers to worship to the goddess when their daughters are about to marry” (Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.13.9).
add images, add descriptions of images (Sallustius: gymn-)
3 Worshipping Aphrodite
3a Hymns and incense
The most common offerings for any deity are incense and hymns; we still possess a number of the latter to Aphrodite/Venus, including one in the collection of Orphic Hymns. As for the information about incense usually included in the Orphic Hymns, it has been lost from the text in the long process of its transmission. (Of related deities, Adonis and Eros receive arōmata, ‘fragrant herbs’, and the Graces, sorax.)
But not to worry, there are other sources. Firstly, of course, frankincense (if one can find it sourced ethically) is appropriate to any deity; this is also presupposed by Aristaenetus in his literary Letters, when he writes that “Aphrodite is honored more” by the tenacious hope of a lover “than by frankincense and sacrifices” (Letters 2.17). However, her proper incense, according to the Eighth Book of Moses, is Indian nard (Greek Magical Papyri 13.19).
A more involved offering (epithyma) made to (and facing) the star of Aphrodite is “blood and fat of a while dove (peristera), untreated myrrh and parched wormwood”, formed into pills and cast into a fire “on vine wood or coals” (Greek Magical Papyri 4.2887–2891). From this, we can derive that myrrh and wormwood are also appropriate incenses, despite the bitterness of the latter, and that all burnt offerings to her (not just incenses) are ideally kindled with vine wood (like sacrifices to Dionysus or the Nymphs) or with coals.
(Please research whether a given substance is safe to burn indoors and source the material ethically.)
3b Libations and dedications
Aside from granules of incense, libations (poured offerings) are also cast into a fire burning on an altar (i.e., some elevated surface) or, absent that, into a bowl, with the generic libation for an Olympian goddess like Aphrodite being wine. Indeed, wine is jocularly called the “milk of Aphrodite” by Aristophanes (Athenaeus, Deiphnosophistae 10.62). When drinking wine, the last dregs left in a cup (the kottabos) were thought to belong to Aphrodite, and when they were thrown out into a dish, people would mention the name of their beloved (ibid. 15.6).
However, the Athenians are said to have used wineless (i.e., water) libations to Aphrodite Ourania (Scholia on Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus 100; also for ‘Gracious Cypris’ in Greek Anthology 5.226, in hopes of a calm relationship).
Not quite libations are the milk curds and honeycombs dedicated (probably placed on an offering table rather than burned) to Peitho and Aphrodite in Greek Anthology 6.55, although they allow us to infer that milk and honey libations would not be inappropriate either. Other dedications mentioned in poetry, some perishable and laid on offering-tables or on the plinths of statues, some permanent and stored in temples or shrines, are:
- clusters of grapes (Greek Anthology 6.119,190,191),
- figs, brined olives, barley-cakes, cups used for libation that still hold some drops of wine (all ibid. 190,191,300),
- round hand mirrors (ibid. 6.1,18–20,210,211),
- locks of hair (ibid. 76),
- lamps (ibid. 162),
- shoes, crimson hair-nets, fans, veils and ankle bracelets (all ibid. 206,207),
- cloaks and goblets (ibid. 208),
- girdles (ibid. 210),
- combs (ibid. 211).
These offerings largely fall into the categories of produce, vessels, locks of hair, and (often used) pieces of female attire/‘beauty products’. Other dedications of this kind, or similar to them, will be equally appropriate.
The ‘barley-cakes’ (psaistoi) mentioned in the list were apparently a standard offering to the gods (cf. Scholia on Hesiod’s Works and Days 336–341), defined by Aelianus Herodianus as “a kind of flat-cake prepared using barley-groats” (On Orthography, ed. Letz, vol. 3.2, p. 607), where the word for ‘flat-cake’, plakous, refers to pastry in the shape of a mallow seed. But note that psaistos is elsewhere defined as being “wheat flour mixed with olive oil” or “made of fine wheat flour and milk” (Scholia on Aristophanes’ Plutus 138; 1115), so perhaps an identification beyond ‘round pastry’ is impossible, or unnecessary.
Another class of dedications are altars to be used for burnt offerings, and statues of the goddess herself (Greek Anthology 6.209,340) or of Eros (ibid. 211), which may or may not end up being used as cult statues. And cult statues (as well as altars) in turn may be decorated with dedications of garlands/wreaths (ibid. 59), or anointed with oils or salves.
3c Animal sacrifice
So much for dedications, vegetarian food offerings and libations, incense and hymns (set prayers did not exist beyond use in individual rites). Let us now pass to animal sacrifices. Even those who choose to offer, for instance, dough models of animals rather than living beings (as Pythagoras is said to have done) must know what animals to imitate, after all.
The blood and fat of a white dove in particular were hardly common offerings, but white doves as such were.
more on white birds
An oracle of Apollon even tells us that all offerings to celestial gods (like Aphrodite) should consist in white birds, of which the extremities are cast into fire, while the rest is consumed by the worshippers. The act of sacrifice itself is described as follows in the same oracle:
“Sacrifice by throwing the bodies of the winged animals into the fire,
And lay on honey mixed with Deo’s flour,
And clouds of frankincense, and sprinkle barley-groats.”
Of course not every animal sacrifice would have included honey, wheat flour, frankincense and barley groats, but this is a sort of maximal account, from which one scales down in actual practice.
Now, despite the neat taxonomy of the Apolloniac oracle, it was not only white birds that were sacrificed to Aphrodite, but also other standard offerings, like cattle (Greek Anthology 6.191,318) or goats (ibid. 6.190; Collection of Greek Ritual Norms = CGRN 83, 131, 151). In one set of ancient regulations, animal sacrifices to Aphrodite are divided into four types, each requiring a different first-offering (aparkhē) of money to go along with the animal:
- 2 drachmas for an ox,
- 1 drachma for another adult animal,
- 3 obols for another young animal,
- 1 obol for a bird.
For a sense of scale, the same text gives the worth of a heifer appropriate for sacrifice at 600 drachmas (CGRN 220), and there are six obols to one drachma.
3d Prohibitions and purity
One kind of animal that (with very few exceptions) must not be sacrificed to Aphrodite is swine (whether domesticated or not). This, it seems, is connected to the general taboo against the consumption of pork among pagan Syrians, as is made explicit in an inscription from the Greek island of Delos, at a sanctuary of Astarte, the Syrian goddess who is also called Aphrodite:
“With Good Fortune! Enter those who have been pure:
- “From fish, for three days;
- “From swine,* if they have washed since;
- “From (sex with) a woman, for three days;
- “From (contact with) a woman who has given birth, for seven days;
- ”From miscarriage/abortion, for forty days;
- ”From menstruation, for nine days” (CGRN 217).
*Pork, but probably also non-food items,
such as pig leather shoes.
But note that, in Greek rather than Syrian or Greco-Syrian contexts, taboos based on consumption of fish and swine, or on menstruation, are highly unusual. Birth and death (including the death of a fetus, apparently) were sources of impurity, but Theophrastus at least ridicules those who fret about this; even if the rule applied in (some) temples, it need not apply anywhere else. The rule about purity from sex, finally, is written from a male perspective, but should apply to any gender, but the timespan of three days is arbitrary. In short, none of this implies that ordinary worship requires anything more in the way of purification than to be washed.
3e Dedicating altars, and again on taboos
It has already been noted that swine are generally (but not always) an inappropriate offering for the goddess, and we have also seen that in specific sanctuaries, there could be elaborate rules placed on anyone who would enter. Naturally, such rules could extend to what animals were allowed as victims, and they could be specific not just to a temple, but even to a single altar. The following example, an inscription from Delos, again reflects a Greco-Syrian context:
“To Zeus Ourios and Astartē Palaistinē Aphrodite Ourania, gods who listen, Damon of Ashkalon, the son of Demetrius, (dedicated this altar as a fulfilment of his) vow after he was saved from pirates.
“It is not licit to bring (a sacrifice) of goat, swine, or female cattle” (CGRN 71).
This gets at two important aspects of altars built in dedication to a deity. Firstly, that like many other dedications (anathēmata), they were often erected as the fulfilment of an eukhē, a prayer or vow that had been answered by the deity. Sometimes, worshippers promise only sacrifices, at other times, permanent dedications, and an altar signifies both, a permanent structure honoring the goddess or god, and a medium of recurring sacrifices, at least potentially – and in a case like that of Damon, who saw fit to regulate the manner of sacrifice, there were probably concrete provisions made to supply such sacrifices at least for a time, or to place them where people would naturally use them.
Athenaeus of Naucratis has a long section about the plants to be used in making garlands, which might be worn by worshippers or placed on statues (or altars, shrines, etc.). I intend to translate at least pieces from this in the future (and it can be found in full translation off-site), but it will suffice here to name some plants immediately relevant. Firstly, there is the ‘Naucratite garland’ made of myrtle, a plant sacred to Aphrodite (Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 15.18). Secondly, he quotes some lines of poetry with a list of flowers worn by the Graces, the Seasons (Horai) and Aphrodite: crocus, hyacinth, violet, rose, narcissus (ibid. 15.30). Thirdly, in a much longer poetic quotation, one of many plants listed is the white lily (krinon or leirion), called Aphrodite’s delight (kharm’ Aphroditēs; ibid. 15.31). This is only the tip of the iceberg, however; and does not even mention the linden, which according to Cornutus is the most important plant for Aphrodisiac garlands (see below).
3g Times of worship
times (4th of every lunar month, Roman festivals)
4 Some Names and Bynames of Aphrodite
4a The names ‘Aphrodite’ and ‘Venus’:
- “The goddess who comes (veniret) to all, our (ancestors) have called Venus (acc. Venerem), and venustas (‘attractiveness’) is named after her rather than Venus after venustas” (Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 2.69).
- [Content Notice: castration] “The myth tells that Caelus (Heaven) was the father of Saturn. When the son, in anger, castrated his genitalia with a sickle, they well into the sea; and from their gore and the foam of the sea, she is called Venus;* whence she is also called Aphroditē, from aphros (‘foam’). But (the story) has this (underlying) reason: all men are weakened by sex (usus venerius), which cannot be done without some injury of the body. Hence, Venus is invented to have been born through an injury; and from the sea, because the natural philosophers (physici) say that sweat, which coitus always elicits, is salty. This is also why myrtle is consecrated to her, because it loves the shores” (Servius, On the Aeneid 5.801).
- “The cause of the fluidness of sperm is the air that is within it; for air is never solid. And it seems that what we say was not unknown to the ancients, namely that the nature of sperm is foamy (aphrōdēs); for they named the goddess Aphrodite, who rules intercourse (mixis), after nothing else than foam (aphros)” (Epitome of Aristophanes’ History of Animals 1.56).
4b Aphrodite and other Greek names, from a Byzantine etymological dictionary
- “Aphrodite (is named) from coming (dynein) out of the foam (aphros) of the sea; for she came from there.
- [Content Notice: castration] “Hesiod says: ‘Gods and men call Aphrodite the foam-born (aphrogeneia) goddess, and well-garlanded Cythereia, because she grew in the foam; and Cythereia, because she reached Cythera, [as well as Cyprogenes because she was born at Cyprus, surrounded by sea;] and Philomēdea (‘lover of genitals’), because she appeared from genitals (mēdea)’ (Hesiod, Theogony 195–200).
- “But some (say that she is named) from the foam of men’s sperm, because she is the overseer (ephoros) of sex (synousia); or because her origin is from the sea.
- “And some, from thoughtlessness (aphrosynē), because thoughtlessness is contrary to prudence, that is, to Athena.
- “But Didymus (says it is) from daintiness (habron) of life (diaitē). For in two senses she is habrodiaitos (‘living luxuriously’): either because one needs her for the beauty of luxury, or because those possessed by this goddess are delicate (habroi) and extravagant. The (letter) B is related to the (letter) Ph.” (Etymologicum Magnum, s.v. Ἀφροδίτη).
*I do not think Servius really means that the Latin
name is derived from this story, but only the Greek.
4c Some Greek bynames:
The astrological poetry of Dorotheus of Sidon is only extant in fragments, but before the complete text was lost, someone made a list of the names and bynames (here called epitheta, i.e., ‘adjectives’) by which the planets were called. There are two versions of the list, which of course both include names of the planet Venus/the goddess Aphrodite:
- “Aphrodite: Phosphoros (‘morning star’), Hesperos (‘evening star’), golden, of-the-shining-ray (lampaktis), Aphrogeneia (‘foam-born’), of-two-faces (diprosōpos), well-garlanded (eustephanos), Paphia, Cytheria.”
- “Aphrodite: Cythereia, Cypris, shell-born (konkhogenēs), of-the-marriage-yoke (zeuxigamos), Paphia, queen of the island, Dionaia, bright-shining (lamprophaēs), Ourania, of-the-sea (thalassia), lovely (erasmia).”
Of these names, Cyther(e)ia and Cypris are derived from the islands of Cythera and Cyprus where Aphrodite was especially worshipped and sometimes thought to dwell, and Paphia from Paphos, a Cyprian city. Dionaia means ‘daughter of Dione’.
4d A list of Latin (and some Greek) bynames, preserved in a commentary on Vergil
- “Many names are given to Venus on the basis of names or events (causae). For they say that she is called Venus because of her prompt grace (venia);
- “Others name her Suada (the equivalent of Peithō), because persuasion (Suada) is connection itself;
- “She is also called Obsequens (‘yielding’) Venus, whom Fabius Gurges consecrated by this name after the Samnitic war was finished, because she had been favorable (obsecuta) to him; the Italians call her Postvota(?);
- “She is also called Equestris (‘equestrian’) Venus;
- “She is also called Cloacina, because the ancients used to call purifying cloare;
- “She is also called Myrica (‘of tamarisk’), Myrtea (‘of myrtle’) and Purpurissa (‘crimson’);
- “And she is also Erycina (‘of Mt Eryx’), whom Aeneas brought with him;
- “She is also called Salacia (‘salacious’), as the goddess of prostitutes was properly called by the ancients;
- “And Lubentina, who presides (praestat) over new pleasures for our minds – although others call her Lubia because plans sink (labantur) into our marrow through this deity;
- “Others call her Mimnernia or Meminia, because she is mindful (meminerit) of all;
- “She is also Verticordia (‘heart-changer’);
- “And she is Militaris (‘military’) Venus;
- “And she is Limnesia (‘of the sea’) because she presides (praeest) over harbors.
- “The very same is consecrated as Victrix (‘victor’) and Genetrix (‘ancestor’) because of a dream of Caesar’s.
- “She is also Venus Calva (‘bald’), for this reason, that when the Gauls besieged the Capitol, and the Romans lacked ropes to make catapults (tormenta), first Domitia cut off her hair, and then the other matrons did likewise, and catapults were made with them; and after the war, a statue of Venus was erected under this name; – Although others hand down that Venus is Calva in the sense of ‘pure’; – And others, Calva, because she deceives (calviat) the hearts of lovers, that is, she tricks and deludes them; – Some say that once, the women lost their hair through a disease, and the king Ancus erected a bald statue of his own wife, which constituted a propitiatory offering (piaculum); for after this, all the women regrew their hair, whence it was instituted that Calva Venus would be worshipped.
- “Among the Cyprians, Venus is worshipped in the shape of a cylinder, or, as some think, of a cone;
- [Content Notice: attempted suicide] “Among the Ephesians, they have called her Venus Automata or Epidaetia. The reason behind these names is as follows: Meliboea and Alexis loved each other with mutual love, and bound themselves with oaths, that when the age of marriage came, they would be joined with each other. But when heir parents betrothed the maiden to someone else, and Alexis saw this, he went into self-imposed exile. But on the very day of the wedding, the maiden threw herself from the roof. And when she landed unhurt, turned to flight, went to the shore, and climbed aboard a skiff there, the ropes were unmoored by themselves. Then, by the will of the gods, she was carried to where her lover was living; and when he received her while preparing a banquet with his friends, he founded a temple in honor of this event. And he consecrated the name of Automata (‘self-willed, spontaneous’) Venus because the ropes were unmoored by themselves; and because the maiden was carried to him over the waters while he was preparing a banquet, he consecrated (the name) Epidaetia (‘presiding over the feast’)” (Servius auctus, On the Aeneid 1.720).
5 Gods and Daemons in the Train of Aphrodite
Sallustius; Graces; Peitho; Eileithyia; Pausanias 1.30.1? Theogony: Eros and Himeros
Aphrodite and the Graces (Kharites):
- “There is much commonality between Aphrodite and the Graces” (Scholia on Aristophanes’ Peace 41).
- “There is some commonality between these goddesses; for nothing is charming (lit. ‘close to Aphrodite’, epaphroditon) which does not belong to the Graces” (Scholia on Aristophanes’ Peace 41).
- “The Graces are within Aphrodite (i.e., the celestial sphere of the planet Venus)” (Sallustius VI).
Deities in a temple of Aphrodite at Megara:
- “There is a temple sacred to Aphrodite, and a cult statue made of ivory, Aphrodite with the byname (epiklēsis) Praxis. This is the most ancient one in the temple.
- “But Peithō (‘persuasion’), and another goddess whom they (i.e., the locals) call Panēgoros (‘comforter’), are works of (the sculptor) Praxiteles.
- “By Scopas are an Eros (‘love, lust’), a Himeros (‘yearning’) and a Pothos (‘longing’), if their effects (erga) are really as distinct as their names” (Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.43.6).
The difference between Eros, Pothos and Himeros:
- “Erōs is the desire to make friends (or ‘become intimate’?, philopoiïa);
- “Pothos is for someone who is absent;
- “Himeros is erōs that is in want of contact with the one who is desired” (Ammonius, Differences Between Similar Words, ed. Nickau, p. 192).
Servius about Cupid (Eros):
- “Latin-speakers (Latini) call the god himself Cupid, but that which he effects, love (amor). But here he (=Vergil) imitated the Greek-speakers (Graeci), who designate both by one name, and so he called the god Amor (‘love’). But he distinguished him by using an adjective (epithetum, namely, ‘winged Amor’).
- “And (the description of) this deity is not without reason. For because the desire (cupiditas) of something shameful is stupid, it is depicted as a boy […]; further, because the speech of people in love is imperfect,* as with a child […]; and he is winged, because nothing more fickle or changeable can be found than lovers […]; and he is said to carry arrows because (desires) are uncertain but sudden. In all other deities too their account is shaped to represent the nature (qualitas) of their powers” (Servius, On the Aeneid 1.663).
- “Simonides says that Cupid was born from Venus alone; although others say that he is the son of her and Mars, others of her and Vulcan, and some even believe that he is the son of Chaos and of the primal nature of things” (Servius, On the Aeneid 1.664).
- “(Vergil writes,) ‘If there is some deity that cares about lovers who make unequal pledges’: […] He rightly doubts ‘if there is’, and whether bad things have powers (i.e., gods) set over them. And the sense is this: she (=Dido) is invoking Anterōs, the opposite of Cupid, who dissolves loves, or rather, whose care is unequal love, in order that the person not in love be attached (to the one in love)” (Servius, On the Aeneid 4.520).
- “It is said that Erōs (‘love’), Anterōs (‘requited love, counter-love’) and Lyserōs (‘dissolver of love’) are set over lovers” (Servius auctus, On the Aeneid 4.520).
- “(Vergil writes,) ‘Is it the gods who place this ardor into your mind, Euryalus? Or is each person’s harsh desire (cupido, f.) a god for them?’ It is investigated by the philosopher Plotinus and others, whether the thinking of our mind is moved to its desires and plans by itself, or by the impulse of some deity. And in the first instance, they have said that human minds are moved by themselves; but nevertheless, they have concluded that they are impelled towards all virtuous things (honesta) by our Genius, that is, a certain familiar deity (numen familiare) which is given to us at birth, whereas we desire (cupere) and want immoral things (prava) by our own mind. For it cannot be that we desire immoral things by the will of the deities, since it is an acknowledged fact (constat) that nothing evil pleases them. And the meaning here arises from there, because Nisus says this: ‘O Euryalus, do the gods cast desires (cupiditates) and wishes into our minds, or is the mind’s cupidity itself a god?’” (Servius, On the Aeneid 9.182).
- “Many claim that there is this difference between cupidity and Cupid, that in the masculine gender, we signify the god Cupid (cupido, m.) himself, that is, Erōs, but in the feminine, cupidity (cupiditas, f., ‘desire’); but the canonical writers (auctores) often confound them” (Servius auctus, On the Aeneid 9.182).
*As when lovers fall into sighing or use
inarticulate exclamations of love.
Aphrodite and Adonis:
- “The deities each have lower powers as servants, like Venus does Adonis and Diana, Virbius” (Servius, On the Aeneid 5.95).
- “Some believe that Mephitis is a (male) god connected to Leucothea, like Adonis is to Venus, and Virbius to Diana” (Servius, On the Aeneid 7.84).
- “Virbius is a deity joined to Diana, like Attis to the Mother-of-Gods, Erichthonius to Minerva, and Adonis to Venus” (Servius, On the Aeneid 7.761).
Daemons around Aphrodite:
- “Gingrōn: an Aphrodisiac daemon, who was of help for the affair between Ares and Aphrodite” (Pausanias, Compilation of Attic Nouns γ.7). Perhaps relatedly, Athenaeus, citing Democlides, says that the Phoenicians call Adonis Gingrēs, and laments for Adonis are called gingroi (Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 4.76), while gingri is an exclamation of mockery (Pausanias, Compilation of Attic Nouns γ.6).
- “Genetyllis is a daemon around Aphrodite who is overseer (ephoros) of birth (genesis)” (Scholia on Aristophanes’ Clouds 52). See the page on Priapus for more information about her.
- “Orthanēs is a Priapic (Priapōdēs) daemon around Aphrodite” (Scholia on Lycophron’s Alexandra 538). He is a Priapic daemon.
- “Tychon: […] a daemon around Aphrodite” (Aelius Herodianus, De prosodia catholica, ed. Lentz, vol. 3.1, p. 37; also id., On the Declension of Nouns, ed. Lentz, vol. 3.2, p. 732). Tychon is also a Priapic daemon.
The animals sacred to her, which are often mentioned as drawing her chariot or serving as her messengers, are the sparrow, the dove, the swan, the swallow, and a bird called iynx. (Sappho, in Ven. 10; Athen. ix. p. 395; Horat. Carm. iv. 1. 10; Aelian, Hist. An. x. 34; Pind. Pyth. l. c.)
As Aphrodite Urania the tortoise, the symbol of domestic modesty and chastity, and as Aphrodite Pandemos the ram was sacred to her.
6 Animals Sacred to Aphrodite
Doves and pigs:
- “The Greeks speak correctly in believing that the dove (peristera) is the sacred animal of Aphrodite, the serpent of Athena, the crow of Apollon and the dog of Artemis” (Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 379d5–8).
- “The goddess is delighted by perfumes (myroi). That is why we say that swine are foreign to the goddess, because they smell of feces; but doves (or ‘pigeons’, peleiades) are beloved by her, because of their tameness and purity” (Scholia on Aristophanes’ Peace 40).
- “She is delighted by the dove most of all birds, because it is a pure and loving animal, because of their apparent kisses, whereas the pig, because of its impurity, seems to be foreign to her” (Cornutus, Compendium of Greek Mythology 24.12).
- “Callimachus says in his Iambs that ‘Castnietis* surpasses all the Aphrodites – for the goddess is not just one – because she alone accepts the sacrifice of pigs.’” (Strabo, Geography 9.5.17).
- “White turtle-doves (trygones), they say, are sacred to Aphrodite and Demeter; others (=those of dark color) to the Fates (Moirai) and Erinyes.” (Claudius Aelian, On the Nature of Animals 10.33).
- In a dream, “doves/pigeons (peristerai) signify charm (epaphrodisia) in your actions, because they are dedicated to Aphrodite, and they are positive (signs) in relation to all friendships, partnerships and dealings, because of their nature to flock together” (Artemidorus, Onirocriticon 2.20).
*A byname of Aphrodite at Aspendus in Pamphylia.
- “The sparrow is sacred to Aphrodite, because it is a very lustful and sexual animal, […] as the serpent is sacred to Athena” (Porphyry, On the Iliad 2.305–329).
7 Plants Sacred to Aphrodite
- “Among plants, myrtle has been taken to belong to Aphrodite because of its fragrance, the linden (philyra) because of its name, since it is pronounced similarly to philein ‘to love’, and because it is customary to use them above all for weaving garlands for her. But people are careful not to offer box (pyxos) to the goddess, somehow worshipping her buttocks (pygē)” (Cornutus, Compendium of Greek Mythology 24.13–14).
It is unclear to me whether not offering boxwood is the act of reverence, or whether offering it would be, but reverence to her buttocks would be inappropriate (she was called kallipygos, ‘of the beautiful buttocks’, after all, without any sense of disrespect).
There may well be nothing else of which it is as thoroughly attested that it is sacred to Aphrodite than the plant myrtle:
- “Myrtle-berry, the plant of Aphrodite” (Plutarch, Marcellus 22.6).
- “They consecrate the myrtle as sacred to Aphrodite” (Plutarch, Roman Questions 268e7–8).
- “Of the evergreen plants, the ancients attached the myrtle to Aphrodite, the laurel to Apollon” (Diodorus Siculus 1.17.5).
- “The plant myrtle is common to the goddesses Demeter and Aphrodite” (Artemidorus, Onirocriticon 1.77)
- “If you cross the river Hermus, there is a cult statue of Aphrodite made of a living myrtle-tree. We have received the tradition that it was dedicated by Pelops when he propitiated the goddess and asked that he would become the husband of Hippodameia” (Pausanias, Description of Greece 5.13.7).
- “Seeing or eating sweet and ripe spring-time apples (in a dream) is a good sign; it especially signifies charm (epaphrodisia) for those who are thinking about a woman or a beloved (f.). For these things are dedicated to Aphrodite. But apples that are (still) sour signify conflicts and strife, because they belong to Eris. Winter-time apples, which we call quinces, are distressing (signs), because of their astringent taste” (Artemidorus, Onirocriticon 1.73).
- “He (Aristophanes) talked about throwing and catching of apples in reference to sex (aphrodisia), because the apple is sacred to Aphrodite” (Scholia on Aristophanes’ Clouds 997).
- “In paintings, Aphrodite and the Eroses (Erōtes) wear wreaths of roses” (Procopius, Declamation 2.93–94).
[6.24.6] The most notable things that the Eleans have in the open part of the market-place are a temple and image of Apollo Healer. The meaning of the name would appear to be exactly the same as that of Averter of Evil, the name current among the Athenians. In another part are the stone images of the sun and of the moon; from the head of the moon project horns, from the head of the sun, his rays. There is also a sanctuary to the Graces; the images are of wood, with their clothes gilded, while their faces, hands and feet are of white marble. One of them holds a rose, the middle one a die, and the third a small branch of myrtle. [6.24.7] The reason for their holding these things may be guessed to be this. The rose and the myrtle are sacred to Aphrodite and connected with the story of Adonis, while the Graces are of all deities the nearest related to Aphrodite. As for the die, it is the plaything of youths and maidens, who have nothing of the ugliness of old age. On the right of the Graces is an image of Love, standing on the same pedestal.
Vervain and panacea:
- For detailed information about vervain (peristereōn, ‘turtle-dove-plant’), see the Poem on Herbs.
- In the Cyranides, vervain is called kinaidios; see Cyranides 1κ, which is all about Aphrodite.
- Pseudo-Thelassus, On the Powers of Herbs, assigns both vervain and panacea (panakeia, i.e. ‘woundwort’) to Aphrodite/the planet Venus. Supposedly, this information was received by the god Asclepius himself after he was summoned by Egyptian priests (cf. Theagogy). I hope to translate pseudo-Thessalus at some point.
Plant names coined from Aphrodite or Venus, from the additions to Dioscorides:
- Teasel (dipsakon): “Others call it Romans call it Aphrodite’s bath (loutron), […] λάβρουμ Βένερις (labrum Veneris, ‘lip of Venus’), others κάρδουμ Βένερις (cardum Veneris, ‘heart of Venus’), others κόνχα Βένερις (concha Veneris, ‘shell of Venus’).”
- Achilles woundwort (Akhilleios): “Romans call it σουπερκίλιουμ Βένερις (supercilium Veneris, ‘eyebrow of Venus’).”
- Navelwort (kotylēdōn): “Others call it Aphrodite’s garden (kēpos) […]; Romans call it οὐμβιλίκουμ Βένερις (umbilicum Veneris, ‘navel of Venus’).”
- Bergamot-mind (sisymbrion): “Others call it Aphrodite’s garland (stephanos).”
8 Stones Sacred to Aphrodite
- “Gold corresponds to Aphrodite” (Artemidorus, Onirocriticon 5.39). Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns call Aphrodite polykhrysos (‘of much gold’) and khrysostephanos (‘garlanded with gold’), and Nonnus calls her simply “golden Aphrodite” (Dionysiaca 42.417). This association with gold is shared with many gods, but Vettius Valens seems to see a more specific connection.
- “Copper (is dedicated) to Aphrodite, because of its flowery brilliance (anthēron) and because it is close to the Sun, just as bronze is close to gold” (Olympiodorus, On the Meteorology, p. 266f). This is part of an astrological list of metals associated with the plants.
- In a literary description of an expensive representation of a horoscope, “the Sun is of crystal, the Moon of diamond, Mars of hematite, Hermes of emerald, Zeus of aitheritēs, Venus of lapis lazuli (sappheiros) and Saturn of serpentine” (Recension α of the Alexander Romance 1.4.6). The practical applicability of this schema may be debated, but compare the collection On Stones and their Engravings, which has two gemstones assigned to the planet Venus, both to be engraved with an image of the goddess.