Boeotian Theoi: Aphrodite

CULT IN BOIOTIA (CENTRAL GREECE)

I) THEBES Chief City of Boiotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 16. 3 :
“At Thebes [in Boiotia] are three wooden images of Aphrodite, so very ancient that they are actually said to be votive offerings of [the mythical queen] Harmonia, and the story is that they were made out of the wooden figure-heads on the ships of Kadmos. They call the first Ourania (Heavenly), the second Pandemos (Common), and the third Apostrophia (Rejecter). Harmoina gave to Aphrodite the surname of Ourania (Heavenly) to signify a love pure and free from bodily lust; that of Pandemos (Common), to denote sexual intercourse; the third, that of Apostrophia (Rejecter), that mankind might reject unlawful passion and sinful acts. For Harmonia knew of many crimes already perpetrated not only among foreigners but even by Greeks, similar to those attributed later by legend to the mother of Adonis, to Phaidra, the daughter of Minos, and to the Thrakian Tereus.”

II) TANAGRA Village in Boiotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 2. 1 :
“Beside the sanctuary of Dionysos at Tanagra [in Boiotia] are three temples, one of Themis, another of Aphrodite, and the third of Apollon.”

III) THESPIAI Village in Boiotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 27. 5 :
“Here [at Thespiai, Boiotia] too are statues made by Praxiteles himself, one of Aphrodite and one of Phryne [historic lover of Praxiteles], both Phryne and the goddess being of stone. Elsewhere too is a sanctuary of Aphrodite Melainis (Black), with a theater and a market-place, well worth seeing.”

Aphrodite, as per Hesiod, is not the mother of Eros. This seems pretty consistent with other Boiotian writers. This seems to be of Attic origin, and Attika certainly ensured that myth’s popularity.

Like Adonis’ cult, Aphrodite’s was most likely a Near Eastern import via the island of Kypris, and Aphrodite’s Roxk is still a prominent attraction off the coast of the island, as it’s regarded as the Goddess’ legendary birthplace, formed from the sea-foam created of the castrated loins of Ouranos. Her conception is sort of the opposite of parthenogenesis, which is the conception of a baby without a male counterpart — indeed, She was created of three males: The seed of Ouranos, the skin of Okeanos, and the hand of Zeus. This is probably what lends well to the Second Wave Anti-sex Feminist dismissal of Aphrodite as “every man’s fantasy”, but I posit that She is something deeper than that.

Even in science, parthenogenic birth makes sense, either as a design of the species or in cloning, because females possess a womb, and/or the ability to lay eggs. It is thus that Aphrodite is an impossible thing: Even the ancient Hellenes, in spite of their faulty understanding of how conception actually works, formed mythology that has no shortage of parthenogenesis, and displays at least a squintable understanding that infants need to be nourished by the human body —thus Zeus had to swallow Metis to birth Athene, and had to sew Dionysos into His thigh (which my house-mate insists is code for weiner, but that’s another story for another time). Aphrodite, even by the internal logic of mythology, is thus an impossible thing, and yet She was born as fully-formed as Athene, and exists as plainly as Dionysos; by all reasoning, She shouldn’t be, and yet She is.

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4 thoughts on “Boeotian Theoi: Aphrodite

  1. Wonderful post. 🙂

    I don’t try and force all myths into scientific boxes, but I think it works in the context of Aphrodite’s birth. 
    Aphrodite being born of the sea, to me, is representative of the first life on earth. The wiggly single celled organisms that reproduced asexually in the primordial ooze of the oceans. 
    Then when Aphrodite was born and rose onto the shores, organisms began to get more complex and sexual reproduction became viable. Without  Aphrodite, the sexual reproduction of mortal beings is impossible.
    She is the director of evolution in her own way. 🙂

    I am becoming quite interested in researching the varying practices of places that aren’t Athens. 

    -Emma   

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    • Oh, that’s a splendid observation!  Glad you thought to mention that, cos it slipped my mind completely.

      I don’t really try to force mythology into boxes, scientific or comparative, but where I see a metaphor that works, I have to mention it. 🙂  I find polytheistic mythologies lend themselves to this far better than Abrahamic mythos — which actually spends very little of its mythos on the world and its origins and life itself, and more on the victories and transgressions of a tribe, and specifically only a few distinct genealogical lines.

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