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Aphrodite by Alayna






(continued from Chapter One)

The good news was that cousin Aphrodite bore many children during the time she was married to Hephaestus; the bad news was none were his. Three kids were fathered by Ares, the ruthless god of war, with whom Aphrodite maintained an ongoing affair.

Giving the term "Make love, not war" a whole new twist, if you ask me. With Ares, it was more like, "Make love, then war".

Jerk. Never liked Ares. Don't tell him I said so, however, it would mean war.

Cousin Aphrodite's ill-concealed affair with Ares had scandalized gods and mortals alike. The Mount Olympus Enquirer was having a field day. Talk about opposites attracting! What's the goddess of love doing with the god of war, pray tell?

Alas, when the tattletale Helios, the all-seeing sun god, informed Hephaestus what was going on behind his back, the enraged god crafted an invisible trap for the lovers and captured them naked in a net. He then assembled the laughing gods to pass judgment on them.

The amused Olympians refused to punish the trapped lovebirds, much to the chagrin of the cuckold Hephaestus. The female deities declined to take part - what, and be cursed in love the rest of their lives? No thanks! - and the male gods were visibly swayed by Aphrodite's testimony.

 Not to mention her lovely golden girdle, which she just happened to slip on.

"Not guilty!"

She "thanked" Hermes for his help by sleeping with him and bearing the child called Hermaphroditus.

(I really liked hanging with second cousin Hermaphroditus, but the poor thing was so confused after he joined up with that clinging Naiad Salmacis. He/she never knew whether she/he should enter the door marked GODS or GODDESSES at the Mount Olympus loo. More on him/her another time.)

Until things cooled down in the tabloids, the embarrassed lovers went on separate vacations to the Greek Islands, but cousin Aphrodite had the last laugh on Helios, that big mouthed tattletale.

She caused him to fall in love with a mortal beauty called Leucothoe, daughter of Orchamus who was king of Persia. The enamored Helios assumed the form of Leuchothoe's mother, dismissed the servants and then revealed his identity and proceeded to seduce the king's daughter.

Man did that tick off the Oceanid Clytia, who had the hots for the sun god and was under the misconception that they were going steady. Burning with jealousy and wrath, she told everyone of Helios' seduction of Leucothoe, making certain that her father, King Orchamus, got all the lurid details.

This so incensed the king that he ordered his daughter Leucothoe buried alive. Poor girl, we all felt so badly for her, but there was nothing we could do. Cousin Aphrodite could be a real meanie sometimes.

Aphrodite would often help young people in love. Atalanta, a virgin huntress, used to force her wooers to race before her, but if she caught them she would put them to death. If anybody survived she would marry him.

(Now that's what I call a "killer date"! Rules like that can really put a damper on a girl's social life...No wonder her phone never rang!)

Well, if you knew cousin Aphrodite at all, you just knew that Atalanta's reluctance to tramp around didn't sit well with her.

'What's that girl doing, killing Calydonian boars and running through woods hunting with the men, when there's such a much better reason to be in the company of males?' Aphrodite wondered.

A man named Melanion (also known as Hippomenes) had a crush on beautiful Atalanta, but was astute enough to know he had no chance to beat her in the race. Aphrodite gave Melanion three golden apples, which he scattered on the ground as he ran. Atalanta could not help but stop to pick up the exquisite fruit, and was thus beaten in the race.

But Aphrodite wasn't all lovey-dovey. She could be harsh to those who defied her, as we saw earlier with poor Leucothoe.

Because the Lemnian women did not honor her, she inflicted a foul smell on them and caused their husbands to consort with Thracian women. The Lemnian women, abandoned by their husbands, killed all the men on the island and established a society of women. Men. Who needs them, I always say.

When Aphrodite caught that idiot Ares in bed with the goddess Eos (Dawn), she cursed his lover with a constant longing for young mortals. You can argue that Eos thus became the first 'cougar'.

When the Sirens refused to yield their virginity to either mortals or gods, Aphrodite turned them into vile birds that tormented sailors. Should I go on?

Her power was immense, and her victims included Helen, Medea, Ariadne, Phaedra and Hippodameia, to name but a few. Everywhere you turned, another beauty had bit the dust, compliments of dear cousin Aphrodite.

Yes, it was wise indeed to respect the goddess of love. I remember Anchiles, one of her mortal lovers, bragging about his conquest of Aphrodite in a tavern while buzzed on cheap wine, causing Zeus to strike him dead with a thunderbolt for his impudence.

Aphrodite most famously set in motion the Trojan War. It goes like this:

Eris (Discord) was not invited to a wedding, a gala event attended by a veritable who's who.

I mean, no kidding! Who in their right mind would invite mean old Discord to their wedding? Wouldn't that be asking for trouble? She was persona non grata at most civilized functions.

To gain revenge, Discord threw a golden apple among the invited guest, a prize to be given to the most beautiful woman present.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm probably not the first person to bring this up, but what we have here is the first beauty pageant in recorded history.

To nobody's surprise, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were the three finalists for the golden apple of Eris, and they asked Zeus to make the ultimate selection, but wise Zeus wanted nothing to do with the final decision.

("Talk about a lose-lose proposition," I heard Zeus muttering. "I don't pick my wife Hera, she castrates me! Athena's my favorite child, and she sure is beautiful, so I'd be tempted to award her the apple. But then there's Aphrodite, and wouldn't you know it, she's wearing that darn golden girdle again! What a babe! Oh my... What's a god to do?")

So Zeus assigned the volatile task to a noble young prince from Troy named Paris, who was reputed to be an excellent judge of beauty. (Bob Barker wasn't available, I guess). Not willing to chance defeat, Aphrodite bribed Paris by promising him the hand of gorgeous Helen, never mind that at the time Helen was married to Menelaus, King of Sparta...just a minor inconvenience.

Truth be told, all three goddesses tried to bribe Paris. Athena promised to make him forever victorious on the battlefield, and Hera offered Paris kingship of the universe, complete with palace, subjects and the whole nine yards. Tough choice, yes? What would you do?

The goddess of love's bribe worked, for Paris was stuck on Helen, who was said to be the most beautiful mortal alive (One day I caught a glimpse of Helen as she proudly stood on the walls of Troy, taunting and challenging the enraged Greeks to come and get her...Yes, she was a doll, but man was she ever full of herself. Thousand ships, and all that...)

So Aphrodite got the golden apple of aunt Eris, Paris got the gorgeous Helen, and the ancient world got the Trojan War. The rest is history, the subject of many heroic and marvelous myths. Since I was there, I'll be able to give you an accurate feel for the subject when it comes time to talk of Troy.

I wonder if they invited good old aunty Discord to the next wedding.

Aphrodite also proved instrumental in determining the outcome of the Argonauts' quest for the Golden Fleece. At the request of Hera she made princess Medea fall in love with the hero Jason (he was such a jock!), which led to him getting the Fleece. More on that and the Trojan War another time.

Click on Chapter Three to continue the satirical Aphrodite Myth of the Month