Before Thunder, Came Love

A Short Story About Afrodite

Mount Olympus, Ancient Greece. According to the myths, a dozen of gods – the Olympians – rule the main aspects of humans’ lives. Every god has a dominion, and their king is Zeus, God of Thunder. They are terrible, powerful beings, who have the skill to upturn the fates of men with a mere nod. They are gods of the Sea, Death, War, Hunt, and Love - to name a few. Between entities who can split the sky and flood the earth, Afrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, stands apart. She might look weak, compared to them. Inconsequential, even.

Yet, not many know that she was born even before Zeus and his lightning bolts. Before thunder, came love.

The birth

Aquamarine tides glistening, rolling on the white, hot sand of a small rocky bay. The warm and salty breeze gently blowing on the beach, maritime pines rustling under the scorching Mediterranean sun. Paradise is in Cyprus, also known as Petra Tou Romiou – the birthplace of the goddess of Love.

According to many theogonies (the histories of the birth of Gods), Afrodite was born at a time where the Titan Uranus sat as Lord of Gods and Zeus did not even exist. Uranus was challenged for the power by his son, Chronus, and lost. With a scythe, he was cut into pieces and dispersed into the Cypriot sea. 

From this crude ending, from the seafoam of that waters, on a mother of pearl seashell, a young woman arose, Afrodite in all her beauty - and power. The wind Zephirus gently blew her to land, and as soon as she moved her first steps, flowers bloomed under her toes. This legend is so popular that many secular statues and paintings portray Afrodite rising from the sea, shimmering in seawater and attended by the nymphs, glowing locks softly entwining around her glorious body. In some depictions, the goddess would be surrounded by cherubins and doves, or flowers. The most famous artist’s impressions are the Florentine Nascita di Venere, by Sandro Botticelli, Afrodite Anadyomene By Apelles of Kos, and the Birth of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

Her birth was perhaps not one of the most spectacular in Greek mythology, where deities are born from body parts like heads, thighs, or even eggs. However, it was enough to permanently connect Afrodite to the sea, and let her have the opalescent mother of pearl as one of her sacred symbols. Even if for the Romans she will be known as Venus, Afrodite's greek name derives from the word "afros", foam, and "dite", shining. It even makes sense for a voluble element such as the sea to be forever connected with the goddess of love and sexual desire, doesn't it?

The birth of Venus, Alexandre Cabanel

Powers

Love is an antique force, enshrouded in mystery. As its goddess, Afrodite was not to be outdone by it.

Although many would deem her a weakling deity compared to the mighty God of Thunder, Afrodite is one of the most powerful of the Olympians, her influence over humans unrivaled. With a flick of her eyes, she was able to bend even the strongest demigod to her will and was capable of tremendous revenge against those who disrespected her. She could curse men and women with madness, make them fall in love with their parents, or commit impious acts in the clutches of folly.

At the same time, she was fair and generous with those who were dear to her. Clear emblem of her power is the vicissitude of Pygmalion, a sculptor from Cyprus who was very devoted to Afrodite. According to the legend, he once made a statue so beautiful that he fell in love with it. To reward its piousness, Afrodite decided to give life to the statue and turn it into a real woman, Galatea, who then married Pygmalion. Another time, she helped Hippomenes marry his love Atalanta, by helping him beat her in a race – which was the condition sine qua non for the wedding.

Afrodite won the title of Most Beautiful Goddess, handed by Paris, by granting him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, which then caused the War of Troy. In Troy, Afrodite gave birth to one of her sons, Aeneas. She was very attached to the city, and more than once she went into battle to assist her son or Paris. When Troy fell, Afrodite protected Aeneas, who managed to escape and, after a long sea journey, landed in Italy, where he founded Rome. This explains why Romans were extremely devoted to Afrodite, whom they called "Venus", and dubbed themselves as the lineage of Venus.

The birth of Venus, William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Appearance

Afrodite had a long list of honorable epithets with which she was called. She was "Callipigia", of beautiful buttocks, "Anadyomene", rising from the sea, "Urania", heavenly, "Colpode", sinuous. To describe her physically might be a bit more challenging. The standards of beauty change across the millennia. But more importantly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so she was often described with different attributes. Afrodite was always escorted by Eros, god of lust and sexual desire, and attended by the three Graces and the Horai, who served her faithfully. Notwithstanding Zeus forcing her to marry his son Hephaestus, Afrodite refused to be tamed and had multiple lovers, the most famous one being the God of War, Ares, who only she could soothe. But she even had mortal lovers such as Adonis and Anchises, father of Aeneas, founder of Rome.

As Goddess of Love and Beauty, her symbols were the most refined and elegant in Nature. Doves, myrtles, roses, swans, sparrows, mother of pearl, and seashells were all sacred to Afrodite. The main elements in our first collection are pearls, gold, and mother of pearl. Afrodite’s story inspired us to use these elements - pearls as they come from the sea she was born from, gold as it is associated with the divine, and the carvings in mother of pearl as a tribute to her shapely female curves. But we are sure that, with time, all these beautiful attributes will be visible in our universe inspired by our most beloved goddess, Afrodite.

Aphrodite Anadiomene, House of Venus, Pompei

 

Author

Benedetta R Fanelli

Benedetta R. Fanelli 25, Milan. Art Historian graduated from Brera Academy of Fine Arts with a master degree in Management of Fashion from Bocconi. Benedetta has always been enamored with luxury and greek mythology, and she loves to tell stories behind our jewels.