APHRODITE was the great Olympian goddess of pleasure, joy, beauty, love and procreation.
This page describes Aphrodite's sexual liaisons with mortal men. Although five are described by classical writers, only the stories of Adonis and Ankhises are elaborated upon to any substantial degree. The former was connected with a popular cult of the goddess introduced from the East, while the latter formed an integral part of the celebrated Trojan War saga.
In ancient Greek and Roman art, only the stories of Adonis and Phaon make a significant appearance.
|(2) MORTAL LOVES
|ADONIS A Prince of the island of Kypros (in West Asia), who was loved by Aphrodite. She bore him a daughter, Beroe, before he fell before the tusks of the jealous Ares disguised as a boar.
|ANKHISES A Shepherd-Prince of Dardania (near Troy, Asia Minor) who was loved by the goddess Aphrodite - some say Zeus sought to punish her with a lowly mate for causing the gods to fall in love with an endless string of mortal women. She bore him two sons Aeneas and Lyros.
|BOUTES A Lord of Attika (in Southern Greece) and one of the Argonauts. He was rescued by Aphrodite when he leapt into to the sea under the charm of the Seirenes. She carried him off to Italia as her lover and bore a son, Eryx.
|PHAON Phaon was a boy loved by Aphrodite. He was perhaps the same as Phaethon (below) or Adonis.
|PHAETHON An Athenian lord, son of the goddess Eos and her motal love Kephalos, who was carried off by Aphrodite to Syria. There she made him guardian of her temple and bore him a son Astynoos.
APHRODITE LOVES: ADONIS
LOCALE: Kypros Eastern Meditteranean) OR Assyria (West Asia)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 183 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Kinyras took some people with him to Kypros and founded Paphos there; he married Metharme, a child of King Pygmalion of Kypros, and they had Oxyporos and Adonis . . . While Adonis was still a boy, because of Artemis' anger he was wounded by a boar during a hunt and died. Hesiodos says the he was the son of Phoinix and Alphesiboia; but Panyassis calls him the son of Theias, king of the Assyrians, whose daughter was Smyrna. Because of Aphrodite's wrath (for she did not honour Aphrodite), Smyrna developed a lust for her father, and with the help of her nurse slept with him for twelve nights without his knowing it. When he found out he drew his sword and started after her, and as he was about to overtake her, she prayed to the gods to become invisible. The gods took pity on her and changed her into the tree called the Smyrna. Nine months later the tree split open and the baby named Adonis was born. Because of his beauty, Aphrodite secreted him away in a chest, keeping it from the gods, and left him with Persephone. But when Persephone got a glimpse of Adonis, she refused to return him. When the matter was brought to Zeus for arbitration, he divided the year into three parts and decreed that Adonis would spent one third of the year by himself, one third with Persephone, and the rest with Aphrodite. But Adonis added his own portion to Aphrodite’s. Later on, while hunting, he was attacked by a boar and died."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 6 :
"Aphrodite, furious with [the Muse] Kleio, who had chided her for loving Adonis, caused her to fall in love with [a mortal], Magnes' son Pieros."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 24. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The rose and the myrtle are sacred to Aphrodite and connected with the story of Adonis."
Orphic Hymn 56 to Adonis (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"To Adonis . . . Rejoicing in the chase, all-graceful power, sweet plant of Aphrodite, Eros' (Love's) delightful flower: descended from the secret bed divine of fair-haired Persephone, ‘tis thine to sink in Tartaros profound, and shine again through heavens illustrious round; come, timely power, with providential care, and to thy mystics earth’s productions bear."
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 34 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Smyrna became pregnant [by her father] Thias felt an urge to learn who the mother of his child was. He hid a light in his quarters and, when Smyrna came to him, she was revealed as the light was suddenly brought out. Smyrna gave birth prematurely to her child and she raised up her arms and prayed that she might no more be seen among the living, nor among the dead.
Zeus changed her into a tree which was called the smyrna (myrrh) after her name. It is said that each year the tree weeps tears from the wood as its fruit. Thias, father of Smyrna, did away with himself for this unlawful act. By desire of Zeus the child was brought up and called Adonis. Aphrodite fell utterly in love with him because of his beauty."
Aelian, On Animals 9. 36 (trans. Schofield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"People like to call it [the mullet known as the ‘Adonis Fish’] ‘Adonis’ because it loves both land and sea, and those who first gave it this name were hinting (so I think) at the son of Kinyras whose life was divided between two goddesses; one who loved him beneath the earth [Persephone], the other [Aphrodite] above."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 69b-d (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Nikandros of Kolophon [grammarian C2nd B.C.], in the second book of his Dialect Lexicon, explains the word brenthis as the Cyprian term for lettuce; in this Adonis sought refuge from the wild boar which killed him . . . Kallimakhos [grammarian C3rd B.C.], too, says that Aphrodite hid Adonis in a lettuce-bed, since the poets mean by this allegory that constant eating of lettuce produces impotence. So also Euboulos, in the Defectives, says: ‘Don’t put lettuce on the table before me, wife, or you will have only yourself to blame. For in that plant, the story goes, Kypris [Aphrodite], once laid out Adonis when he died; therefore it is dead men’s food.’ And Kratinos [comic poet C6th B.C.] says that Aphrodite, when she fell in love with Phaon, hid him away in ‘fair lettuce-beds,’ while the younger Marsyas declares that it was in a field of unripe barley."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 4 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"There were many celebrated Helene's . . . the one who assisted Aphrodite in her union with Adonis."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 2 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) :
"It was Aphrodite who, because of Adonis whom both she and Herakles loved, taught Nessos the kentauros (centaur) the trap with which to snare Herakles."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 5 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) :
"Adonis, having become androgynous, behaved as a man for Aphrodite and as a woman for Apollon."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 1 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) :
"Erymanthos, son of Apollon, was punished because he had seen Aphrodite after her union with Adonis and Apollon, irritated, changed himself into a wild boar and killed Adonis by striking through his defenses."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 1 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) :
"He [Ptolemy Hephaestion] then pretends that the sense of the passage discussed by Euphorion in his Hyakinthia, ‘Only Kokytos [a river of the underworld] washed the wounds of Adonis,’ was as follows: Kokytos was the name of a pupil to whom Kheiron had taught medicine and who cared for Adonis when he was wounded by the wild boar."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 7 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) :
"Those who dive from the top of the rock [of Leukade on the island of Leukos in Western Greece] were, it is said, freed from their love and for this reason: after the death of Adonis, Aphrodite, it is said, wandered around searching for this. She found it in Argos, a town of Kypros, in the sanctuary of Apollon Erithios and ‘l'emporta’ after having told Apollon in confidence the secret of her love for Adonis. And Apollon brought her to the rock of Leukade and ordered her to throw herself from the top of the rock; she did so and was freed from her love. When she sought the reason of this, Apollon told her, it is said, in his capacity as a soothsayer, he knew that Zeus, always enamoured of Hera, had sat on this rock and been delivered from his love."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 58 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Venus [Aphrodite] later pitied her [Smyrna, who she had caused to lie with her father Kinyras], and changed her into a kind of tree from which myrrh flows; Adonis, born from it, exacted punishment for his mother's sake from Venus."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 271 :
"Youths who were most handsome. Adonis, son of Cinyras and Smyrna, whom Venus [Aphrodite] loved."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 251 :
"Those who, by permission of the Parcae [Moirai, Fates], returned from the lower world ... Adonis, son of Cinyras and Zmyrna, by wish of Venus [Aphrodite]."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 248 :
"Those who died from wounds by a wild boar. Adonis, son of Cinyras."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 7 :
"Some also have said that Venus [Aphrodite] and Proserpina [Persephone] came to Jove [Zeus] for his decision, asking him to which of them he would grant Adonis. Calliope, the judge appointed by Jove, decided that each should posses him half of the year. But Venus [Aphrodite], angry because she had not been granted what she thought was her right, stirred the women in Thrace by love, each to seek Orpheus for herself, so that they tore him limb from limb."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 522 & 705 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Myrrha, a Kyprian princess, was transformed into a myrrh tree, after lying in love with her father Kinyras:] The growing tree had tightly swathed her swelling womb, had overlapped her breast, ready to wrap her neck. She would not wait, but sinking down to meet the climbing wood, buried her face and forehead in the bark . . .
The child [Adonis] conceived in sin had grown inside the wood and now was searching for some way to leave its mother and thrust forth. The trunk swelled in the middle with its burdened womb. The load was straining, but the pains of birth could find no words, nor voice in travail call Lucina [Eileithyia goddess of childbirth]. Yet the tree, in labour, stooped with groan on groan and wet with falling tears. Then, pitying Lucina stood beside the branches in their pain and laid her hands upon them and pronounced the words of birth. The tree split open and the sundered bark yielded its living load; a baby boy squalled, and the Naides laid him on soft grass and bathed him in his mother’s flowing tears [myrrh]. Envy herself would praise his looks; for like the little naked Amores (Loves) that pictures show he lay there, give or take the slender bow. Time glides in secret and his wings deceive; nothing is swifter than the years. That son, child of his sister and his grandfather, so lately bark-enswathed, so lately born, then a most lovely infant, then a youth, and now a man more lovely than the boy, was Venus' [Aphrodite’s] darling (Venus'!) and avenged his mother's passion.
Once, when Venus' son [Eros] was kissing her, his quiver dangling down, a jutting arrow, unbeknown, had grazed her breast. She pushed the boy away. In face the wound was deeper than it seemed, though unperceived at first. Enraptured by the beauty of a man, she cared no more for her Cythera's shores nor sought again her sea-girt Paphos nor her Cnidos, famed for fish, nor her ore-laden Amathus. She shunned heaven too: to heaven she preferred Adonis. Him she clung to, he was her constant companion. She who always used to idle in the shade and take such pains to enhance her beauty, roamed across the hills, through woods and brambly boulders, with her dress knee-high like Diana's [Artemis'], urging on the hounds, chasing the quarry when the quarry's safe - does and low-leaping hares and antlered deer - but keeping well away from brigand wolves and battling boars and bears well-armed with claws and lions soaked in slaughter of the herds. She warned Adonis too, if warnings could have been of any use, to fear those beasts. ‘Be brave when backs are turned, but when they're bold, boldness is dangerous. Never be rash, my darling, to my risk; never provoke quarry that nature's armed, lest your renown should cost me dear. Not youth, not beauty, nor charms that move Venus' [Aphrodite's] heart can ever move lions or bristly boars or eyes or minds of savage beasts. In his curved tusks a boar wields lightning; tawny lions launch their charge in giant anger. Creatures of that kind I hate.’
And when Adonis asked her why, ‘I’ll tell’, she said, ‘a tale to astonish you of ancient guilt and magic long ago. But my unwonted toil has made me tired and, look, a poplar, happily at hand, drops shade for our delight, and greensward gives a couch. Here I would wish to rest with you’ (she rested) ‘on the ground’, and on the grass and him she lay, her head upon his breast, and mingling kisses with her words began [telling him the tale of Atalante and Hippomenes and how they came to be transformed into lions] . . . ‘And you my darling, for my sake beware of lions and of every savage beast that shows not heels but teeth; avoid them all lest by your daring ruin on us fall.’
Her warning given, Venus [Aphrodite] made her way, drawn by her silver swans across the sky; but his bold heart rebuffed her warning words. It chanced his hounds, hot on a well-marked scent, put up a boar, lying hidden in the woods, and as it broke away Cinyreius [Adonis] speared it - a slanting hit - and quick with its curved snout the savage beast dislodged the bloody point, and charged Adonis as he ran in fear for safety, and sank its tusks deep in his groin and stretched him dying on the yellow sand. Cytherea [Aphrodite] was riding in her dainty chariot, winged by her swans, across the middle air making for Cyprus, when she heard afar Adonis' dying groans, and thither turned her snowy birds and, when from heaven on high she saw him lifeless, writhing in his blood, she rent her garments, tore her lovely hair, and bitterly beat her breast, and springing down reproached fate: ‘Even so, not everything shall own your sway. Memorials of my sorrow, Adonis, shall endure; each passing year your death repeated in the hearts of men shall re-enact my grief and my lament [in the Adonia festival]. But now your blood shall change into a flower . . . shall I be begrudged the right to change my prince?’
And with these words she sprinkled nectar [the drink of the gods], sweet-scented, on his blood, which at the touch swelled up, as on a pond when showers fall clear bubbles form; and ere an hour had passed a blood-red flower arose, like the rich bloom of pomegranates which in a stubborn rind conceal their seeds; yet is its beauty brief, so lightly cling it petals, fall so soon, when the winds [Greek anemoi] blow that give the flower [anemone] its name."
Propertius, Elegies 2. 13A (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"Be she [Aphrodite] my witness, whose snow-white Adonis, as he hunted upon Idalian peaks, was struck down by a cruel boar. In waters there is Venus [Aphrodite] said to have laved her beauteous lover, there to have gone about with dishevelled hair."
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 21- 23 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"[One form of Aphrodite] we [the Greeks and Romans] obtained from Syria and Cyprus, and is called Astarte; it is recorded that she married Adonis."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 264 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Kypris [Aphrodite] came laughing, wandering with the young son of Myrrha [Adonis] when he hunted . . . Eros went on killing the beasts, until he was weary of the bowstring and hitting the grim face of a panther or the snout of a bear; then he caught a lioness alive with the allbewitching cestus, and dragged the beast away showed her fettered to his merry mother . . . he leaned on the arm of Kythereia and Adonis, while he made his prey the proud lioness, bend a slavish knee before Aphrodite."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 1 ff :
"There is a younger legend, that her [Beroe Goddess of the city of Beruit's] mother was Kythereia [Aphrodite] herself, the pilot of human life, who bore her all white to Assyrian Adonis. Now she had completed the nine circles of Selene's course carrying her burden . . . Themis was her Eileithyia - she made a way through the narrow opening of the swollen womb for the child, and unfolded the wrapping, and lightened the sharp pang of the ripening birth . . . Kypris under the oppression of her travail leaned back heavily against the ministering goddess, and in her throes brought forth the wise child . . .
The beasts were wild with joy when they learnt of the Paphian's child safely born . . . With calm face ever-smiling Aphrodite rang out her unfailing laugh, when she saw the birthday games of the happy beasts. She turned her round eyes delighted in all directions; only the boars she would not watch in their pleasures, for being a prophet she knew, that in the shape of a wild boar, Ares with jagged tusk and spitting deadly poison was destined toe weave fate for Adonis in jealous madness."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 98 ff :
"[While Dionysos was wooing Beroe daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis he kept company with her father:] Once it happened that he [Dionysos] lay sound asleep on a bed of anemone leaves [the flower of Adonis]; and he saw the girl [Beroe] in a dream decked out in bridal array . . . In company with Beroe’s father [Adonis], the son of Myrrha, he [Dionysos] showed his hunting-skill . . .
[Dionysos addresses Beroe:] ‘Girl, you have the blood of Kypris [Aphrodite] - then why do you flee from the secrets of Kypris? Do not shame your mother’s race. If you really have in you the blood of Assyrian Adonis the charming, learn the tender rules of your sire whose blessing is upon marriage, obey the cestus girdle born with Paphia [Aphrodite] . . . I myself will carry the nets of your father Adonis, I will the bed of my sister Aphrodite.’ . . .
[Poseidon also wooed Beroe and petitioned Adonis for her hand:] ‘Happy son of Myrrha [Adonis], you have got a fine daughter, and now a double honour is yours alone; you alone are named father of Beroe and bridegroom of Aphrogeneia [Aphrodite].’
Thus Earthshaker was flogged by the blows of the cestus [desire]; but he offered many gifts to Adonis and Kythereia, bridegifts for the love of their daughter."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 3. 400 ff :
"[Aphrodite to Harmonia:] ‘Surely his blood comes from Assyria! That must be his home, beside the river of that enchanting Adonis, for that lovely young man came from Libanos where Kythereia [Aphrodite] dances.’
ARES AS BOAR
APHRODITE LOVES: PHAETHON
LOCALE: Syria (West Asia)
Hesiod, Theogony 986 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Then [Eos], embraced by Kephalos, she engendered a son, glorious Phaethon, the strong, a man in the likeness of the immortals; and, while he still had the soft flower of the splendour of youth upon him, still thought the light thoughs of a child, Aphrodite, the lover of laughter, swooped down and caught him away and set him in her holy temple to be her nocturnal temple-keeper, a Divine Spirit (Daimon Dios)."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 181 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Kephalos, whom Eos developed a passion for and kidnapped. They had sex in Syria, and she bore him a son (Tithonos, who was father of) Phaethon [the reference to Tithonos here should probably means that Eos' husband Tithonos was the step-father of her son Phaethon]; Phaethon [was father] of Astynoos, and Astynoos of Sandokos. Sandokos left Syria for Kilikia."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 3. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"On the tiling of this portico [the Royal Portico at Athens] are images of . . . Hemera carrying away Kephalos, who was in love with him. His son was Phaethon, afterwards ravished by Aphrodite . . . and made a guardian (daimon) of her temple. Such is the tale told by Hesiod, among others, in his poem on women."
N.B. Phaethon was probably the same as Adonis in alternate Greek interpretation of the Syrian myth of Ashtarte.
APHRODITE LOVES: PHAON
LOCALE: Unknown (or Syria, if he is the same as Phaethon above)
Phaon may be the same as Phaethon-Adonis. Both were described as being lain in a bed of lettuce - Adonis at his death, and Phaon at birth.
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 2. 69d (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"And Kratinos comic poet C6th B.C.] says that Aphrodite, when she fell in love with Phaon, hid him away in ‘fair lettuce-beds,’ while the younger Marsyas declares that it was in a field of unripe barley."
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 12. 18 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Aphrodite hid Phaon, the most handsome man on earth, in a lettuce field. Another story is that he was a ferryman and earned his living in that way. One day Aphrodite arrived and wished to cross; he welcomed her with pleasure, not knowing who she was, and guided her most attentively where she wished to go. In return the goddess gave him an alabaster pot. This contained myrrh, and when Phaon rubbed this on himself he became the most handsome of men. The women of Mytilene fell in love with him. But in the end he was caught in flagrante and executed." [N.B. The story of Phaon is similar to that of Adonis.]
The love-story of Aphrodite and Phaon is also depicted in Athenian vase paintings from the C5th B.C.
APHRODITE LOVES: BOUTES
LOCALE: Anthemoessa (Mythical Island) & Lilybaion (Southern Italy)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 135 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"As they [the Argonautoi] sailed past the Seirenes, Orpheus kept the Argonautoi in check by singing a song that offset the effect of the sisters' singing. The only one to swim off to them was Boutes, whom Aphrodite snatched up and settled at Lilybaion."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 14 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Butes, son of Teleon, though diverted by the singing and lyre of Orpheus [when the Argonauts encountered the Seirenes], neverthless was overcome by the sweetness of the Sirens' song, and in an effort to swim to them threw himself into the sea. Venus [Aphrodite] saved him at Lilybaeum, as he was borne along by the waves."
APHRODITE LOVES: ANKHISES
LOCALE: Mount Ida, Mysia (Anatolia)
Hesiod, Theogony 1008 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"And Kythereia [Aphrodite] with the beautiful crown was joined in sweet love with the hero Ankhises and bare Aeneas on the peaks of Ida with its many wooded glens."
Homer, Iliad 2. 820 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The strong son of Ankhises was leader of the Dardanians [in the Trojan War], Aineias, whom divine Aphrodite bore to Ankhises in the folds of Ida, a goddess lying in love with a mortal."
Homer, Iliad 5. 248 ff :
"Aineias, who claims he was born as son to Ankhises the blameless but his mother was Aphrodite."
Homer, Iliad 5. 311 ff :
"Aphrodite, Zeus' daughter . . . his [Aineias'] mother, who had borne him to Ankhises the ox-herd." - Homer, Iliad 5.311
Homer, Iliad 20. 106 ff :
"Apollo [in disguise] spoke to him [Aineias]: ‘Hero, then make your prayer, you also, to the everlasting gods, since they say that you yourself are born of Zeus' daughter Aphrodite.’ "
Homer, Iliad 20. 176 ff :
"Aineias [addresses Akhilleus in battle]: ‘. . . You and I know each other’s birth, we both know our parents since we have heard the lines of their fame from mortal men; only I have never with my eyes seen your parents, nor have you seen mine. For you, they say you are the issue of blameless Peleus and that your mother was Thetis of the lovely hair, the sea's lady; I in turn claim I am the son of great-hearted Ankhises but that my mother was Aphrodite.’"
Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite 45 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"Upon Aphrodite herself Zeus cast sweet desire to be joined in love with a mortal man, to the end that, very soon, not even she should be innocent of a mortal's love; lest laughter-loving Aphrodite should one day softly smile and say mockingly among all the gods that she had joined the gods in love with mortal women who bare sons of death to the deathless gods, and had mated the goddesses with mortal men.
And so he put in her heart sweet desire for Ankhises who was tending cattle at that time among the steep hills of many-fountained Ida, and in shape was like the immortal gods. Therefore, when laughter-loving Aphrodite saw him, she loved him, and terribly desire seized her in her heart. She went to Kypros, to Paphos, where her precinct is and fragrant altar, and passed into her sweet-smelling temple. There she went in and put to the glittering doors, and there the Kharites (Graces) bathed her with heavenly oil such as blooms upon the bodies of the eternal gods - oil divinely sweet, which she had by her, filled with fragrance. And laughter-loving Aphrodite put on all her rich clothes, and when she had decked herself with gold, she left sweet-smelling Kypros and went in haste towards Troy, swiftly travelling high up among the clouds. So she came to many-fountained Ida, the mother of wild creatures and went straight to the homestead across the mountains. After her came grey wolves, fawning on her, and grim-eyed lions, and bears, and fleet leopards, ravenous for deer: and she was glad in heart to see them, and put desire in their breasts, so that they all mated, two together, about the shadowy coombes.
But she herself came to the neat-built shelters, and him she found left quite alone in the homestead - the hero Ankhises who was comely as the gods. All the others were following the herds over the grassy pastures, and he, left quite alone in the homestead, was roaming hither and thither and playing thrillingly upon the lyre. And Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus stood before him, being like a pure maiden in height and mien, that he should not be frightened when he took heed of her with his eyes. Now when Ankhises saw her, he marked her well and wondered at her mien and height and shining garments. For she was clad in a robe out-shining the brightness of fire, a splendid robe of gold, enriched with all manner of needlework, which shimmered like the moon over her tender breasts, a marvel to see. Also she wore twisted brooches and shining earrings in the form of flowers; and round her soft throat were lovely necklaces.
And Ankhises was seized with love, and said to her: ‘Hail, lady, whoever of the blessed ones you are that are come to this house, whether Artemis, or Leto, or golden Aphrodite, or high-born Themis, or bright-eyed Athene. Or, maybe, you are one of the Kharites come hither, who bear the gods company and are called immortal, or else one of those [Nymphai] who inhabit this lovely mountain and the springs of rivers and grassy meads. I will make you an altar upon a high peak in a far seen place, and will sacrifice rich offerings to you at all seasons. And do you feel kindly towards me and grant that I may become a man very eminent among the Trojans, and give me strong offspring for the time to come. As for my own self, let me live long and happily, seeing the light of the sun, and come to the threshold of old age, a man prosperous among the people.’
Thereupon Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered him: ‘Ankhises, most glorious of all men born on earth, know that I am no goddess: why do you liken me to the deathless ones? Nay, I am but a mortal, and a woman was the mother that bare me. Otreus of famous name is my father, if so be you have heard of him, and he reigns over all Phrygia rich in fortresses. But I know your speech well beside my own, for a Trojan nurse brought me up at home: she took me from my dear mother and reared me thenceforth when I was a little child. So comes it, then, that I well know you tongue also. And now Argeiphontes [Hermes] with the golden wand has caught me up from the dance of huntress Artemis, her with the golden arrows. For there were many of us, Nymphai and marriageable maidens, playing together; and an innumerable company encircled us: from these Argeiphontes [Hermes] with the golden wand rapt me away. He carried me over many fields of mortal men and over much land untilled and unpossessed, where savage wild-beasts roam through shady coombes, until I thought never again to touch the life-giving earth with my feet. And he said that I should be called the wedded wife of Ankhises, and should bear you goodly children. But when he had told and advised me, he, strong Argeiphontes [Hermes], went back to the families of the deathless gods, while I am now come to you: for unbending necessity is upon me. But I beseech you by Zeus and by your noble parents - for no base folk could get such a son as you - take me now, stainless and unproved in love, and show me to your father and careful mother and to your brothers sprung from the same stock. I shall be no ill-liking daughter for them, but a likely. Moreover, send a messenger quickly to the swift-horsed Phrygians, to tell my father and my sorrowing mother; and they will send you gold in plenty and woven stuffs, many splendid gifts; take these as bride-piece. So do, and then prepare the sweet marriage that is honourable in the eyes of men and
When she had so spoken, the goddess put sweet desire in his heart. And Ankhises was seized with love, so that he opened his mouth and said: ‘If you are a mortal and a woman was the mother who bare you, and Otreus of famous name is your father as you say, and if you are come here by the will of Hermes the immortal Guide, and are to be called my wife always, then neither god nor mortal man shall here restrain me till I have lain with you in love right now; no, not even if far-shooting Apollon himself should launch grievous shafts from his silver bow. Willingly would I go down into the house of Aides, O lady, beautiful as the goddesses, once I had gone up to your bed.’
So speaking, he caught her by the hand. And laughter-loving Aphrodite, with face turned away and lovely eyes downcast, crept to the well-spread couch which was already laid with soft coverings for the hero; and upon it lay skins of bears and deep-roaring lions which he himself had slain in the high mountains. And when they had gone up upon the well-fitted bed, first Ankhises took off her bright jewelry of pins and twisted brooches and earrings and necklaces, and loosed her girdle and stripped off her bright garments and laid them down upon a silver-studded seat. Then by the will of the gods and destiny he lay with her, a mortal man with an immortal goddess, not clearly knowing what he did.
But at the time when the herdsmen driver their oxen and hardy sheep back to the fold from the flowery pastures, even then Aphrodite poured soft sleep upon Ankhises, but herself put on her rich raiment. And when the bright goddess had fully clothed herself, she stood by the couch, and her head reached to the well-hewn roof-tree; from her cheeks shone unearthly beauty such as belongs to rich-crowned Kytherea. Then she aroused him from sleep and opened her mouth and said: ‘Up, son of Dardanos! -- why sleep you so heavily? - and consider whether I look as I did when first you saw me with your eyes.’
So she spake. And he awoke in a moment and obeyed her. But when he saw the neck and lovely eyes of Aphrodite, he was afraid and turned his eyes aside another way, hiding his comely face with his cloak. Then he uttered winged words and entreated her:
‘So soon as ever I saw you with my eyes, goddess, I knew that you were divine; but you did not tell me truly. Yet by Zeus who holds the aegis I beseech you, leave me not to lead a palsied life among men, but have pity on me; for he who lies with a deathless goddess is no hale man afterwards.’
Then Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered him: ‘Ankhises, most glorious of mortal men, take courage and be not too fearful in your heart. You need fear no harm from me nor from the other blessed ones, for you are dear to the gods: and you shall have a dear son who shall reign among the Trojans, and children's children after him, springing up continually. His name shall be Aeneas, because I felt awful grief in that I laid me in the bed of mortal man: yet are those of your race always the most like to gods of all mortal men in beauty and in stature. Verily wise Zeus carried off golden-haired Ganymedes because of his beauty . . . So also golden-throned Eos rapt away Tithonos who was of your race . . . I would not have you be deathless among the deathless gods and live continually after such sort. Yet if you could live on such as now you are in look and in form, and be called my husband, sorrow would not then enfold my careful heart. But, as it is, harsh old age will soon enshroud you - ruthless age which stands someday at the side of every man, deadly, wearying, dreaded even by the gods. And now because of you I shall have great shame among the deathless gods henceforth, continually. For until now they feared my jibes and the wiles by which, or soon or late, I mated all the immortals with mortal women, making them all subject to my will. But now my mouth shall no more have this power among the gods; for very great has been my madness, my miserable and dreadful madness, and I went astray out of my mind who have gotten a child beneath my girdle, mating with a mortal man. As for the child, as soon as he sees the light of the sun, the deep-breasted mountain Nymphai who inhabit this great and holy mountain shall bring him up . . . These Nymphai shall keep my son with them and rear him, and as soon as he is come to lovely boyhood, the goddesses will bring him here to you and show you your child. But, that I may tell you all that I have in mind, I will come here again towards the fifth year and bring you my son. So soon as ever you have seen him - a scion to delight the eyes - you will rejoice in beholding him; for he shall be most godlike: then bring him at once to windy Ilion. And if any mortal man ask you who got your dear son beneath her girdle, remember to tell him as I bid you: say he is the offspring of one of the flower-like Nymphai who inhabit this forest-clad hill. But if you tell all and foolishly boast that you lay with rich-crowned Aphrodite, Zeus will smite you in his anger with a smoking thunderbolt. Now I have told you all. Take heed: refrain and name me not, but have regard to the anger of the gods.’
When the goddess had so spoken, she soared up to windy heaven."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 141 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Aphrodite, in erotic passion, had sex with Ankhises [of Dardania, near Troy] and gave birth to Aeneias, and to Lyros, who left no heirs."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 8. 108 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"In craggy Dardanos, where the bride-bed is whereon Ankhises clasped the Queen of Love."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 12. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Ankhises appears to have been connected with the cult of Aphrodite at Orkhomenos:] There still remains the road leading to Orkhomenos, on which are Mount Ankhisia and the tomb of Ankhises at the foot of the mountain. For when Aeneas was voyaging to Sicily, he put in with his ships to Lakonia, becoming the founder of the cities Aphrodisias [named after his mother Aphrodite] and Etis; his father Ankhises for some reason or other came to this place and died there, where Aeneas buried him. This mountain they call Ankhisia after Ankhises. The probability of this story is strengthened by the fact that the Aiolians who to-day occupy Troy nowhere point out a tomb of Ankhises in their own land. Near the grave of Ankhises are the ruins of a sanctuary of Aphrodite [he remained connected with the goddess even in death], and at Ankhisiai is the boundary between Mantineia and Orkhomenos."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 94 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Venus [Aphrodite] is said to have loved Anchises and to have lain with him. By him she conceived Aeneas, but she warned him not to reveal it to anyone. Anchises, however, told it over the wine to his companions, and for this was struck by the thunderbolt of Jove [Zeus]."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 270 :
"Those who were most handsome . . . Anchises, son of Assaracus, whom Venus [Aphrodite] loved."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 9. 420 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"A rumbling argument arose in heaven, the gods all grumbling why others should not be allowed to grant such gifts [the rejuvenating gift of the goddess Hebe] . . . Venus [Aphrodite] too, worried about the future, staked a claim to have Anchises’ years made young again. [But Zeus refused all their requests]."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 624 ff :
"Fate did not allow Troy's hopes to fall to ruins with her walls. The Heros Cythereius [Aeneas, son of Aphrodite] on his shoulders bore away her holy images and, holy too, his ancient father [Ankhises], venerable freight."
Propertius, Elegies 2. 32 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"She [Aphrodite] loved a shepherd [Ankhises] and amid his flocks gave herself, a goddess, to him; their armour was witnessed by the band of sister Hamadryades as well as the Sileni and the father of the company himself [Silenos], with whom were Naiads gathering apples in the vales of Ida."
Other sources not currently quoted here: Virgil, Aeneid 2.467 & 606
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C9th-8th BC
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th BC
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th BC
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd BC
- The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns BC
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th AD
- Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD
- Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History - Greek Scholar C1st-2nd AD
- Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses - Greek Mythography C2nd AD
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - C3rd AD
- Aelian, Historical Miscellany - Greek Rhetoric C2nd-3rd A.D.
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae - Greek Cullinary Guide C3rd AD
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD
- Propertius, Elegies - Latin Elegy C1st BC
- Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Philosophy C1st BC
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st AD
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th AD
- Photius, Myriobiblon - Byzantine Greek Scholar C9th AD