APHRODITE was the great Olympian goddess of pleasure, joy, beauty, love and procreation.
This page describes the role of Aphrodite in the Trojan War including:
1. Paris' Seduction of Helene
2. The Duel of Paris & Menelaos (Iliad)
3. The Wounding of Aphrodite by Diomedes (Iliad)
4. The Loan of her Magical Girdle to Hera (Iliad)
5. The Fight of the Gods
6. The Fall of Troy: Protection of Helene
7. The Fall of Troy: Flight of Aeneas
APHRODITE & THE JUDGEMENT OF PARIS
Paris awarded the prize of the golden apple to Aphrodite in her contest with Hera and Athena. In return, she promised him the love of Helene, most beautiful woman in the world.
APHRODITE & THE SEDUCTION OF HELENE
Aphrodite assisted Paris in his seduction of Helene and her abduction to Troy.
Homer, Iliad 3. 441 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Paris to Helene during the Trojan War:] ‘Never before as now has passion enmeshed my senses [inflamed by Aphrodite who is present in the guise of a handmaiden], not when I took you the first time from Lakedaimon the lovely and caught you up and carried you away in seafaring vessels, and lay with you in the bed of love on the island Kranai, not even then, as now, did I love you and sweet desire seize me.’"
Homer, Iliad 3. 399 ff :
"[Helene rebukes Aphrodite during the Trojan War:] ‘Strange divinity! Why are you still so stubborn to beguile me [to lie in love with Paris]? Will you carry me further yet somewhere among cities fairly settled? In Phrygia or in lovely Maionia? Is there some mortal man [like Paris] there also dear to you?’"
Homer, Iliad 5. 349 ff :
"[Diomedes to Aphrodite:] ‘It is not then enough that you lead astray women [such as, Helene to elope with Paris].’"
Homer, Iliad 5. 422 ff :
"[Athene to Zeus mocking Aphrodite:] ‘[Is] Kypris [Aphrodite], [again] moving some woman of Akhaia [like Helene] to follow after those Trojans she loves to hopelessly, laying hold on the fair dresses of the Akhaian women.’"
Homer, Odyssey 4. 261 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Helene in Troy:] ‘My desire had turned by now to going back home again, and I wept, too late, for the blindness that Aphrodite sent me when she made me go there, away from my own dear land, and let me forsake my daughter and bridal room and a husband who fell short in nothing, whether in mind or in outward form.’"
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Cherstomathia 1) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"The [Homeric] epic called The Cypria which is current is eleven books. Its contents are as follows. Zeus plans with Themis to bring about the Trojan war. Eris (Strife) arrives while the gods are feasting at the marriage of Peleus and starts a dispute between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite as to which of them is fairest. The three are led by Hermes at the command of Zeus to Alexandros [Paris] on Mount Ida for his decision, and Alexandros, lured by his promised marriage with Helene, decides in favour of Aphrodite. Then Alexandros builds his ships at Aphrodite's suggestion, and Helenos foretells the future to him, and Aphrodite orders Aeneas [her son] to sail with him . . . Alexandros next lands in Lakedaimon and is entertained by the sons of Tyndareus, and afterwards by Menelaus in Sparta, where in the course of a feast he gives gifts to Helene.
After this, Menelaus sets sail for Krete, ordering Helene to furnish the guests with all they require until they depart.
Meanwhile, Aphrodite brings Helene and Alexandros together, and they, after their union, put very great treasures on board and sail away by night. Hera stirs up a storm against them and they are carried to Sidon, where Alexandros takes the city. From there he sailed to Troy and celebrated his marriage with Helene. . .
The Greeks [upon arriving at Troy] send envoys to the Trojans demanding the surrender of Helene and the treasure with her. The Trojans refusing, they first assault the city, and then go out and lay waste the country and cities round about. After this, Akhilleus desires to see Helene, and Aphrodite and Thetis contrive a meeting between them."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 22. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The island Kranai [off the coast of Lakedaimonia]: Homer says that when Alexandros [Paris of Troy] had carried off Helene he had intercourse with her there for the first time. On the mainland opposite the island is a sanctuary of Aphrodite Migonitis (Union) . . . This sanctuary, they say, was made by Alexandros."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 92 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Alexander [Paris], at the prompting of Venus [Aphrodite], took Helen from his host Menelaus from Lacedaemon to Troy, and married her."
Seneca, Troades 920 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Helene complains:] ‘Swept along by Phrygian oarsmen, I was a helpless prey, if a triumphant goddess [Aphrodite] gave me as a reward to her judge [Paris], pity the helpless prey.’ "
PARIS IN SPARTA
APHRODITE & THE MARRIAGE OF HEKTOR
Homer, Iliad 22. 466 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The shining gear that ordered her [Andromakhe's] headdress, the diadem and the cap, and the holding-band woven together, and the circlet, which Aphrodite the golden (khrysee) had once given her on that day when Hektor of the shining helmet led her forth from the house of Eetion, and gave numberless gifts to win her."
APHRODITE & THE TROJAN WAR
I) THE ILIAD: PERSUADES ARES TO SUPPORT THE TROJANS
At the outset of the Trojan War the gods took sides. Ares promised his mother Hera and Athena that he would side with them and support the Greeks, but Aphrodite persuaded him otherwise and he joined the Trojan faction.
Homer, Iliad 5. 699 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Athena declared:] ‘Violent Ares, that thing of fury, evil-wrought, that double-faced liar who even now protested to Hera and me, promising that he would fight against the Trojans and stand by the Argives. Now, all promises forgotten, he stands by the Trojans.’"
Homer, Iliad 5. 757 ff :
"[Hera to Zeus:] ‘Father Zeus, are you not angry with Ares for his violent acts, for killing so many and such good Akhaian warriors for now reason, and out of due order, to grieve me? And meanwhile Kypris [Aphrodite] and Apollon of the silver bow take their ease and their pleasure having let loose this maniac who knows nothing of justice.’ "
II) THE ILIAD: DUEL OF PARIS & MENELAOS
In the tenth year of the war the Greeks and Trojans swear an oath to award Helene to the winner of a duel. In the fight, Menelaos bests Paris, and would have slain him, but Aphrodite carries him away to his bedchamber at Troy. The goddess then draws a reluctant Helene back to his bed, rekindling the lover's passion and removing her thoughts of returning to Menelaos. So Aphrodite thwarts the end of the war, and maintains her pledge to Paris.
Homer, Iliad 3. 54 ff :
"Hektor saw him [Paris] and in words of shame rebuked him: ‘. . .And now you would not stand up against warlike Menelaos? Thus you would learn of the man whose blossoming wife you have taken. The lyre would not help you then, nor the favours of Aphrodite, nor your locks, when you rolled in the dust, nor all your beauty.’"
Homer, Iliad 3. 281 ff :
"[The Greeks and Trojans swear an oath:] ‘If it should be that Alexandros [Paris] slays Menelaos [in a duel], let him keep Helene for himself, and all her possessions, and we in our seafaring ships shall take our way homeward. But if the fair-haired Menelaos kills Alexandros, then let the Trojans give back Helene and all her possessions, and pay also a price to the Argives which will be fitting.’"
Homer, Iliad 3. 369 - 4. 13 :
[Menelaos and Paris engage in a duel. Paris casts his spear first which is deflected by the shield, Menelaos then casts his which pierces Paris’ shield and corselet but fails to wound. He then attempts to strike Paris down with his sword but it shatters on the warrior’s helm. Finally Menelaos:]
"Flashing forward laid hold of the horse-haired helmet [of Paris] and spun him about, and dragged him away toward the strong-grieved Akhaians, for the broidered strap under the softness of his throat strangled Paris, fastened under his chin to hold on the horned helmet. Now he would have dragged him away and won glory forever had not Aphrodite daughter of Zeus watched sharply. She broke the chinstrap, made from the hide of a slaughtered bullock, and the helmet came away empty in the heavy hand of Atreides. The hero whirled the helmet about and sent it flying among the strong-greaved Akhaians, and his staunch companions retrieved it. He turned and made again for his man, determined to kill him with the bronze spear. But Aphrodite caught up Paris easily, since she was divine, and wrapped him in a thick mist and set him down again in his own perfumed bedchamber.
She then went away to summon Helene, and found her on the high tower [of the Walls of Troy, watching the duel], with a cluster of Trojan women about her. She laid her hand upon the robe immortal and shook it, and spoke to her, likening herself to an aged woman, a wool-dresser who when she was living in Lakedaimon made beautiful things out of wool, and loved her beyond all others. Likening herself to this woman Aphrodite spoke to her: ‘Come with me: Alexandros sends for you to come home to him. He is in his chamber now, in the bed with its circled pattern, shining inn his raiment and his own beauty; you would not think that he came from fighting against a man; you would think he was going rather to a dance, or rested and had been dancing lately.’
So she spoke, and troubled the spirit in Helene's bosom. She, as she recognized the round, sweet throat of the goddess and her desirable breasts and her eyes that were full of shining [she alone can pierce the divine disguise], she wondered, and spoke a word and called her by name, thus: ‘Strange divinity! Why are you still so stubborn to beguile me? Will you carry me further yet somewhere among cities fairly settled? In Phrygia or in lovely Maionia? Is there some mortal man there also dear to you? Is it because Menelaos has beaten great Alexandros and wishes, hateful even as I am, to carry me homeward, is it for this that you stand in your treachery now beside me? Go yourself and sit beside him, abandon the gods' way, turn your feet back never again to the path of Olympos but stay with him forever, and suffer for him, and look after him until he makes you his wedded wife, or makes you his slave girl. Not I. I am not going to him. It would be shameful. I will not serve his bed, since the Trojan women hereafter would laugh at me, all, and my heart even now is confused with sorrows.’
Then in anger Aphrodite the shining (dia) spoke to her: ‘Wretched girl, do not tease me lest in anger I forsake you and grow to hate you as much as now I terribly love you, lest I encompass you in hard hate, caught between both sides, Danaans and Trojans alike, and you wretchedly perish.’
So she spoke, and Helene daughter of Zeus was frightened and went, shrouding herself about in the luminous spun robe, silent, unseen by the Trojan women, and led by the goddess.
When they had come to Alexandros' splendidly wrought house, the rest of them, the handmaidens went speedily to their own work, but she, shining among women, went to the high-vaulted bedchamber. Aphrodite the sweetly laughing (philomeides) drew up an armchair, carrying it, she, a goddess, and set it before Alexandros, and Helene daughter of Zeus of the aigis took her place there turning her eyes away, and spoke to her lord in derision: ‘So you came back from fighting. Oh, how I wish you had died there beaten down by the stronger man, who was once my husband. There was a time before now you boasted that you were better than warlike Menelaos, in spear and hand and your own strength. Go forth now and challenge warlike Menelaos once again to fight you in combat. But no: I advise you rather to let it be, and fight no longer with fair-haired Menelaos, strength against strength in single combat recklessly. You might very well go down before his spear.’
Paris then in turn spoke to her thus and answered her: ‘Lady, censure my heart no more in bitter reprovals. This time Menelaos with Athene’s help has beaten me; another time I shall beat him. We have gods on our side also. Come, then, rather let us go to bed and turn to love-making. Never before as now has passion enmeshed my senses [inflamed by Aphrodite still present in the guise of a handmaiden], not when I took you the first time from Lakedaimon the lovely and caught you up and carried you away in seafaring vessels, and lay with you in the bed of love on the island Kranae, not even then, as now, did I love you and sweet desire seize me.’
Speaking, he led the way to the bed; and his wife went with him. So these two were laid in the carven bed. But Atreides [Menelaos] ranged like a wild beast up and down the host, to discover whether he could find anywhere godlike Alexandros . . .
Now the gods at the side of Zeus were sitting in council over the golden floor . . . gazing down on the city of the Trojans. Presently the son of Kronos was minded to anger Hera, if he could, with words offensive, speaking to cross her: ‘Two among the goddesses stand by Menelaos, Hera of Argos, and Athene who stand by her people. Yet see, here they are sitting apart, looking on at the fighting, and take their pleasure. Meanwhile laughing (philomeides) Aphrodite forever stands by her man and drives the spirits of death away from him. Even now she has rescued him when he thought he would perish.’ "
Homer, Iliad 5. 820 ff :
"[Diomedes to Athene:] ‘I remember the orders you yourself gave me when you would not let me fight in the face of the blessed immortals - the rest of them, except only if Aphrodite, Zeus’ daughter, went into the fighting, I might stab at her with the sharp bronze. Therefore now have I myself given way [to Ares].’"
Homer, Iliad 5. 883 ff :
"[Ares complains to Zeus after being wounded by Diomedes:] ‘See now, the son of Tydeus, Diomedes the haughty, she [Athene] has egged on to lash out in fury against the immortal gods. First he stabbed Kypris [Aphrodite] in the arm by the wrist. Then like something more than human he swept on even against me.’ "
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E4. 1 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Alexandros [Paris] fought a duel with Menelaos, but as he was being beaten, Aphrodite spirited him away."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 112 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Challenging combatants and their adversaries [in the Trojan War]. Menelaus with Alexander [Paris]; Venus [Aphrodite] rescued Alexander."
III) THE ILIAD: APHRODITE WOUNDED BY DIOMEDES
In the Iliad she is wounded by Diomedes while attempting to rescue her son Aeneas.
Homer, Iliad 5. 131 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Pallas Athene . . . standing close beside him [the Greek hero Diomedes] spoke and addressed him in winged words: ‘Be of good courage now, Diomedes, to fight with the Trojans, since I have put inside you chest the strength of your father incredulous . . . I have taken away the mist from your eyes, that before now was there, so that you may well recognize the god and the mortal. Therefore now, if a god making trial of you comes hither do you not do battle head on with the gods immortal not with the rest; but only if Aphrodite, Zeus' daughter, comes to the fighting, her at least you may stab with the sharp bronze.’ She spoke thus, grey-eyed Athene, and went."
Homer, Iliad 5. 297 - 430 :
"Aineias sprang to the ground with shield and with long spear [to confront Diomedes over the body of his fallen companion] . . . But Tydeus' son [Diomedes] in his hand caught up a stone, a huge thing which no two men could such as men are now, but by himself he lightly hefted it. He threw, and caught Aineias in the hip, in the place where the hip-bone turns inside the thigh, the place men call the cup-socket. It smashed the cup-socket and broke the tendons both sides of it, and the rugged stone tore the skin backward, so that the fighter dropping to one knee stayed leaning on the ground with his heavy hand, and a covering of black night came over both eyes.
Now in this place Aineias lord of men might have perished had not Aphrodite, Zeus' daughter, been quick to perceive him, his mother, who had borne him to Ankhises the ox-herd; and about her beloved son came streaming her white arms, and with her white robe thrown in a fold in front she shielded him, this keeping off the throne weapons lest some fast-mounted Danaan strike the bronze spear through his chest and strip the life from him. She then carried her beloved son out of the fighting . . .
Meanwhile . . . he [Diomedes] swung the pitiless bronze at Kypris [Aphrodite], knowing her for a god without warcraft, not of those who, goddesses, range in order the ranks of men in the fighting, not Athene and not Enyo, sacker of cities.
Now as, following her through the thick crowd, he caught her, lunging in his charge far toward the son of high-hearted Tydeus made a thrust against he soft hand with the bronze spear, and the spear tore the skin driven clean on through the immortal robe that the very Kharites had woven for her carefully over the palm’s base; and blood immortal flowed from the goddess, ichor, that which runs in the veins of the blessed divinities; since these east no food, nor do they drink of the shining wine, and therefore the have no blood and are called immortal. She gave a great shriek and let fall her son she was carrying, but Phoibos Apollon caught him up and away in his own hands, in a dark mist, for fear that some fast-mounted Danaan might strike the bronze spear through his chest and strip the life from him. But Diomedes of the great war cry shouted after her: ‘Give way, daughter of Zeus, from the fighting and the terror. It is not then enough that you lead astray women without warcraft? Yet, if still you must haunt the fighting, I think that now you will shiver even when you hear some other talking of battles.’
So he spoke, and the goddess departed in pain, hurt badly, and Iris wind-footed took her by the hand and led her away from the battle, her lovely skin blood-darkened, wounded and suffering. Thee to the left of the fighting she found Ares the violent sitting, his spear leaned into the mist, and his swift horses. Dropping on one knee before her beloved brother in deep supplication she asked for his gold-bridled horses: ‘Beloved brother, rescue me and give me your horses so I may come to Olympos where is the place of the immortals. I am in too much pain from the wound of a mortal’s spear stroke, Tydeus' son's, who would fight now even against Zeus father.’
So she spoke, and Ares gave her the gold-bridled horses, and, still grieved in the inward heart, she mounted the chariot and beside her entering Iris gathered the reins up and whipped them into a run, and they winged their way unreflecting. Now as they came to sheer Olympos, the place of the immortals, there swift Iris the wind-footed reined in her horses and slipped them from the yoke and threw fodder immortal before them, and now bright Aphrodite fell at the knees of her mother, Dione, who gathered her daughter into the arms’ fold and stroked her with her hand and called her by name and spoke to her: ‘Who now of the Ouranian gods, dear child, has done such things to you, rashly, as if you were caught doing something wicked?’
Aphrodite the sweetly laughing (philomeides) spoke then and answered her: ‘Tydeus' son Diomedes, the too high-hearted, stabbed me as I was carrying my own beloved son out of the fighting, Aineias, who beyond all else in the world is dear to me; so now this is no horrible war of Akhaians and Trojans, but the Danaans are beginning to fight even with the immortals.’
Then Dione the shining among divinities answered her: ‘Have patience, my child, and endure it though you be saddened. For many of us who have our homes on Olympos endure things from men, when ourselves we inflict hard pain on each other . . . It was the goddess grey-eyed Athene who drove on this man against you; poor fool, the heart of Tydeus' son knows nothing of how that man who fights the immortals lives no long time, his children do not gather to his knees to welcome their father when he returns home after the fighting and the bitter warfare. Then, though he be very strong indeed, let the son of Tydeus take care lest someone even better than he might fight with him, lest for a long time Aigialeia, wise child of Adrastos, mourning wake out of sleep her household's beloved companions, longing for the best of the Akhaians, her lord by marriage, she, the strong wife of Diomedes, breaker of horses.’
She spoke, and with both hands stroked away from her arm the ichor, so that the arm was made whole again and the strong pains rested. But Hera and Athene glancing aside at her began to tease the son of Kronos, Zeus, in words of mockery: and the goddess grey-eyed Athene began the talk among them: ‘Father Zeus, would you be angry with me if I said something? It must be Kypris [Aphrodite], moving some woman of Akhaia to follow after those Trojans she loves to hopelessly, laying hold on the fair dresses of the Akhaian women, tore the tenderness of her hand on a golden pin’s point.’
So she spoke, and the father of gods and men smiled on her and spoke to Aphrodite the golden (khrysee) calling her to him: ‘No, my child, not for you are the works of warfare. Rather concern yourself only with the lovely secrets of marriage, while all this shall be left to Athene and sudden Ares.’ "
Homer, Iliad 5. 454 ff :
"Phoibos Apollon [also an ally of the Trojans, rescued Aeneas from battle after Aphrodite's failed attempt] spoke now to violent Ares: ‘Ares, Ares, manslaughtering, blood-stained, stormer of strong walls, is there no way you can go and hold back this man from the fighting, Tydeus' son [Diomedes], who would now do battle against Zeus father? Even now he stabbed in her hand by the wrist the lady of Kypros [Aphrodite], and again, like more than a man, charged even against me.’ "
Homer, Iliad 5. 459 ff :
"[Apollon to Ares:] ‘Even now he [Diomedes] stabbed in her hand by the wrist Kypris [Aphrodite], and again, like more than a man, charged even against me.’"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E4. 1 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Diomedes, as he was having his day, wounded Aphrodite, who was helping Aeneias."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 112 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Challenging combatants and their adversaries [in the Trojan War] . . . Diomedes with Aeneas; Venus [Aphrodite] saved Aeneas."
IV) THE ILIAD: HERA PERSUADES APHRODITE TO LEND HER GIRDLE
Homer, Iliad 14.159 & 187 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Lady ox-eyed Hera was divided in purpose as to how she could beguile the brain in Zeus of the aigis [and come to the aide of the routed Greeks]. And to her mind this thing appeared to be the best counsel, to array herself in loveliness, and go down to Ida, and perhaps he might be taken with desire to lie in love with her next her skin, and she might be able to drift an innocent warm sleep across his eyelids, and seal his crafty perceptions. . .
Now, when she had clothed her body in all this loveliness, she went out from the chamber, and called aside Aphrodite to come away from the rest of the gods, and spoke a word to her: ‘Would you do something for me, dear child, if I were to ask you? Or would you refuse it? Are you forever angered against me because I defend the Danaans, while you help the Trojans?’
Then the daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite, answered her: ‘Hera, honoured goddess, daughter to mighty Kronos, speak forth whatever is in your mind. My heart is urgent to do I if I can, and if it is a thing that can be accomplished.’
Then, with false lying purpose the lady Hera answered her: ‘Give me loveliness and desirability, graces with which you overwhelm mortal men, and all the immortals. Since I go now to the ends of the generous earth, on a visit to Okeanos, whence the gods have risen, and Tethys our mother who brought me up kindly in their own house . . . I shall go to visit these, and resolve their division of discord, since now for a long time they have stayed apart from each other and from the bed of love, since rancour has entered their feelings. Could I win over with persuasion the dear heart within them and bring them back to their bed to be merged in love with each other I shall be forever called honoured by them, and beloved.’
Then in turn Aphrodite the laughing (philomeides) answered her: ‘I cannot, and I must not deny this thing that you ask for, you, who lies in the arms of Zeus, since he is our greatest.’
She spoke, and from her breasts unbound the elaborate, pattern-pierced zone (himas), and on it are figured all beguilement (philotes), and loveliness is figured upon it, and passion of sex (himeros) is there, and the whispered endearment (oaristos) that steals the heart away even from the thoughtful. She put this in Hera’s hands, and called her by name and spoke to her: ‘Take this zone, and hide it away in the fold of your bosom. It is elaborate, all things are figured therein. And I think whatever is your heart’s desire shall not go unaccomplished.’
So she spoke, and the ox-eyed lady Hera smiled on her and smiling hid the zone away in the fold of her bosom.
So Aphrodite went back into the house, Zeus' daughter, while Hera in a flash of speed left the horn of Olympos."
V) THE ILIAD: BATTLE OF THE GODS
After the death of Patroklos, and the return of Akhilleus to the war, Zeus allowed the gods to return to the battlefield in support of their favourites. The divine factions then broke into open conflict in which Ares and Aphrodite are felled by Athene.
Homer, Iliad 20. 38 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Zeus to the gods:] ‘All you go down, wherever you may go among the Akhaians and Trojans and give help to either side, as your own pleasure directs you . . .’
So spoke the son of Kronos [Zeus] and woke the incessant battle, and the gods went down to enter the fighting . . . Ares of the shining helm went over to the Trojans, and with him Phoibos of the unshorn hair, and the lady of arrows Artemis, and smiling (philomeides) Aphrodite, Leto and [the river-god] Xanthos."
Homer, Iliad 21. 402 ff :
"Upon the gods descended the wearisome burden of hatred, and the wind of their fury blew from division, and they collided with a grand crash, the broad earth echoing and the huge sky sounded as with trumpets. Zeus heart it from where he sat on Olympos, and was amused in his deep heart for pleasure, as he watched the gods' collision in conflict. Thereafter they stood not long apart from each other, for Ares began it . . . and rose up against Athene . . . Ares made his stab with the long spear, but Athene giving back caught up in her heavy hand a stone . . . wit this she hit furious Ares in the neck, and unstrung him. He spread over seven acres in his fall, and his hair dragged in the dust, and his armour clashed. But Pallas Athene laughing stood above him . . . and turned the shining of her eyes away.
But taking Ares by the hand the daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite, led him away, groaning always, his strength scarce gathered back into him. But now, as the goddess of the white arms, Hera, noticed her immediately she spoke to Pallas Athene her winged words: ‘For shame now, Atrytone, daughter of Zeus of the aigis. Here again is this dogfly leading murderous Ares out of the fighting and through the confusion. Quick, go after her!’
She spoke, and Athene swept in pursuit, heart full of gladness, and caught up with her and drove a flow at her breasts with her ponderous hand, so that her knees went slack and the heart inside her. Those who both lay sprawled on the generous earth. But Athene stood above them and spoke to them in the winged words of triumph: ‘Now may all who bring their aid to the Trojans be in such case as these, when they do battle with the armoured Argives, as daring and as unfortunate, as now Aphrodite came companion in arms to Ares, and faced my fury. So we should long ago have rested after our fighting once having utterly stormed the strong-founded city of Ilion.’
She spoke, and the goddess of the white arms, Hera, smiled on her."
VI) THE ILIAD: PROTECTS THE CORPSE OF HEKTOR
After Akhilleus slays Hektor and drags his body back to camp, Aphrodite and Apollon work together to preserve and protect the hero's corpse until King Priamos achieves a ransom.
Homer, Iliad 23. 185 ff :
"But the dogs [of the Greeks] did not deal with [the body of] Hektor, for Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, drove the dogs back from him by day and night, and anointed him with rosy immortal oil, so Akhilleus, when he dragged him about, might not tear him [and Apollon protected it from the rotting heat of the sun]."
VII) POSTHOMERICA: DRIVES AKHILLEUS TO LOVE PENTHESILEIA
After Akhilleus slew the Amazon Penthesileia, Aphrodite avenged her death by causing the hero to fall in love with her post mortem.
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 1. 909 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"She [the Amazon Penthesilea] was made a wonder of beauty even in her death [after she was slain by Akhilleus] by Aphrodite glorious-crowned, the Bride of [Ares] the strong War-god, to the end that he, [Akhilleus] the son of noble Peleus, might be pierced with the sharp arrow of repentant love. The warriors gazed, and in their hearts they prayed that fair and sweet like her their wives might seem, laid on the bed of love, when home they won. Yea, and Akhilleus' very heart was wrung with love's remorse to have slain a thing so sweet, who might have borne her home, his queenly bride, to chariot-glorious Phthia; for she was flawless, a very daughter of the Gods, divinely tall, and most divinely fair."
VIII) POSTHOMERICA: PROTECTS AENEAS IN THE FINAL BATTLES
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 11. 249 ff :
"Yet not against Aeneas Akhilleus' son [Neoptolemos] upraised his father's spear, but elsewhither turned his fury: in reverence for Aphrodite, Thetis splendour-veiled turned from that man her mighty son's son's rage and giant strength on other hosts of foes."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 11. 300 ff :
"Then did the Argive might prevail at last by stern decree of Pallas [Athena]; for she came into the heart of battle [to rout the Trojan forces fighting under the leadership of Aeneas], hot to help the Greeks to lay waste Priamos's glorious town. Then Aphrodite, who lamented sore for Paris slain, snatched suddenly away renowned Aeneas from the deadly strife, and poured thick mist about him. Fate forbade that hero any longer to contend with Argive foes without the high-built wall. Yea, and his mother sorely feared the wrath of Pallas passing-wise, whose heart was keen to help the Danaans now - yea, feared lest she might slay him even beyond his doom, who spared not Ares' self, a mightier far than he.
No more the Trojans now abode the edge of fight, but all disheartened backward drew. For like fierce ravening beasts the Argive men leapt on them, mad with murderous rage of war."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 11. 495 ff :
"Poias' war-triumphant son [Philoktetes] marked where Aeneas stormed along the wall in lion-like strength, and straightway shot a shaft aimed at that glorious hero, neither missed yhe man: yet not through his unyielding targe to the fair flesh it won, being turned aside by Kytherea [Aphrodite] and the shield, but grazed the buckler lightly."
APHRODITE & THE FALL OF TROY
I) POSTHOMERICA: ESCAPE OF AENEAS
Aphrodite assists Aeneas in his escape from the burning city.
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 13. 350 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Ankhises' gallant son [Aeneas] forsook the town [of Troy when the Greeks were sacking it] and left her to her foes, a sea of fire. His son and father [Ankhises] alone he snatched from death; the old man broken down with years he set on his broad shoulders with his own strong hands, and led the young child by his small soft hand, whose little footsteps lightly touched the ground; and, as he quaked to see that work of deaths his father led him through the roar of fight, and clinging hung on him the tender child, tears down his soft cheeks streaming. But the man o'er many a body sprang with hurrying feet, and in the darkness in his own despite trampled on many. Kypris [Aphrodite] guided them, earnest to save from that wild ruin her son, his father, and his child. As on he pressed, the flames gave back before him everywhere: the blast of the Fire-god's breath to right and left was cloven asunder. Spears and javelins hurled against him by the Akhaians harmless fell.
Also, to stay them, Kalkhas [the Greek seer] cried aloud: ‘Forbear against Aeneas' noble head to hurl the bitter dart, the deadly spear! Fated he is by the high Gods' decree to pass from Xanthos, and by Tiber's flood to found a city holy and glorious through all time, and to rule o'er tribes of men far-sundered. Of his seed shall lords of earth rule from the rising to the setting sun. Yea, with the Immortals ever shall he dwell, who is son of Aphrodite lovely-tressed. From him too is it meet we hold our hands because he hath preferred his father and son to gold, to all things that might profit a man who fleeth exiled to an alien land. This one night hath revealed to us a man faithful to death to his father and his child.’
Then hearkened they, and as a God did all look on him. Forth the city hasted he whither his feet should bear him, while the foe made havoc still of goodly-builded Troy."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 26. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"About Kreusa [daughter of Priamos of Troy] the story is told that the Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods) and Aphrodite rescued her from slavery among the Greeks, as she was, of course, the wife of Aeneas."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 624 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"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."
II) POSTHOMERICA: RESCUE OF HELENE
Aphrodite rekindled Menelaos' love for Helene when he found her upon the fall of Troy, protecting her from his angry retribution.
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 13. 424 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Menelaus mid the inner chambers [at the sack of Troy] found at last his wife, there cowering from the wrath of her bold-hearted lord. He glared on her, hungering to slay her in his jealous rage.
But winsome Aphrodite curbed him, struck out of his hand the sword, his onrush reined, jealousy's dark cloud swept she away, and stirred love's deep sweet well-springs in his heart and eyes. Swept o'er him strange amazement: powerless all was he to lift the sword against her neck, seeing her splendour of beauty . . . so he stood, so dazed abode long time. All his great strength was broken, as he looked upon his wife. And suddenly had he forgotten all yea, all her sins against her spousal-troth; for Aphrodite made all fade away, she who subdueth all immortal hearts and mortal. Yet even so he lifted up from earth his sword, and made as he would rush upon his wife but other was his intent, even as he sprang: he did but feign, to cheat Akhaiean eyes. Then did his brother [Agamemnon] stay his fury."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 14. 57 ff :
"Lovely as she [Aphrodite] in form and roseate blush passed Helene mid the Trojan captives [after the sack of Troy] on to the Argive ships. But the folk all around marvelled to see the glory of loveliness of that all-flawless woman. No man dared or secretly or openly to cast reproach on her. As on a Goddess all gazed on her with adoring wistful eyes. As when to wanderers on a stormy sea, after long time and passion of prayer, the sight of fatherland is given; from deadly deeps escaped, they stretch hands to her joyful-souled; so joyed the Danaans all, no man of them remembered any more war's travail and pain. Such thoughts Kytherea [Aphrodite] stirred in them, for grace to Helene starry-eyed, and Zeus her sire."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 14. 160 ff :
"But in his tent Menelaus [while the Greeks celebrated the fall of Troy] lovingly with bright-haired Helene spake; for on their eyes sleep had not fallen yet. The Kyprian Queen [Aphrodite] brooded above their souls, that olden love might be renewed, and heart-ache chased away . . .
She [Helene] cast her arms around him, and their eyes with tears were brimming as they made sweet moan; and side by side they laid them, and their hearts thrilled with remembrance of old spousal joy. And as a vine and ivy entwine their stems each around other, that no might of wind avails to sever them, so clung these twain twined in the passionate embrace of love."
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C9th-8th BC
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C9th-8th BC
- Homerica, The Cypria - Greek Epic BC
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd BC
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th AD
- Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd AD
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st BC - C1st AD
- Seneca, Troades - Latin Tragedy C1st AD