This is a book about Greek mythology I found in the Brooklyn College library on the “for sale” shelf. (For the record, although it is a CliffNotes book, I did not read it to find the following information. This is prior knowledge, because I happen to like Greek mythology.)
Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty in Greek mythology. The man on the cover is most likely Zeus, king of the gods and father to quite a few of them, usually depicted bearded and scowling as pictured. He’s related to Aphrodite in a complicated way…
The Greeks believed that way back in the very beginning of everything, there was Chaos. Then there was Gaea, their (vaguely psychopathic) version of Mother Earth, and then Ouranos (or Uranus, as the Romans spelled it) as the Sky. Gaea and Ouranos had children called the Titans, including Kronos (sometimes spelled Cronus; the Romans called him Saturn). Kronos decided, with the urging of Gaea and the help of his brother Titans, to kill Ouranos and take over. Kronos cut Ouranos into pieces with his scythe, and one of the pieces fell into the sea and the foam formed Aphrodite. It’s a weird origin story. So where does Zeus come in?
Kronos married his sister Rhea (gross, but there wasn’t anyone else around yet). But Kronos had heard a prophecy (from another of his sisters, the Titan of prophecy) that his child would overthrow him and cut him up, just like he’d done to Ouranos. So when Rhea gave birth to a daughter (Hestia, later to be known as goddess of the hearth and home), he saw how threatening these kids would be. They weren’t Titans; they were gods: way more powerful. He got worried about the prophecy, and ate Hestia whole. He continued eating his children as Rhea handed them to him, one at a time: Demeter (goddess of agriculture), Hera (goddess of marriage), Hades (god of death), and Poseidon (god of the sea). Francisco Goya painted Saturn eating his children, as mentioned in Art1010.
Finally Rhea had had enough of her husband eating their children, so she gave birth to the sixth child, Zeus, on an island away from Kronos and secretly swapped the baby with a rock. She left Zeus to be raised by nymphs and a magical goat. (Also a weird origin story. I’m not making this up.) Kronos was evidently not the brightest, as he ate the rock and believed it to be Zeus. Zeus grew up and came back to rescue his siblings, gaining Kronos’ trust and then feeding him mustard wine to make him regurgitate the swallowed gods and goddesses, who then went on to overthrow the Titans and become the Olympians. Zeus cut up Kronos with his own scythe, just as prophesied, and threw him into Tartarus (AKA a big scary pit in the Underworld).
Essentially, therefore, Aphrodite is the eldest of the gods, and Zeus’ aunt. She doesn’t really have parents, so it’s hard to make claims like that, but Ouranos gave her life and he is Zeus’ grandfather. So “aunt” it is. Imagine the family reunions!
We’ve been learning about different viewpoints about Aphrodite, including the story of her affair with Aeneas. This was brought about because Zeus was annoyed that Aphrodite kept making him love mortals, so he made her love a mortal to give her a taste of her own medicine. Aphrodite and Zeus have always had a complicated relationship, both in the sense of family trees and of interactions.
Chaya Ovits, team Venus
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