Aphrodite (// ( listen) af-rə-DY-tee; Greek: Ἀφροδίτη Aphrodite) is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. She is identified with the planet Venus; her Roman equivalent is the goddess Venus. Myrtle, roses, doves, sparrows and swans are sacred to her.
|Goddess of love, beauty and sexuality|
Aphrodite Pudica (Roman copy of 2nd century AD), National Archaeological Museum, Athens
|Symbol||Dolphin, Rose, Scallop Shell, Myrtle, Dove, Sparrow, Girdle, Mirror, and Swan|
|Consort||Hephaestus, Ares, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus, Adonis, and Anchises|
|Children||Eros, Phobos, Deimos, Harmonia, Pothos, Anteros, Himeros, Hermaphroditus, Rhodos, Eryx, Peitho, Eunomia, The Graces, Priapus, Aeneas|
|Parents||Uranus or Zeus and Dione|
|Siblings||Aeacus, Angelos, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Dionysus, Eileithyia, Enyo, Eris, Ersa, Hebe, Helen of Troy, Hephaestus, Heracles, Hermes, Minos, Pandia, Persephone, Perseus, Rhadamanthus, the Graces, the Horae, the Litae, the Muses, the Moirai, or the Titans, the Cyclopes, the Meliae, the Erinyes (Furies), the Giants, the Hekatonkheires|
In Hesiod's Theogony, Aphrodite was created from the sea foam (aphros) produced by Uranus's genitals, which had been severed by Cronus. In Homer's Iliad, however, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. In Plato (Symposium, 180e), these two origins are said to be of hitherto separate entities: Aphrodite Ourania (a transcendent, "Heavenly" Aphrodite) and Aphrodite Pandemos (Aphrodite common to "all the people"). She had many other names, each emphasizing a different aspect of the same goddess, or used by a different local cult. Thus she was also known as Cytherea (Lady of Cythera) and Cypris (Lady of Cyprus), both of which claimed to be her place of birth.
In Greek mythology, the other gods feared that Aphrodite's beauty might lead to conflict and war, through rivalry for her favours; so Zeus married her off to Hephaestus. Despite this, Aphrodite followed her own inclinations, and had many lovers — both gods, such as Ares, and men, such as Anchises. She played a role in the Eros and Psyche legend, and was both lover and surrogate mother of Adonis.
Hesiod derives Aphrodite from aphrós (ἀφρός) "sea-foam", interpreting the name as "risen from the foam". Michael Janda, accepting this as genuine, claims the story of a birth from the foam as an Indo-European mytheme. The second part of the compound has been variously analyzed as *-odítē "wanderer" or *-dítē "bright". Janda, agreeing with the latter, interprets the meaning of the name as "she who shines from the foam (of the ocean)", supposing the name as an epithet of Eos, the dawn goddess. Likewise, Witczak proposes an Indo-European compound *abʰor- "very" and *dʰei- "to shine", also referring to Eos. Other scholars have argued that these hypotheses are unlikely since Aphrodite's attributes are entirely different from those of both Eos and the Vedic deity Ushas. Janda disputes this assumption.
A number of improbable non-Greek etymologies have been suggested in scholarship. One Semitic etymology compares Aphrodite to the Assyrian barīrītu, the name of a female demon that appears in Middle Babylonian and Late Babylonian texts. Hammarström looks to Etruscan, comparing (e)prϑni "lord", an Etruscan honorific loaned into Greek as πρύτανις. This would make the theonym in origin an honorific, "the lady". Hjalmar Frisk and Robert Beekes reject this etymology as implausible, especially since Aphrodite actually appears in Etruscan in the borrowed form Apru (from Greek Aphrō, clipped form of Aphrodite).
The medieval Etymologicum Magnum (c. 1150) offers a highly contrived etymology, deriving Aphrodite from the compound habrodíaitos (ἁβροδίαιτος), "she who lives delicately", from habrós and díaita. The alteration from b to ph is explained as a "familiar" characteristic of Greek "obvious from the Macedonians", despite the fact that the name cannot be of Macedonian origin.
Near Eastern love goddess
The cult of Aphrodite in Greece was imported from, or at least influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia, which, in turn, was derived from the cult of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, which itself was largely derived from the cult of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Pausanias states that the first to establish a cult of Aphrodite were the Assyrians, after the Assyrians, the Paphians of Cyprus, and then the Phoenicians at Ascalon. The Phoenicians, in turn, taught her worship to the people of Cythera.
Nineteenth century classical scholars had a general aversion to the idea that ancient Greek religion was at all influenced by the cultures of the Near East, but, even Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker, who argued that Near Eastern influence on Greek culture was largely confined to material culture, admitted that Aphrodite was clearly of Phoenician origin. The significant influence of Near Eastern culture on early Greek religion in general, and on the cult of Aphrodite in particular, is now widely recognized as dating to a period of orientalization during the eighth century BC, when archaic Greece was on the fringes of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Hans Georg Wunderlich has drawn a connection between Aphrodite and the Minoan snake goddess. This theory is supported by the fact that the Egyptian snake goddess Wadjet was associated with the city known to the Greeks as Aphroditopolis, which means "City of Aphrodite."
In native Greek tradition, the planet Venus had two names: Hesperos as the evening star and Eosphoros as the morning star. The Greeks adopted the identification of the morning and the evening stars, as well as its identification as Ishtar/Aphrodite, during the 4th century BC, along with other items of Babylonian astrology, such as the zodiac (Eudoxus of Cnidus).
Indo-European dawn goddess
It has long been accepted in comparative mythology that Aphrodite preserves some aspects of the Indo-European dawn goddess *Haéusōs (properly Greek Eos, Latin Aurora, Sanskrit Ushas). Janda etymologizes her name as "she who rises from the foam [of the ocean]" and points to Hesiod's Theogony account of Aphrodite's birth as an archaic reflex of Indo-European myth. Aphrodite rising out of the waters after Cronus defeats Uranus as a mytheme would then be directly cognate to the Rigvedic myth of Indra defeating Vrtra, liberating Ushas.
Forms of Aphrodite
By the late 5th century BC, Platonists distinguished two separate "Aphrodites". Aphrodite Ourania, the celestial Aphrodite, born from the sea foam after Cronus castrated Uranus, was thought the older form; she also inspired homosexual male desire or, more specifically, ephebic eros. The "younger" Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Aphrodite "of all the folk", born from the union of Zeus and Dione, inspired all love for women.
Among the neo-Platonists and, later, their Christian interpreters, Aphrodite Ourania is associated with spiritual love, and Aphrodite Pandemos with physical love (desire). A representation of Aphrodite Ourania with her foot resting on a tortoise came to be seen as emblematic of discretion in conjugal love; it was the subject of a chryselephantine sculpture by Phidias for Elis, known only from a parenthetical comment by the geographer Pausanias).
A male version of Aphrodite known as Aphroditus was worshipped in the city of Amathus on Cyprus. Aphroditus was depicted with the figure and dress of a woman, but had a full beard, and was shown lifting his dress to reveal an erect phallus. This gesture was believed to be an apotropaic symbol, and was thought to convey good fortune upon the viewer.
She was also called Kypris or Cytherea after her birth-places in Cyprus and Cythera, respectively, both centers of her cult. She was associated with Hesperia and frequently accompanied by the Oreads, nymphs of the mountains. She was also often depicted with the sea, dolphins, doves, swans, pomegranates, sceptres, apples, myrtle, rose trees, lime trees, clams, scallop shells, and pearls.
Her festival, Aphrodisia, was celebrated across Greece, but particularly in Athens and Corinth. At the temple of Aphrodite on the summit of Acrocorinth (before the Roman destruction of the city in 146 BC), intercourse with her priestesses was considered a method of worshiping Aphrodite. This temple was not rebuilt when the city was re-established under Roman rule in 44 BC, but the fertility rituals likely continued in the main city near the agora.
Pausanias records that, in Sparta, Aphrodite was worshipped as Areia, which means "warlike." This epithet stresses Aphrodite's connections to Ares, with whom she had extramarital relations. Pausanias also records that, in Sparta and on Cythera, there were extremely ancient cult statues of Aphrodite portraying her bearing arms.
The cult of Aphrodite may have involved ritual prostitution. The Greek euphemism for a sacred prostitute is hierodoule, meaning "sacred slave". Ritual prostitution is attested in association with Aphrodite in Corinth and on the islands of Cyprus, Cythera, and Sicily, but it is not attested in Athens. Ritual prostitution was an inherent part of the rituals owed to Aphrodite's Near Eastern forebears, Sumerian Inanna and Akkadian Ishtar, whose temple priestesses were the "women of Ishtar," ishtaritum. Ritual prostitution has been documented in Babylon, Syria, and Palestine, in Phoenician cities and the Tyrian colony Carthage. Aphrodite was everywhere the patroness of the hetaera and courtesan. In Ionia on the coast of Asia Minor, hierodoulai served in the temple of Artemis.
Aphrodite is usually said to have been born near her chief center of worship, Paphos, on the island of Cyprus, which is why she is sometimes called "Cyprian", especially in the poetic works of Sappho. However, other versions of her myth have her born near the island of Cythera, hence another of her names, "Cytherea". Cythera was a stopping place for trade and culture between Crete and the Peloponesus, so these stories may preserve traces of the migration of Aphrodite's cult from the Middle East to mainland Greece.
According to the version of her birth recounted by Hesiod in his Theogony, Cronus severed Uranus' genitals and threw them behind him into the sea. The foam from his genitals gave rise to Aphrodite (hence her name, which Hesiod interpreted as "foam-arisen"), while the Giants, the Erinyes (furies), and the Meliae emerged from the drops of his blood. Hesiod states that the genitals "were carried over the sea a long time, and white foam arose from the immortal flesh; with it a girl grew." The girl, Aphrodite, floated ashore on a scallop shell. This iconic representation of Aphrodite as a mature "Venus rising from the sea" (Venus Anadyomene) was made famous in a much-admired painting by Apelles, now lost, but described in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder.
In the Iliad, Aphrodite is described as the daughter of Zeus and Dione. Dione's name appears to be a feminine cognate to Dios and Dion, which are oblique forms of the name Zeus. Zeus and Dione shared a cult at Dodona in northwestern Greece. In Theogony, Hesiod describes Dione as an Oceanid.
Aphrodite is consistently portrayed as a nubile, infinitely desirable adult, having had no childhood. She is often depicted nude. In many of the later myths, she is portrayed as vain, ill-tempered, and easily offended. Although she is married—she is one of the few gods in the Greek Pantheon who is—she is frequently unfaithful to her husband.
According to one version of Aphrodite's story, because of her immense beauty Zeus fears that the other gods will become violent with each other in their rivalry to possess her. To forestall this, he forces her to marry Hephaestus, the dour, humorless god of smithing. In another version of the story, his mother, Hera casts him off Olympus, deeming him too ugly and deformed to inhabit the home of the gods. His revenge is to trap his mother in a magic throne. In return for her release, he demands to be given Aphrodite's hand in marriage.
Hephaestus is overjoyed to be married to the goddess of beauty, and forges her beautiful jewelry, including a strophion known as the kestos imas, a saltire-shaped undergarment (usually translated as "girdle"), which accentuated her breasts and made her even more irresistible to men. Such strophia were commonly used in depictions of the Near Eastern goddesses Ishtar and Atargatis.
Aphrodite is a major figure in the Trojan War legend. She is a contestant in the "Judgement of Paris" (see below), which leads to the war. She had been the lover of the Trojan Anchises, and mother of his son Aeneas. Later, during the war, she saves Aeneas from Diomedes, who wounds her.
In Book Eight of the Odyssey, the blind singer Demodocus tells of how Aphrodite committed adultery with Ares, the god of war. The sun-god Helios saw Aphrodite and Ares having sex in Hephaestus's bed and warned Hephaestus, who fashioned a net of gold. The next time Ares and Aphrodite had sex together, the net trapped them both. Hephaestus brought all the gods into the bedchamber to laugh at the captured adulterers, but Apollo, Hermes, and Poseidon had sympathy for Ares and Poseidon agreed to pay Hephaestus for Ares's release. Humiliated, Aphrodite returned to Cyprus, where she was attended by the Charites. This narrative probably originated as a Greek folk tale, originally independent of the Odyssey.
Adonis was the son of Myrrha, who was cursed by Aphrodite with insatiable lust for her own father, King Cinyras of Cyprus, after Myrrha's mother bragged that her daughter was more beautiful than the goddess. Driven out after becoming pregnant, Myrrha was changed into a myrrh tree, but still gave birth to Adonis.
Aphrodite found the baby, and took him to the underworld to be fostered by Persephone. She returned for him once he was grown and discovered him to be strikingly handsome. Persephone wanted to keep Adonis; Zeus settled the dispute by decreeing that Adonis would spend one third of the year with Aphrodite, one third with Persephone, and one third with whomever he chose. Adonis chose Aphrodite, and they remained constantly together.
Adonis, who loved to hunt, was wounded by a wild boar, and bled to death in Aphrodite's arms. As she mourned his death, she caused anemones to grow wherever his blood fell, and declared a festival on the anniversary of his death. According to Lucian's De Dea Syria, the river Adonis in Lebanon ran red with blood. The myth of Aphrodite and Adonis is probably derived from the Near Eastern legend of Ishtar and Tammuz.
Judgment of Paris
The myth of the Judgement of Paris is mentioned briefly in the Iliad, but is described in depth in an epitome of the Cypria, a lost poem of the Epic Cycle, which records that all the gods and goddesses as well as various mortals were invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (the eventual parents of Achilles). Only Eris, goddess of discord, was not invited. She was annoyed at this, so she arrived with a golden apple inscribed with the word καλλίστῃ (kallistēi, "for the fairest"), which she threw among the goddesses. Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena all claimed to be the fairest, and thus the rightful owner of the apple.
The goddesses chose to place the matter before Zeus, who, not wanting to favor one of the goddesses, put the choice into the hands of Paris, a Trojan prince. After bathing in the spring of Mount Ida where Troy was situated, the goddesses appeared before Paris for his decision. In the extant ancient depictions of the Judgement of Paris, Aphrodite is only occasionally represented nude, and Athena and Hera are always fully clothed. Since the Renaissance, however, western paintings have typically portrayed all three goddesses as completely naked.
All three goddesses were ideally beautiful and Paris could not decide between them, so they resorted to bribes. Hera tried to bribe Paris with power over all Asia and Europe, and Athena offered wisdom, fame and glory in battle, but Aphrodite promised Paris that, if he were to choose her as the fairest, she would let him marry the most beautiful woman on earth. This woman was Helen, who was already married to King Menelaus of Sparta. Paris selected Aphrodite and awarded her the apple. The other two goddesses were enraged and, as a direct result, sided with the Greeks in the Trojan War.
In one version of the legend of Hippolytus, Aphrodite is the cause of his death. He scorned the worship of Aphrodite, preferring Artemis. Aphrodite caused his stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him, knowing Hippolytus would reject her. This led to Phaedra's suicide, and the death of Hippolytus.
Polyphonte was a young woman who chose virginal life with Artemis instead of marriage and children, as favoured by Aphrodite. Aphrodite cursed her, causing her to have children by a bear. The resulting offspring, Agrius and Oreius, were wild cannibals who incurred the hatred of Zeus. Ultimately the whole family were transformed into birds of ill omen.
Consorts and children
- Tyche (possibly)
- Phaethon (son of Eos)
In 1938, Gleb Botkin, a Russian immigrant to the United States, founded the Church of Aphrodite, a Neopagan religion centered around the worship of a Mother Goddess, whom its practitioners identified as Aphrodite. The Church of Aphrodite's theology was laid out in the book In Search of Reality, published in 1969, two years before Botkin's death. The book portrayed Aphrodite in a drastically different light than the one in which the Greeks envisioned her, instead casting her as "the sole Goddess of a somewhat Neoplatonic Pagan monotheism". It claimed that the worship of Aphrodite had been brought to Greece by the mystic teacher Orpheus, but that the Greeks had misunderstood Orpheus's teachings and had not realized the importance of worshipping Aphrodite alone.
Aphrodite is a major deity in Wicca, a contemporary nature-based syncretic Neopagan religion. Wiccans regard Aphrodite as one aspect of the Goddess and she is frequently invoked by name during enchantments dealing with love and romance. Wiccans regard Aphrodite as the ruler of human emotions, erotic spirituality, creativity, and art.
As one of the twelve Olympians, Aphrodite is a major deity within Hellenismos (Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism), a Neopagan religion which seeks to authentically revive and recreate the religion of ancient Greece in the modern world. Unlike Wiccans, Hellenists are usually strictly polytheistic or pantheistic. Hellenists venerate Aphrodite primarily as the goddess of romantic love, but also as a goddess of sexuality, the sea, and war. Her many epithets include "Sea Born", "Killer of Men", "She upon the Graves", "Fair Sailing", and "Ally in War".
The Venus Kallipygos. Aphrodite Kallipygos ("Aphrodite of the Beautiful Buttocks") is a type of nude female statue of the Hellenistic era. It depicts a partially draped woman[Notes 2] raising her light peplos to uncover her hips and buttocks, and looking back and down over her shoulder, perhaps to evaluate them.[Notes 3]
Aphrodite riding a swan: Attic white-ground red-figured kylix, c. 460, found at Kameiros (Rhodes)
- Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Napoli). "so-called Venus in a bikini." Cir.campania.beniculturali.it. Accessed 3 October 2016.
- "The statuette portrays Aphrodite on the point of untying the laces of the sandal on her left foot, under which a small Eros squats, touching the sole of her shoe with his right hand. The Goddess is leaning with her left arm (the hand is missing) against a figure of Priapus standing, naked and bearded, positioned on a small cylindrical altar while, next to her left thigh, there is a tree trunk over which the garment of the Goddess is folded. Aphrodite, almost completely naked, wears only a sort of costume, consisting of a corset held up by two pairs of straps and two short sleeves on the upper part of her arm, from which a long chain leads to her hips and forms a star-shaped motif at the level of her navel. The 'bikini', for which the statuette is famous, is obtained by the masterly use of the technique of gilding, also employed on her groin, in the pendant necklace and in the armilla on Aphrodite’s right wrist, as well as on Priapus’ phallus. Traces of the red paint are evident on the tree trunk, on the short curly hair gathered back in a bun and on the lips of the Goddess, as well as on the heads of Priapus and the Eros. Aphrodite’s eyes are made of glass paste, while the presence of holes at the level of the ear-lobes suggest the existence of precious metal ear-rings which have since been lost. An interesting insight into the female ornaments of Roman times, the statuette, probably imported from the area of Alexandria, reproduces with a few modifications the statuary type of Aphrodite untying her sandal, known from copies in bronze and terracotta."
- Conventionally presumed to be Venus, though it may equally be a portrait of a mortal woman, such as a hetaira, or an image of the goddess modeled on one such.
- The gesture of Aphrodite lifting the robe symbolized religious initiation and the ancient Greeks worshiped the woman's "rich" buttocks to obtain great wealth on earth as the two Syracusan sisters who inspired the Kallipygos idea had accomplished.
- Eros is usually mentioned as the son of Aphrodite but in other versions he is born out of Chaos
- Hesiod, Theogony, 188
- Homer, Iliad 5.370.
- Cyrino 2010, p. 14.
- Hesiod, Theogony, 190-197.
- Janda 2005, pp. 349-360.
- Janda 2010, p. 65.
- Paul Kretschmer, “Zum pamphylischen Dialekt”, Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiet der Indogermanischen Sprachen 33 (1895): 267.
- Ernst Maaß, “Aphrodite und die hl. Pelagia”, Neue Jahrbücher für das klassische Altertum 27 (1911): 457-468.
- Vittore Pisani, “Akmon e Dieus”, Archivio glottologico italiano 24 (1930): 65-73.
- Witczak 1993, pp. 115-123.
- Penglase 1997, p. 164.
- Boedeker 1974, pp. 15-16.
- Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, vol. 2, p. 111.
- M. Hammarström, “Griechisch-etruskische Wortgleichungen”, Glotta: Zeitschrift für griechische und lateinische Sprache 11 (1921): 215-6.
- Frisk 1960, p. 196 f..
- Beekes 2010, p. 179.
- Etymologicum Magnum, Ἀφροδίτη.
- Burkert 1985, pp. 152-153.
- Puhvel 1987, p. 27.
- Marcovich 1996, pp. 43-59.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, I. XIV.7
- Konaris 2016, p. 169.
- Burkert 1998, pp. 1-6.
- Burkert 1998, pp. 1-41.
- Wunderlich 1987, p. 134.
- C.L. Whitcombe.Minoan snake goddess.8.Snakes, Egypt magic and women.Minoan Snake Goddess
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- Dumézil 1934.
- Plato, Symposium 181a-d.
- Richard L. Hunter, Plato's Symposium, Oxford University Press: 2004, p. 44
- Pausanias, Periegesis vi.25.1; Aphrodite Pandemos was represented in the same temple riding on a goat, symbol of purely carnal rut: "The meaning of the tortoise and of the he-goat I leave to those who care to guess," Pausanias remarks. The image was taken up again after the Renaissance: see Andrea Alciato, Emblemata / Les emblemes (1584).
- Bullough & Bullough 1993, p. 29.
- Koloski-Ostrow & Lyons 2000, pp. 230-231.
- Pausanias, --. "The Guide to Greece 3.17.2-3.18.1". Perseus Under Philologic. University of Chicago. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
- T.T. Kroon, art. Areia (1), in T.T. Kroon, Mythologisch Woordenboek, ’s Gravenshage, 1875.
- Pausanias, --. 3.15.10&getid=1 "The Guide to Greece 3.15.6-3.16.4" Check
|url=value (help). Perseus Under Philologic. University of Chicago. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
- Pausanias, --. "Description of Greece 3.22.10-3.22.6". Perseus Under Philologic. University of Chicago. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
- Burkert 1985, p. 153.
- Marcovich 1996, p. 49.
- Homer, Odyssey viii. 288; Herodotus i. 105; Pausanias iii. 23. § 1; Anacreon v. 9; Horace, Carmina i. 4. 5.
- Cyrino 2010, p. 21.
- Cyrino 2010, pp. 20-21.
- Kerényi 1951, p. 69.
- Graves 1960, p. 37.
- Cyrino 2010, pp. 13-14.
- Αναδυόμενη (Anadyómenē), "rising up".
- Iliad (Book V)
- Cyrino 2010, pp. 14-15.
- Bonner 1949, p. 1.
- Bonner 1949, pp. 1-6.
- Bonner 1949, pp. 1-2.
- Kerényi 1951, p. 279.
- Kerényi 1951, p. 72.
- Kerényi 1951, pp. 72-73.
- Kerényi 1951, pp. 73-74.
- Kerényi 1951, p. 74.
- Anderson 2000, pp. 131-132.
- Kerényi 1951, p. 75.
- Kerényi 1951, pp. 75=76.
- Kerényi 1951, p. 76.
- West 1997, p. 57.
- Kerényi 1951, p. 67.
- Walcot 1977, p. 31.
- Walcot 1977, pp. 31-32.
- Walcot 1977, p. 32.
- Bull 2005, pp. 346-347.
- Walcot 1977, pp. 32-33.
- Hyginus, Fabulae 250.3, 273.11; Pausanias, Guide to Greece 6.20.19
- Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses, 21
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- Hesychius of Alexandria s. v. Μελιγουνίς: "Meligounis: this is what the island Lipara was called. Also one of the daughters of Aphrodite."
- Clifton 2006, p. 139.
- Clifton 2006, p. 141.
- Gallaher 2005, pp. 109-110.
- Sabin 2010, p. 125.
- Sabin 2010, pp. 3-4.
- Gallagher 2005, p. 110.
- Sabin 2010, p. 124.
- Gallagher 2005, pp. 109-110.
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|Look up Ἀφροδίτη in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aphrodite.|
- Theoi Project, Aphrodite information from classical literature, Greek and Roman art
- The Glory which Was Greece from a Female Perspective
- Sappho's Hymn to Aphrodite, with a brief explanation`