Love Stories: Ancient Greek Myths for Valentine’s Day
Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty
One of the ruling Twelve Olympians – deities worshipped in Ancient Greece – Aphrodite embodied love, beauty, passion and desire.
She is closely associated with Cyprus, having purportedly been born from the waves that lap the shore of Paphos near Petra tou Romiou, also known as ‘Aphrodite’s Rock’. Legend tells that swimming around the rock three times will result in finding true love.
Following the road that meanders through the mountains of Paphos and emerges on the north shore of the island in Polis Chrysochous will lead you, meanwhile, to her famed bathing grotto. Hidden amongst bright bougainvillea, washing one’s face in the spring water of Aphrodite’s Baths is said to bring everlasting beauty.
One of the most famous love stories associated with Aphrodite involves that of the goddess’ adoration for the young mortal – and paradigm of male beauty – Adonis.
Myths vary as to whether the goddess Artemis (jealous of his hunting skills) or the god Ares (jealous of Aphrodite’s love for him) sent a wild boar to attack Adonis, but the ending remains the same: hearing his dying cries, Aphrodite ran in desperation to her young lover.
Mourning his demise and memorialising him eternally, Aphrodite is said to have sprinkled his dripping blood with ambrosia. From each drop arose an anemone flower, vibrant red blooms that can still be spied growing wildly across Cyprus every spring.
Pygmalion and Galatea
Aphrodite is likewise central to the tale of Pygmalion and Galatea.
A Greek sculptor from Cyprus, Pygmalion was fiercely dedicated to his work, forsaking society in his quest for perfection. Some incarnations of the story suggest that Aphrodite appeared to Pygmalion in a dream, having taken pity on him. Awaking inspired, Pygmalion created his most perfect work yet: a milk-white statue of a woman, with whom he became infatuated, falling deeply in love with her form.
Pygmalion visited Aphrodite’s temple to offer a sacrifice and pray that his statue be given life. Upon returning home, Pygmalion’s deepest desire was realised. His statue, now a woman, was named Galatea. Together, they bore a son, whom they named Paphos.