Cyprus-The island of Aphrodite-venus
It was around 1200 BC when Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and
Beauty, emerged from the gentle jade-colored sea foam at
Petra tou Romiou, a boulder that juts up from the south
coast of Cyprus as majestically today as it did then. The
name Aphrodite, in fact, means “foam born.” She was the most
ancient goddess in the Olympian pantheon.
An awestruck Paris,
son of King Priam of Troy once gave Aphrodite a golden apple
in recognition of supreme beauty, unmatched by the other
Zeus put Aphrodite in charge of wedlock and arranged her marriage to the good but ugly craft-god Hephaistos. She took solace in the strong arms of Ares, god of war. But the ultimate key to her heart was not strength, but sweetness - and this she found in Adonis.
Eros, Aphrodite's son, accidentally wounded her bosom with one of his arrows. Reeling from the wound, she took solace in her mineral pool, the famed Baths of Aphrodite on the Akamas Peninsula of Cyprus. The hunter Adonis was within sight that day, and the love he inspired in Aphrodite was the greatest and most painful she would ever know.
She told the proud mortal (who was born from a myrrh tree): "Your youth and beauty will not touch the hearts of lions and bristly boars. Think of their terrible claws and prodigious strength!". But Adonis did not heed his beloved's admonition. While Aphrodite was out spreading the spirit of love and beauty, Adonis pursued a boar which proceeded to trounce and kill him with his tusks. Little did he know this was a jealous Ares in disguise. Aphrodite heard his cries from her swan-drawn chariot, high above the
island's highest forested peaks. Once by his side, she summoned the nymph Menthe (the mint spirit), who sprinkled nectar on his blood, and then by a process as yet unclassified by scientists red anemones sprang forth. The flowers' blossoms are opened by the same wind that scatters their petals. (Anemos in Greek means wind.) And yet, each spring, they rise again from the fertile soil of Cyprus. Is it Aphrodite's tears that coax the anemonies
It was the Italian poet Arioste who named "Fontana Amorosa" the natural spring on the Akamas Peninsula from which Aphrodite used to drink. Take a sip from it and even today love may materialize. A riot of green in the spring, the fountain is accessible via a beautiful hiking path on the Akamas.
A goddess of inestimable allure, Aphrodite was bound to attract a following, and sure enough, in the 12th century BC, an elaborate sanctuary was built in her honour her at Palea Pafos (present-day Kouklia) - the most significant of a dozen such consecrated sites in Cyprus. Amphoras and ceremonial bowls from here, many of which are on display in the Cyprus Museum in Lefkosia (Nicosia), depict exquisitely costumed priestesses as well as erotic scenes from the sacred gardens that once surrounded the temple. While some accounts have young women congregating at the site to ritually sacrifice their virginity, sacred prostitution was the likelier scenario. According to Herodotus, every girl had to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary and there make love to a stranger. The girls would sit in the sacred gardens wearing crowns of rope and wait for men passing by to choose them. A man would throw an offering at the feet of his preferred "pilgrim" and utter the words "I invoke the goddess upon you," whereupon the sacrificial act would be consummated.
While Herodotus was given to overstatement, it is no exaggeration to say that the Sanctuary of Aphrodite was among the most revered and frequented temples of the ancient world.
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