Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess associated with love, beauty and desire, has long captured people's imagination throughout history. Our blog has already dealt with the Greek goddess of love in another blog post. This time, we will be looking at something more specific: the symbols of the goddess.

Whether in art or mythology, the symbols that represent Aphrodite always evoke concepts of love, passion and physical desire. Among the most important symbols attributed to Aphrodite are the white dove, seashells, myrtles, roses, sparrows and swans. These symbols are not only important in the mythology of the goddess, but also serve as enduring symbols of beauty and love.

In the context of ancient worship, Aphrodite was revered as the embodiment of love and fertility. Her far-reaching influence in the Mediterranean went beyond the religious sphere, as her attributes and symbols also permeated art and literature. By examining the meaning and symbolism of this legendary Greek goddess, we can gain a deeper insight into the values and aesthetics that shaped the ancient world.

So let’s explore everything you need to know about the symbolism of Aphrodite. Let’s get started.

The Origins of Aphrodite's Symbolism

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The Etymology of Aphrodite's Name and Its Connection to 'Foam'

Aphrodite is the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, and desire. The meaning of her name is said to be "arisen from the foam" (ἀφρός, in Greek). This etymology is derived from the ancient Greek poet Hesiod's work, Theogony.

In this context, "foam" is significant as it plays a central role in Aphrodite's birth story. According to Greek mythology, she was born from the sea's foam, which further solidifies the association between her name and "foam."

The Birth of Aphrodite and Her Emergence from the Sea

Within the Greek mythological landscape, Aphrodite is a unique goddess whose birth story deviates from the familial relations among the gods. Her origin is traced back to the gruesome castration of the primordial sky god, Uranus, orchestrated by his son, Cronus.

As the story unfolds, Cronus severed Uranus's genitals and cast them into the sea, creating a frothy mixture from which Aphrodite emerged. Her birth, surrounded by the sea's foam, explains her close connection with the ocean and the etymology of her name.

Aphrodite's myth strikes a balance between violence and beauty, with the gruesome act of her father's castration contrasting her role as a goddess of love and beauty. As a result, she transcends her violent origins to emerge as an irresistible and powerful figure in Greek mythology.

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Primary Symbols of Aphrodite

The White Dove: Avian Symbol of Love and Spiritual Connection

Aphrodite has been represented by various symbols throughout history. One of her most prominent symbols is the white dove. This avian symbol is often associated with love, peace, and spirituality. In art, Aphrodite is frequently depicted with doves, showcasing the deep connection between these creatures and the divine realm of love and desire.

The Seashell and Feminine Beauty

Another iconic symbol of Aphrodite is the seashell, which represents feminine beauty and allure. The goddess is often portrayed in art standing on or beside a scallop shell, which alludes to her birth from the sea and her association with the transformative power of love. The seashell as a symbol of beauty and fertility can also be traced back to her Roman counterpart, Venus.

Plants Associated with Aphrodite: Myrtles and Roses

Aphrodite is also closely associated with certain plants, particularly myrtles and roses. These flowers are often linked with love, passion, and desire, which are key aspects of Aphrodite's power and influence in Greek mythology. Myrtles, known for their symbolism of love, could be found in Greek sanctuaries dedicated to the goddess, while roses embody her passionate nature.

It becomes evident that Aphrodite’s symbols serve to express the various aspects of love, beauty, desire, and passion that the goddess embodies. It is known that each of the Olympian gods had their unique symbols, which allow them to be recognized and honored by those who appreciate their mythic significance.

Aphrodite's Symbols in Art and Sculpture

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Aphrodite - credits: gintarassvalbonas/depositphotos

In sculpture, Aphrodite has also been portrayed with a delicate, idealized beauty that captures her allure and grace. One notable example is the Venus de Milo, a marble sculpture that has become synonymous with classical beauty. Other artists, such as Praxiteles, have also sought to capture Aphrodite's essence in their work, with many sculptures showcasing her physical attributes and femininity.

Aphrodite's symbols frequently appear in art as well. The goddess has been depicted with doves resting on her shoulder or flying around her, symbolizing her gentle and loving nature. In addition, the rose is another symbol often associated with Aphrodite, representing her connection to passion and the heart. These symbols have cemented her status as an iconic goddess of love and beauty in the world of art and sculpture.

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Some depictions of Aphrodite in art and sculpture also feature the goddess holding a mirror, a nod to her association with beauty and self-love. This artistic choice showcases the duality of her power, as she both embodies and influences physical beauty among humans and gods.

Throughout the history of Greek art and sculpture, Aphrodite's symbols have served as powerful representations of her divine passions and attributes. The combination of doves, roses, mirrors, and shells has allowed artists to communicate the unique qualities of this revered goddess, who continues to inspire works of art that captivate audiences with her timeless beauty and sensuality.

The Modern Interpretation of Aphrodite's Symbols

In today's world, Aphrodite's symbols continue to hold significance and influence in various aspects of culture, such as art, literature, and advertising. As the goddess of love, beauty, and sensuality, several of her key symbols, like the dove, rose, and aspects of her persona, have transcended time and remain prominent in contemporary culture.

Doves are often used as a universal symbol of love and peace. This extends beyond the realm of Aphrodite, as doves are also associated with other deities and cultural icons. In modern culture, doves have become customary features in wedding ceremonies, representing love, purity, and the beginning of a new chapter for couples.

Roses, particularly red roses, hold special significance in the context of Aphrodite. In ancient Greece, roses were dedicated to Aphrodite in her temples as they symbolized beauty, passion, and desire. Today, a rose is still a powerful emblem of love, often exchanged between partners on romantic occasions such as Valentine's Day or anniversaries.

Aphrodite's persona in classical art has vastly influenced the concept of feminine beauty. Her flowing, golden hair, delicate features, and partial or nude depiction emphasize her connection to love, beauty, and sensuality. She is often portrayed surrounded by symbols representing passion and desire. These portrayals in classical art have lent inspiration to modern artists and various forms of media, including movies and literature, that continue to celebrate the aesthetics and ideals linked to Aphrodite.

In modern advertising, Aphrodite's allure and sensuality are often utilized to create appealing marketing strategies. By invoking her symbols and attributes, brands aim to establish a connection between their products and feelings of love, attraction, and beauty that Aphrodite embodies. 

FAQs

What flower is associated with Aphrodite?

The rose is one of the most commonly associated flowers with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Roses are often considered symbols of love, passion, and desire, which align with Aphrodite's domain. Additionally, the ancient Greeks believed that roses were created from the blood of Aphrodite's fallen lover, Adonis, making them a fitting symbol of her love and devotion.

Why is the dove considered a symbol of Aphrodite?

The dove is considered a symbol of Aphrodite because it embodies the qualities of peace, harmony, and love, which are attributes of the Greek goddess. This connection arose from the belief that doves were her sacred birds, and were usually found around her. 

Which animal is symbolically linked to Aphrodite and what does it represent?

In addition to doves, another animal symbolically linked to Aphrodite is the dolphin. Dolphins were seen as playful, intelligent, and affectionate creatures, reflecting the aspects of love and joy associated with the goddess. When dolphins appear in artwork or mythology related to Aphrodite, they often represent her kind and nurturing qualities, as well as her bond with the sea.

What are the various symbols attributed to Aphrodite and their meanings?

Several symbols are attributed to Aphrodite, each with its distinct meaning. Some of the most prominent symbols include:

  • Doves: Representing peace, harmony, and love.
  • Roses: Symbolizing passion, desire, and romantic love.
  • Dolphins: Representing playfulness, joy, and affection.
  • Shells: Associated with her birth from the sea and her connection to the ocean.
  • Mirror: Signifying beauty, self-reflection, and vanity.

How does the mirror relate to Aphrodite's symbolism?

The mirror is a symbol often associated with Aphrodite because it highlights her connection to beauty and vanity. As the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite is aware of her captivating appearance and power, which is why the mirror represents her self-awareness and affinity for her beauty.