Aphrodite’S Love-Affair With Anchises

Aphrodite had long taken a close interest in Troy – and especially in one of its princes, Anchises, the son of Troy’s founder, Ilus. A Homeric Hymn tells how Zeus made her fall in love with Anchises when she saw him herding cattle on Mount Ida: As soon as she saw him, laughter-loving Aphrodite felt desire for him, and lust took hold of her. So she went to her sanctuary at Paphos in Cyprus, its altar sweet with incense, and she entered her sweet-perfumed temple, pulling the glittering doors fast shut behind her. And there the Graces bathed her and anointed her with heavenly oil, with which gods cover their immortal bodies, sweet heavenly oil, and the air was filled with perfume.

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And laughter-loving Aphrodite dressed in her sumptuous clothing and hung herself in gold, and hurried off to Troy, leaving Cyprus so fragrant, running lightly on the high path of the clouds.

Disguised as a mortal girl, she bewitched Anchises:

Her dress was brighter than any fire – golden, beautiful and intricately woven. It shone at her soft breasts like the moon, so wondrous to see! And she wore twisted bracelets and glinting earrings shaped like flowers, and around her soft throat were exquisite necklaces.

Anchises could not resist. Believing her to be a mortal, he took her to a cave, undressed her and lay with her on the pelts of bears and lions. Only afterwards did Aphrodite admit her true identity, prophesying that she would bear Anchises a son, Aeneas. In the Iliad, Aeneas is one of Troy’s greatest warriors, and later he became the hero of the Latin epic, Vergil’s Aeneid, which traced his journey from Trojan refugee to founder of Rome.

Aphrodite warned Anchises that if he revealed what had happened, Zeus would smite him with a thunderbolt. But a Roman mythographer tells that, when drunk, he forgot her warning, boasted of his conquest and was blasted by Zeus – not fatally, but enough to cripple him Anchises was not Aphrodite’s only mortal lover. More famous was Adonis, who (some said) was also born in Paphos.

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