This exquisitely evocative fragment initially belonged to a larger statue of the goddess, possibly depicted emerging from the sea. The goddess’s association with the sea is well-known. According to the Greek poet, Hesiod, Aphrodite was born from the blood and semen that fell from Uranus as his son castrated him. Flinging his father’s body parts into the ocean, the resultant foam solidified into the goddess, Aphrodite, who emerged from the water fully-formed:
‘And so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, (190) they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden (…) Her gods and men call Aphrodite (….)’ Hesiod, Theogony, line 173.
There are many well-known and popular myths surrounding Aphrodite and her lovers. One famous example is the story of Adonis which reflects upon Aphordite’s beauty. There was a king called Cinyras who had a beautiful daughter, Myrrah. The king would boast that her beauty surpassed that of even Aphrodite. As punishment the goddess used Eros to make Myrrah fall for her father, and decieved the king into committing incest via disguising his daughter. Myrrah discovered she was pregnant and prayed that the gods would save her, and they turned her into a Myrrh tree. Nine months later the tree split and a baby (Adonis) was born. This lead to another popular myth in which Aphrodite was shocked by the beauty of the baby and asked Persephone (Queen of the Underworld) to hide him and keep him safe. As the boy grew older, Persephone fell in love with him too, thus leading to the two goddesses arguing over the young man. Zeus rulled that Adonis should spend 4 months of the year with Aphodite, 4 with Persephone, and the remaining 4 he could spend where he liked. Adonis so loved Aphrodite that he gave his ‘free’ 4 months to her aswell. Unfortunately their love was not to be as Adonis was attacked by a boar while hunting and died in Aphrodite’s arms. In some versions of the myth, the boar was actually Mars (Aphrodite’s husband) in disguise. This tale reflects the power of Eros, love, and beauty in the ancient world.