This goddess embodies the power of erotic love, sexual desire and beauty. No animals, men or gods were believed to be immune from her influence. Aphrodite, called Venus by the Romans, was one of the twelve Greek Olympians who has inspired artists, lovers and poets right up to contemporary times.

The Greeks give two versions of her birth. To the poet Homer, she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione. In Hesiod’s version, after Cronos, the son of Uranus and Gaea (Sky and Earth), hacked off his father’s genitals and threw them into the sea, a foam formed in the water and from this Aphrodite was born.

Aphrodite was married to the crippled god Hephaestus but, true to her nature, took her half-brother Ares as a lover and bore him several children, including Eros the god of love, who was morphed into Cupid by the Romans. Aphrodite aided lovers and heroes. It was Aphrodite, for example, who helped Jason win the love of Medea. She also bore the hero Aeneas to the Trojan prince Anchises and thereby eventually, as the Roman Venus, became the mother of a new race of people, the Romans.