Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. She is one of the best known goddesses of love from any culture and any time. The ancients believed she was born fully grown of the sea foam resulting from the castration of the sea god Uranus, who then drifted safely to land on the island of Cyprus. Down the line Zeus, the father of the gods on Olympus, gave Aphrodite in marriage to Hephaistos, the hideously unattractive Mr. Fix-it of the gods. But the goddess of love could not and would not be tied down and took a variety of lovers, including the feisty god of war Ares, proving once again that opposites really do attract. During one of their numerous dalliances, Helios the sun god caught them in the act and trapped them in a net, calling all the other gods and goddesses to come and make a mockery of them. What Helios didn't count on was the fact that Aphrodite and Ares really didn't give a fig. The word shame just wasn't in their vocabulary. They were the gods of love and war after all.
Ares wasn't Aphrodite's only extramarital affair behind the back of the ever-patient Hephaistos diligently at work in his metal shop. Legend has it she also enjoyed a brief dalliance with a young and beautiful hunter by the name of Adonis, who tragically met his untimely end by being killing by a wild boar in the woods. Some of the stories handed down through the ages hint that this tragedy may not have been an accident and may have been a shape-shifting, vengeful Ares instead. Like her other counterparts on Mount Olympus, it seems Aphrodite had too much time on her hands so she butted into human business to a disturbing degree. The Trojan War was a prime example of divine intervention having a horrible outcome for human lives. It all started when Aphrodite made Paris, the Prince of Troy, fall hopelessly in love with a girl named Helen, who just happened to be from Sparta. He kidnapped her, which kicked off a war that lasted the better part of a decade.
But the problem went back even further than that. At a wedding the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were squabbling over a golden apple that was supposedly the prize for "the fairest," and Aphrodite felt it was her due as the most attractive goddess. This was not a call even Zeus wanted to make, knowing he had to go home to Olympus with all three of them, so Paris somehow got the dubious honor. Aphrodite promised Paris that if he gave her his vote, she would make sure he won the love of the most gorgeous girl on the planet. Turned out the most gorgeous girl on the planet just happened to be one Helen of Sparta, who was already the wife of Menelaus, bringing us full circle.
Aphrodite is certainly one of the most entertaining and interesting goddesses of love. Her legend spreads far beyond the rocky shores of her homeland of Greece. She's known as Venus to her Roman worshipers and by many other names in many other cultures, as all people through time have felt compelled to worship and personify the great power that is love, beauty, and procreation.