The Birth of Venus was one of Botticelli’s most famous works, depicting the Greek Goddess Aphrodite rising from the foam of the sea on a scallop shell. Venus is the Roman name for the goddess of love, family, marriage, and is also considered the goddess of the sea and protector of sailors. It is a common mistake to say that the picture depicts her on a clam shell; it is, in fact, a scallop.
Greek and Roman mythology are so entwined that it is often hard to differentiate between the Roman Gods and Goddesses and the Greek names. Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love, was the mother of Eros (you might recognize the Roman name of Cupid) and Aeneas with one of her lovers, Ares.
Aphrodite goddess of love and beauty did not come by her title without having to deal with the raging jealousy of Hera, the wife of Zeus. The God Paris awarded Aphrodite the apple of discord when he chose her over Athena and Hera in what was quite possibly the first beauty contest ever; the result of a golden apple being thrown into the fruit bowl during a feast by the bitter God Discord who had not been invited. The apple had “For the Fairest” written on it. When the three Goddesses tried to claim it, Paris, the prince of Troy, was invited to choose the winner. Apparently Greek Gods did anything for amusement when they became bored.
In most Greek mythology stories surrounding Aphrodite, she is often seen as ill tempered, easily offended, and incredibly vain, and although she is typically thought of as the Goddess of love, the truer word would be lust, as even though she was married – one of the few Goddesses along with Hera who was – she frequently cheated on her husband, Hephaestus, whom she was forced to marry by Zeus, who was concerned that her exquisite beauty would cause warfare between the other Gods. Little good it did him.
The Greek Goddess Aphrodite was jealous of only one other woman, a mortal named Psyche. She asked her son Eros to shoot her with a golden arrow, causing her to fall in love with the ugliest man on earth. The plan backfired, as most of the conniving plots of Greek mythology do, and Eros fell in love with her himself, having accidentally pricked himself with his own arrow.
Today Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love is still worshipped at the May Day festivals of neopagans everywhere, where they honor the Goddess during the fertility rites of the season by eating pomegranate seeds and dancing around the maypole. For a complete list of Greek gods and goddesses and their myths, simply type Greek mythology into your search engine and have fun exploring the many myths.