BIOGRAPHY - Page 1
Aphrodite (also known known as Venus) as the goddess of love and beauty was one of the twelve principal deities of the Olympian gods (Ancient Greek/Roman religions). Her worship was widespread across ancient Greece: in Athens, they celebrated her in a festival called “Aphrodisia;” in Corinth her priestesses took part in ritual sex in her honor atop of the famed Acropolis. While the significance the goddess had in the ancient world is not in question, her origin is. Often she has been said to be the daughter of the Olympian gods' patriarch, Zeus, and a little known titan goddess Dione. What supports this claim is that Aphrodite has on some occasions referred to Zeus as “father” and he to her as “daughter.” However, there is an alternate backstory for the goddess, which may have more veracity at least in the context of the Marvel Universe.In this other take, Aphrodite has neither mother nor father. During a battle with the precursors to the Olympians gods, Zeus' father, the titan Cronus, castrated his own father, Ouranos, and threw his testicles into the ocean. It was said that, when the felled god's sexual organs hit the ocean, there was a reaction and the mighty Aphrodite was born from sea foam, fully grown. This birth was depicted in Sandro Botticelli's famous masterpiece “Birth of Venus.” Also supporting this theory is that Aphrodite's impostor “Venus” (more on her later) would use this particular origin when impersonating the goddess to her worshipers. Perhaps more telling is Aphrodite's dysfunctional arranged marriage to Hephaestus, smith of the gods. Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera. Born deformed, Hera cast him from Mount Olympus after his birth. She later felt guilty once he reached adulthood and had her husband Zeus arrange a marriage between Hephaestus and Aphrodite. Hera's hatred of her husband's illegitimate children is legendary and it seems unlikely that she would petition for a union between one of her sons and one of her husband's “bastards.” Unfortunately, Aphrodite was far from pleased with her match to Hephaestus. She was frequently unfaithful, perhaps appropriately given her role as not just a goddess of love but also of sex. One of her preferred lovers was actually Hephaestus' brother Ares, god of war, and she and Ares have had a passionate on-again off-again relationship for millennia. [Incredible Hercules #138-140]
Despite her role as “the goddess of love,” Aphrodite could be as callous and vengeful as her peers on occasion. She was very jealous of the mortal princess Psyche, whose beauty rivaled her own. So devoted with fair Psyche were the other mortals that Aphrodite's own temples started to fall into ruin from neglect. Furious, Aphrodite sent her son Eros (father unknown), himself a love god, to use his powers to make the princess fall in love with some “wretch.” Aphrodite's plan failed as Eros himself was seduced by Psyche's charms. Psyche (through unspecified means) outsmarted Aphrodite and she and Eros lived happily together until she died a mortal death. [Marvel Super-Heroes (2nd series) #9] [Note: Psyche appeared “posthumously” as a no dialogue background character in the Venus series. It can be fairly assumed that this was a woman of the same name or more likely, a continuity error, as it would completely contradict Marvel Super-Heroes (2nd series) #9 entirely.]
Aphrodite's vanity would go on to have even more dire consequences compared to a temporary estrangement from one of sons. During a beauty contest between herself, the goddesses Athena (War and Wisdom) and aforementioned Hera (Childbirth and Marriage), Aphrodite tricked the unfortunate judge, a young Trojan prince named Paris, into picking her. She promised him the hand of the most beautiful woman in Greece if he chose her over her competitors, which he innocently did. However, Aphrodite had not meant herself, but that of Helen, wife of the king of Sparta, Menelaus. The goddess caused the young queen to fall head over heels for Paris and the two absconded back to Troy. King Menelaus called his banners to retrieve his wife and thus commenced the Trojan War. One of Aphrodite's sons, Aeneas, born to an old love of hers (Anchises, king of Darnadus) was one of the main figures in the war. Aeneas was hunting in the wilderness surrounding Troy when he encountered an amnesiac and time-lost, Avenger, the Norse thunder god, Thor. Becoming fast friends, Aeneas and Thor returned to Troy just in time to witness a duel between Paris and Menelaus. Paris was of no match for the more experienced Menelaus and soon lay on the ground. Aphrodite was unable to allow the handsome prince to die and intervened in the conflict. Invisible to all save her son and Thor, she teleported Paris back inside Troy's walls as a thank you to him for choosing her as the most beautiful of the goddess previously.
After this, Aphrodite flew back to Olympus, unaware that she was pursued by Thor. When she reached the fabled halls of Olympus, she was chastened by Zeus for interfering in mortal affairs, a direct violation of an earlier edict of his. When she defended herself and pointed out that the other Olympians were also interfering, Zeus flew into one of his rages and threatened to disfigure her for questioning him. At this point, Thor made his presence known. Athena, who was supporting the Greeks during the conflict with the Trojans, used the distraction of Thor's arrival to meddle herself. Knowing that Thor would catch her, she attempted to influence one of the Trojans to attempt to kill Menelaus and break a fragile truce that both sides had just been brokered. Thor, as she had expected, interfered and saved Menelaus but in doing so he restarted the conflict anew.
During the ongoing battle, Aeneas was injured and called upon his mother to save him from the Greek warrior, Diomedes. Aphrodite flew from Olympus in an instant and commanded Diomedes to stop attacking her son but too enraged by bloodlust he struck her with his spear. A wounded Aphrodite dropped Aeneas and fled to Ares. When she arrived, Ares, like his father Zeus, admonished Aphrodite, calling her foolish. However, despite this, he did seek out Diomedes himself in an attempt to avenge Aphrodite's honor, providing an early example of their strange dynamic. Luckily, Aeneas had been saved by Thor after Aphrodite had left. Thor, now pretending to be Aeneas, used his own divine powers to defeat the Greeks. Zeus could not allow Thor to break his rules and undermine him among his people and sought him out. The battle was so vicious between the two thunder gods that Aphrodite and the other gods immediately ceased their interference in the war out of fear. Thor conceded defeat and returned to his time period, not before saying goodbye to Aeneas. Troy would soon fall regardless. Thor's brother, Loki, had given the Greeks the idea of the “Trojan Horse” and the remaining Greek army hid inside the wooden animal before jumping out at night and sacking the city. Loki would prove to be a thorn in Aphrodite's side years later, though it's unclear if she ever found out about his role in the Trojan War. Her son Aeneas' ultimate fate in the Marvel Universe is unknown. [Thor Annual (1st series) #8]. Note: According to the Roman poet Virgil, in his work the Aenead, Aeneas descendents go on to be Romulus & Remus, who found Rome.
This war had a very negative impact on Aphrodite and she would recognize it as the moment in her mind that she stopped truly being the goddess of love and became the goddess of everything “petty and vain.” [Incredible Hercules #141] Aphrodite's affair with Ares had continued throughout the Trojan War. Hephaestus would use one of his contraptions to catch them during one of their liaisons and, trap them in a net. He then paraded them around Olympus until Zeus granted him a divorce. Given that she was unhappy by the match to begin with, it can only be assumed Aphrodite was very happy with this outcome. [Incredible Hercules #138, 140]