Mythos Visits: The Birthplace of Aphrodite
On our recent trip to Cyprus, Mythos was lucky enough to visit the supposed birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite. Between two of Cyprus’ coastal cities, Pathos and Limassol, a beautiful an unusual rock formation juts out into the ocean. Three large rocks form a stack that stretch out into the sea, and legend has it that the large central rock is the place where Aphrodite – Greek goddess of love and beauty – was born.
Aphrodite has long been associated with the island of Cyprus. The island is sometimes called the island of Aphrodite, and Aphrodite has been referred to as the Cyprian goddess due to her strong links to the island. Her myth thought to have originally evolved from a fertility goddess who was already worshipped on the island when the Greeks arrived in the 12th Century BC, and Cyprus is the site of one of her oldest places of worship – the Sanctuary of Aphrodite. The ruins for this sanctuary are located in Kouklia, what was once the city-state of Palaipafos. As such, the reason for this strong and enduring connection between the goddess and the island is clear – both in history and in myth, Cyprus is the birthplace of Aphrodite.
There are two common myths about the birth of Aphrodite. In one, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, who was herself one of the three thousand daughters of the Titan, Oceanus. The other, and far more popular version of the legend, tells of the goddess being birthed from blood and seafoam. In this myth she is the child of Uranus, the Titan personification of the sky. Uranus was overthrown by his son, Cronus (father of Zeus and five other Olympian gods) who cut off the older Titan’s genitals and threw them into the sea. Where they landed, they created a great splash of sea foam, from which Aphrodite was born. The winds then blew her to Cyprus, where she alighted upon what is now known as Aphrodite’s rock.
Another alternate version of this legends states that Cronus didn’t not just cut off Uranus’ testicles, but his lower half. In this version, this lower half was transformed into the very rock that his daughter, Aphrodite, would later set foot on.
Some believe that the origins of this legend come from the weather patterns around the rock. Due to their formation, the area around the rocks can be choppy, creating lots of waves and sea foam which – under the right conditions – is said to possibly create the illusion of a humanoid figure made from sea foam.
Being the birthplace of a god, the rock is, of course, believed to have supernatural properties. It is said that if you swim around the rock, you will be blessed with eternal youth and beauty. Different versions of this superstition include conditions that need to be met before this blessing will take place. Some say that you must swim around the rock three times, others that you must swim at night and another that it must be a full moon. The blessing can also change, with some saying the rock grants luck or true love rather than beauty.
Appropriately for the birthplace of the goddess of love, the beach near the rocks is considered one of the most romantic places in Cyprus, and is a popular spot for proposals – though that is just as likely to be because of the stunning scenery as it is the area’s godly significance. Though there is perhaps less to see than some of Cyprus’ archaeological sites, the rock of Aphrodite is still a charming place to visit and with its cool waters, and small beach it makes a charming – if popular – spot for a morning out.