CLC 1023: Sex and Culture Lecture #8: The Cult of Aphrodite Guest Lecture by Professor Kelly Olson
PLAY (while class is entering): “Can’t Stop the Music” by the Village People (1980); written by Jacques Morali
Slide 1: Title Slide –> Attic Red Figure Vase of Aphrodite (c. 410 BCE) Today Professor Olson will be lecturing to us about the cult of Aphrodite in ancient Greek culture, and by way of an introductory segue, I’d like to point out a few preliminary connections between Aphrodite (or Venus as the Romans would call her) and the Fertility Goddesses of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. Slide 2: Aphrodite, Adonis, Eros Image: Aphrodite and her lover Adonis from around 410 BCE by an Attic Red Figure vase painter by the name of AISON. The winged figure is Aphrodite’s son, Eros, the god of love, and he enters the scene with a tray of fruit while Adonis plays on his lyre and stares rapturously at Aphrodite’s face as if directly inspired by her beauty. Aphrodite was always a pleasure-loving goddess, and her delight in music and banqueting and other luxurious pleasures (including sex with beautiful young men) would give her a certain reputation for frivolity among the more moralistic authors among the Ancients. But this image suggests her rather serious function as a fertility goddess comparable to Ishtar or Inanna. Adonis, her lover, was a figure probably imported into Greece from Asia Minor – where he seems to have been worshipped as a god associated with the transience of living things but also with their miraculous regeneration in the spring –> a god of sprouting vegetation. The Greeks clearly linked him with their idea of comic music –> a mythical harmony uniting the parts of their universe, including the seasons and everything caught up in the whirl of time, through the pervasive influence of Eros, of divine desire stimulated by immortal beauty. The notion of eroticism as an unstoppable music pervading the cosmos goes back to the ancient Greeks. As we’ll see today in Professor Olson’s guest lecture, the harmonizing goddess of cosmic love was Aphrodite Ourania, a sexual persona of the Venus Icon
Slide 3: Lyrics of The Village People’s “Can’t Stop the Music” (1980) We still have a sense of this irresistible cosmic music – it has not been entirely drowned out by the din of Modern Culture. It seems to have inspired the Village People in 1980 when they brought out their hit single “Can’t Stop the Music” Movin' with the wind since the world began,----------------------> note the mythic origins of this the beat is gonna getcha, beat is gonna getcha. music –> associated with the Music for the blues, for your dancin' shoes, Aphrodite’s irresistible wind there's music in the way that we kiss, you can't resist! Movin' through the trees, buzzin' with the bees, the sound is gettin' louder, sound is gettin' louder. Music when we play, when we kneel to pray. ----------------------> note the recollection of ancient There's music in the sound of the wind. pagan religion (Fertility Cult) You can't stop the music, nobody can stop the music... Slide 4: The Big Q Who is the Mesopotamian counterpart of Adonis? You’re looking for a male figure who is the lover of a fertility goddess, a mythical lover who is associated with sprouting vegetation A lover who dies and yet can be magically rescued from death through the irresistible power of cosmic erotic energy... Slide 5: Outline of Dumuzi Here’s a hint... Slide 6: ANSWER Dumuzi (or Tamuz) –> remember him from the “Song of the Lettuce”? Slide 7: Announcements 1. Breakout Groups meet this Friday –> September 26. See me after lecture if you don’t know which group you’re in, or who your TA is, or where your group will be meeting [all this info has been posted online] 2. Assignment #1: Official Due date is coming up: Monday September 29 3. Movie Event: Tales of the Night Fairies (dir. Shohini Ghosh): this Wednesday 7:30 in Conron Hall, UC. Reception with the director in Pride Library at 6:30.
Slide 9: Topics Covered Last Class 1. Ishtar and Gilgamesh as Intertypes: morally ambiguous 2. Sexual Troping of Dumuzi in “The Song of the Lettuce” 3. Sexual Spaces in Uruk/Babylon: Gender Balance reflected in architecture 4. Sexual Myth #2: Same-Sex Bonding vs. Sacred Marriage 5. Model #1 (Magical/Pre-Philosophical): Sex, Gender, Desire Slide 10: Mighty Aphrodite Reminds You [Movie Poster –Woody Allen film] Please be quiet during the lecture!
______________________________________________________________________________ Note: Professor Olson does not publish her powerpoints on WebCT. Professor Miller has reconstructed her slide presentation (most important pictures only) with a little help from Google Image: see “Aphrodite Cult Powerpoint”on WebCT.
GUEST LECTURE BY PROFESSOR OLSON FOLLOWS: What is the nature of the goddess Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sexual pleasure? In literature and art she is depicted as beautiful and sensuous, even powerful in the area of sexuality: “neither blessed god not mortal man has escaped Aphrodite.” No one can resist her. And the literature depicts her as powerful only in this arena. But Aphrodite’s role in the cults of Athens reveals a goddess of great prominence and power: a goddess concerned in more areas than simply sex and love. Among her cultic concerns were harmonious co-existence between people, fertility (people, vegetation), and public and civic harmony. These are elements fundamental to the well-being of any society. Still, Aphrodite seems dogged by the perception that there is little more to her than sex and love and that these are secondary (though important) elements of everyday life. The most common version of the birth of Aphrodite describes her born in sea-foam from the castrated genitals of the sky-god Ouranos.
"Ouranos (the Sky) came, bringing on night and longing for love, and he lay about Gaia (the Earth) spreading himself full upon her. Then the son [Kronos] from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him ... and so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Kythera, and from there, afterwards, she came to sea-girt Kypros, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and Aphrogeneia (the foam-born) because she grew amid the foam… And with her went Eros (Love), and comely Himeros (Desire) followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honour she has from the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods, - the whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness." -Theogony 176 Here is another version of Aphrodite’s birth:
"To Sea-set Kypros the moist breath of the western wind (Zephryos) wafted her [Aphrodite] over the waves of the loud-moaning sea in soft foam, and there the gold-filleted Horai (Seasons) welcomed her joyously. They clothed her with heavenly garments: on her head they put a fine, well-wrought crown of gold, and in her pierced ears they hung ornaments of precious gold, and placed golden necklaces over her soft neck and snow-white breasts, jewels which the goldfilleted Horai wear themselves whenever they go to their father's house to join the lovely dances of the gods. And when they had fully decked her, they brought her to the gods, who welcomed her when they saw her, giving her their hands. Each one of them prayed that he might lead her home to be his wedded wife, so greatly were they amazed at the beauty of violet-crowned Kythereia." -Homeric Hymns 6 to Aphrodite Aphrodite was worshipped under many guises, and various aspects of Aphrodite are present in ALL her incarnations. Aphrodite Pandemos (or ‘common, vulgar love;’ ‘Aphrodite belonging to all the people’). She is often worshipped along with Peitho, Persuasion. Her role in this guise was to bring people together, not just personally but politically: Aphrodite Pandemos united people in political agendas. One rustic-looking temple is located on the Acropolis, and some decorative remains have been found, including the head of a cult statue. The two goddesses
presided over the union of brides and grooms as well as the union the of Demos (people). The Aphrodisia festival (held in late summer) was the festival sacred to Aphrodite. Aphrodite Pandemos often rides a goat – a beast associated with lust, but also a herding animal (suggesting the “herd” of the people?). NB Plato defines Aphrodite Pandemos and Ouranos differently. Aphrodite en Kerois (Aphrodite of the Gardens) reflects her role as a goddess of fertility). The origins of this aspect of Aphrodite are to be found in the eastern goddesses Ishtar and Inanna and the Semitic goddess Astarte. These eastern goddesses embodied powerful forces of love, sexuality, and human procreation while acting as goddesses of war; they also presided over the fertility of crops and fruits. The ‘north slope sanctuary’ on the Acropolis has the remains of a shrine to Aphrodite and Eros. It was est. as early as 570 BCE. Votive offerings in the shape of male and female genitalia were found in the rustic looking sanctuary, indicating that men and women came for help to Aphrodite. Eros seems to be connected in this shrine with fertility of the earth, and two deities sharing a site would have been closely linked in cult practice; i.e., Aphrodite likely took on some of her son’s associations. Aphrodite Ourania (heavenly) Her oldest cult epithet. The shrine in the Athenian Agora shows evidence for animal sacrifice: most commonly goat (often sacrificed to Aphrodite). This was the main shrine of the goddess in the city, and she was worshipped in the Adonia festival every June or July. The women of Athens would plant ‘Gardens of Adonis” in broken pots: wheat, fennel, barely, which would sprout and wither quickly in the heat, symbolizing Aphrodite’s young lover Adonis. The pots were set on rooftops by women climbing ladders. The Adonia was a festival heady with wine and incense and noisy with yelling, as the women imitated the cries of Aphrodite mourning Adonis (a boy she loved, killed in a hunting accident). This is a
good example of how aspects of the goddess are related. Aphrodite Ourania rides a swan. She watches over relationships with men. Also watches over weddings. Aphrodite Hetaira (of companions and women for hire). Solon apparently provided state-regulated sex with whores for all who wished it and then est. a shrine to Aphrodite with the profits. The appeal of Aphrodite to both prostitutes and married women in personified by the socalled Ludovisi throne, dating to about 470 BCE. Married women worshipped Ourania in particular, although both Pandemos and Ourania are assoc. with weddings, and prostitutes worshipped both. Aphrodite Euploia (of safe voyages. The most famous female nude statue was Praxiteles' Aphrodite of Knidos (350 BCE Roman copy 6' 8"). The original stood in a circular shrine at Knidos (although Lucian's description of the shrine is different), so she could be viewed from every side, and was known as Aphrodite Euploia ("of the fair voyage;" refers to her voyage from Paphos and her patronage of the city's sailors). The fine Doric rotunda has been excavated (by I. Love; it had been destroyed in antiquity by a landslide and earthquake); an inscribed pillar outside the building carries both Praxiteles' name and the remains of the words "best" and "superior." The statue base was also found (no inscription). This building dates to the 2nd C BCE— there are however the remains of an earlier limestone building. The statue apparently held power and fascination for generations of (male) viewers.
Wanting to see the goddess entire we approached this gate. Upon being let in by the woman who kept the keys, we were overwhelmed by her abundant beauty. As soon as the Athenian, who had so far been indifferent, glimpsed this side of the goddess, which reminded him of boys, he exclaimed with even greater enthusiasm than that of Charícles, "By Hercules, what a harmonious back. What rounded thighs, begging to be caressed with both hands! How well the lines of her cheeks flow, neither too skinny, showing the bones, nor so voluminous as to droop! How
inexpressible the tenderness of that smile pressed into her dimpled loins! How precise that line running from thigh, to leg, to foot! Now I can understand why Zeus' nectar is so sweet when Ganymede pours it. As for me, I would never take it from Hebe's hand." While Callicratídas was declaiming this speech with much elan, Charícles remained fixed in place, the tenderness of his gaze betraying his emotions. 15. Filled with admiration, we noticed behind one of the thighs a stain like one on a robe, which only brought out the whiteness of the marble. It seemed a flaw in the stone. This kind of defect is not uncommon, and fate thus tends to thwart that which otherwise would reach perfection. Supposing this dark stain was natural, my admiration for Praxiteles only increased, for having so skillfully hidden it where it would least be noticed. But the groundskeeper, who had stayed by our side, recounted an extraordinary and barely believable tale on this subject. "A young man from a distinguished family," said she, "but whose act has made the name unspeakable, came often to the temple, where an evil spirit had made him fall in love with the goddess… In fact he was up way before the dawn, and only went home after sunset, having spent all his time seated before the goddess, his eyes constantly fixed upon her. You could hear him murmuring sweet nothings to her….His passion only grew stronger, and he carved on every wall and tree the name of Aphrodite the Beautiful. He worshiped Praxiteles as equal to Zeus. Any beautiful or valuable thing he found in his house he offered to the goddess; finally, the violence of his desires made him lose his reason, his audacity serving him for pimp. One evening, at sunset, he slid unseen behind the temple door and hid in the darkest corner, holding his breath. The keepers closed the gate as usual, and this new Anchises found himself alone inside. Who would dare recount the sort of deeds he consummated that wicked night? In short, at daybreak this sign of his amorous embraces was discovered…
What did the Knidia look like? It is difficult to tell what the original statue looked like, since all we have are Roman copies (coins from Knidos give some idea). She looked to the left; the defining gesture of one hand over her pubic zone never varies. She has long legs and a small head, but is full and fleshy. Note the S- curve of the body and the shape of her body which is smooth and continuous. She has no public hair (to be expected in a society where [most?] women depilate. Note how her gesture draws attention to her nudity (this could mean modesty, or it could be an echo of various fertility figures, in which the genitalia is stressed). BUT she has no
vulva (interesting)— viewed as too immodest? Too sexually aggressive? Her mouth however is open slightly— would this have had erotic connotations? A woman's mouth was but one end of a conduit that in fact led to her vagina, the mouth of her womb. Each orifice therefore implies the other. Is there a viewer? Does her turned head indicate the presence of a viewer, or is it a natural consequence of the contrapposto stance? As with most ancient sculpture, the Knidia's finishing touches are missing. Her jewelry, cloak, pot were probably painted or gilded. Her hair may have been painted yellow, but her body was probably left unpainted, though buffed and polished to a high sheen (and it was luminous marble). Lips were rouged and eyes possibly blue-black. Statues of goddesses were often adorned and ornamented as if they were alive. Was the Knidia a portrait of Phryne, Praxiteles' mistress (thus it is a Pygmalion tale)? There are a series of "true fictions" about this woman: that she first captured Praxiteles' heart arising naked from the sea; nicknamed Klausigelos ("teary-smiled"); Praxiteles carved her again and again in other materials (Pausanias himself saw two); indicted by the Athenians for impiety but the case collapsed when her breast was bared. A statue of a goddess but also of a mortal woman: irresistibly sexual yet dignified and distant. Praxiteles thus constructs the viewer both as worshipper and voyeur. But we simply do not know if the ancient Greeks reverenced it or found it erotic, or possibly a combination of the two.