Myths of the Greek and Roman Gods
The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite
Translated by S. Ahmed, E. Bodner, R. Nickel, A. Rappold
Invocation: the Universal Power of Aphrodite
The Three Exceptions
There are three exceptions —
One: the daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus, owl-eyed Athena.
She finds no pleasure in the deeds of gold-adorned Aphrodite
Instead, wars and the deeds of Ares bring her joy –10
combat and battle — and inspiring deeds that bring glory:
She was the first to teach craftsmen on the Earth
how to make carriages and chariots elaborately fitted with bronze.
Soft-skinned girls still at home –
these too she taught glorious works, implanting this knowledge in each woman’s mind.15
Two: Artemis, golden-arrowed, loud-crying.
Laughter-loving Aphrodite was never able to overpower her with love’s delights.
Instead, she takes pleasure in the bow and slaying wild animals on mountain tops.
In her rites: lyres and dances with piercing loud cries,
In her domains: shady groves, and the city of just men.20
Three: Hestia – in no way did the deeds of Aphrodite please her: modest, revered eternal maiden.
Crooked-counselling Kronos fathered her first,
but also last of all, through the plans of aegis-bearing Zeus.
Poseidon and Apollo both tried to marry her.
But she was absolutely unwilling and refused, unable to be moved.25
She swore a great oath, which in fact has been accomplished,
touching the head of father Zeus the aegis-bearer,
swearing that she – shining among goddesses – would be a virgin for all eternity.
To her, father Zeus granted this noble gift, in place of marriage:
She sits in the middle of every household, holding the richest prize.30
In all the gods’ temples she too has her portion of honour.
And by all mortals she is revered as the eldest of the gods.
Not even Zeus is exempt
These goddesses only are exempt from her persuasion and deception.
No one else is able to escape Aphrodite —
Not among men, haunted by death.35
though he is the greatest god and, in the distribution of honours, he received the greatest portion.
Whenever she wanted, she misled his most carefully held intentions.
She did so easily — forcing him to have sex with lowly mortal women.
Any thought of Hera, she erased from his mind –
And from a noble family: descended from crooked-counseling Kronos and
Rhea, the mother. Zeus, the steadfast counselor,
made Hera his respected wife and within his household, his trusted confidant.
In Aphrodite’s own heart, Zeus cast sweet longing45
to have sex with a mortal man, so that, as soon as possible,
even she could no longer refrain from a mortal’s bed.
In case she ever again started boasting to the assembled gods
with a cruel-sweet laugh — Laughter-loving Aphrodite claiming
that she could make any god she wanted have sex with mortal women50
and give sons, subject to death, to deathless parents,
and that she could make goddesses have sex with mortal men.
Anchises was at that time grazing his cattle
high up on Mount Ida with its many springs. Into Aphrodite’s heart
Zeus now cast desire for him, a man in appearance like the gods.55
When laughter-loving Aphrodite saw him
She fell in love
Arriving in Cyprus, she descended to her fragrant temple
in Paphos, where her sacred precinct and fragrant altar lie.
There she entered and closed its gleaming doors.60
Inside, the Graces bathed her and anointed her with oil,
divine oil which gleams on the gods who are forever,
an ambrosial substance, made pleasantly fragrant for her.
She placed around her naked body beautiful clothing, and
adorned in gold, laughter-loving Aphrodite65
went quickly towards Troy, leaving behind sweet-smelling Cyprus.
Aphrodite arrives on Mount Ida
High among the clouds, her journey was swift.
She came to Mount Ida of many springs, mother of beasts.
She went straight through the mountain to the shepherd’s hut. Following behind
and fawning around her, grey wolves, savage-eyed lions,70
bears, and swift leopards ever hungry for deer
lept about. When she saw this the spirit within her breast rejoiced
and she cast sweet desire in their hearts, and all of them at once
lay down together in pairs in their shadowy dens.
She now arrived at the shepherd’s well-built hut.75
She found him alone at the cattle pens where he had been left by the others,
Anchises, a hero who had beauty from the gods.
At that time all the others were following their cattle through grassy meadows.
But he, left alone at the cattle pens by the others
was wandering here and there, playing a clear-sounding song on his lyre.80
Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus stood before him
in stature and form, looking like an unmarried virgin,
so as not to frighten him when he saw her with his eyes.
Seeing her, Anchises observed and marveled at
her beauty and stature and gleaming clothes.85
She wore a dress more radiant than the bright light of fire,
curved bracelets and shining earrings;
around her soft throat were exquisite necklaces,
elegant, golden, intricate. And as the moon shines,
a glow radiated around her soft breasts, wondrous to behold.90
Desire seized Anchises and, coming close, he spoke:
“Welcome, lady! Whoever you are of the blessed gods who has come to this house,
either Artemis or Leto or golden Aphrodite,
noble Themis or grey -eyed Athena,
or maybe one of the Graces who has come here —95
who dine with the gods and are called immortal,
or one of the nymphs
or one of those who dwell on this lovely mountain
and in the streams of its rivers and grassy meadows.
I will make an altar for you and perform noble sacrifices
in every season. With a gracious spirit,
grant that I be preeminent among the Trojans,
and make my offspring flourish in the time to come; grant that I too
live long and well, looking upon the light of the Sun,105
that I prosper among my people and reach the threshold of old age.”
Then Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, answered him:
“Anchises, most honoured of humans born on the Earth,
I am in no way a god. Why do you compare me to the immortals?
I am mortal, and a mortal mother bore me.110
Otreus is my father, a glorious name, if perhaps you’ve heard it.
He rules over all the Phrygians who have well-built walls.
I know both your language and my own well.
For a Trojan nurse brought me up in my house; she took me from my mother
when I was a small child and for many years cared for me.115
Surprising as it seems — that is why I know your language so well.
I was abducted by the Watchdog-Slayer, Hermes with the golden wand,
from the dances to Artemis, golden-arrowed, loud-crying.
There were many women in our chorus — some virgins, some near to womanhood,
and some already marriageable, worth a high bride-price.
We were dancing. All around, a vast audience encircled us.120
Right then, he abducted me: the golden-wanded Watchdog-Slayer.
Over many farmsteads he took me — the works of men, mortal such as yourself —
and over many fields not yet divided and plowed,
where wild beasts, eaters of flesh, prowl, slinking out from their shadowy dens.
Not once did my feet seem to touch the ground: life-bearing and fertile.125
Anchises’ own, he kept saying: in his bed I would be called,
His lawful wife. And that I would bear you glorious children.
But after he showed me the way out and explained all this,
He flew back to the immortals, the powerful Watchdog-Slayer.
Now I have come to you, compelled by powerful Necessity.130
I beg you, calling on Zeus — as I kneel before you and touch your thigh — and your parents,
who must be exceptional. For ugly people could not produce one so perfect.
Since I am a virgin and inexperienced in the ways of sex, take me
and present me to your father and devoted mother,
to your brothers — all those born from the same fruitful union.135
For them, I will not be disreputable, an easy woman but a respectable daughter-in-law.
But send a messenger right away to the swift-horsed Phrygians
to inform my father and mother, who will be most anxious.
Gold in abundance and exquisitely woven garments,
they will send. I beg you, accept this great and noble bride price.140
Afterwards hold a feast for the wedding I desire so much,
one which will give you honour both among men
Speaking in this way, the goddess cast sweet desire into his heart.
Lust seized Anchises and he spoke, calling out to her:
“If you are mortal, and a mortal woman bore you,145
and Otreus – a famous name – is your father, as you proclaim,
and you have come here with the help of the immortal Guide,
Hermes, and you will be called my wife for all our days,
then no one, neither a god nor a mortal man,
will hold me back here and now before I mingle in love with you150
this very moment, not even if the far-shooter himself, Apollo,
sends forth painful arrows from his silver bow.
Then I would be willing, lady like the goddesses,
once I have lain in your bed, to enter the house of Hades.”
Speaking so, he took her hand, and laughter-loving Aphrodite155
turned and went, casting her beautiful eyes downwards,
into the well-strewn bed, which earlier had been covered
by its master with soft blankets. On top of these
lay the hides of bears and loud-roaring lions,
which he himself had slain high in the mountains.160
Once they’d mounted the well-crafted bed,
Anchises first took the splendid jewelry from her skin,
brooches and spiral bracelets, earrings and necklaces.
He loosened her belt and removed her shining clothes,
placing them on a silver-studded chair.165
Then, by the will of the gods and by destiny,
a mortal man lay beside an immortal goddess, not knowing clearly what he did.
When shepherds guide their cattle and fat sheep
from flowery meadows back to the fold,
then the shining goddess poured a sweet, profound sleep over Anchises,170
and put back on her beautiful clothing.
Once all her clothes and jewelry were perfectly arranged,
she stood in the hut. Her head reached
the well-made roof beam, and from her cheeks immortal beauty
shone forth, beauty such as belongs to the violet -garlanded goddess of Kythera.175
She roused him from sleep and spoke, calling his name,
“Awaken, son of Dardanus! Why do you sleep so deeply?
Consider whether I appear the same to you
as when you first perceived me with your eyes.”
So she spoke, and startled out of sleep, he obeyed.180
When he saw the beautiful throat and eyes of Aphrodite,
he was frightened and turned his eyes aside, looking elsewhere.
Once more he covered his handsome face with his cloak
and, supplicating her, spoke with winged words:
“Immediately, Goddess, when I first saw you with my eyes,185
I knew you were a god. But you did not speak the truth.
I implore you, in the name of aegis-bearing Zeus,
do not allow me to live impotent among men and women.
Take pity! No man’s life flourishes
once he sleeps with immortal goddesses.”190