Was she angry? For three days already we were on the island and still had not visited her temple to pay her tribute. This was after all her island. Kronos, leader of the Titans, had castrated his tyrannical father Uranus and thrown his thingy in the sea. Then the water had started to fizz and out of the foam arose Aphrodite, goddess of love, sexuality, fertility and beauty.
On the way to her sanctuary we stopped at the remnants of the ancient city Koúrion. We barely had time to see it. Dark clouds descended from the Olympus, and a hailstorm came upon us so fiercely that it damaged the front window of our car. With the last hailstones still drumming on the car, we drove directly towards the holy temple of the Aphrodite near Paphos. Immediately her mood improved, for the dark clouds drifted to the sea and soon even the sun showed itself again.
Thousands of years ago this place had attracted people from all over the world: the Mediterranean sea with all its islands and many countries in Europe, the Middle-East and Africa. People attended ceremonies and made offerings. The Roman historian Tacitus described the altar and a sacred stone: “Blood may not be shed upon the altar, but offering is made only with prayers and pure fire. The altar is never wet by any rain, although it is in the open air. The representation of the goddess is not in human form, but it is a circular mass that is broader at the base and rises like a turning-post to a small circumference at the top. The reason for this is obscure.”
This was the very stone.
Aphrodite was also depicted in her human form. For the goddess of love and fertility and sexuality, an offer could be to sacrifice the own body as in ancient times, making love was seen as a sacred act.
This idea has roots that go back more than 7.000 years ago, to the Sumerian cult of Inanna. In Cyprus the first settlements dated from 3.300 year before Christ. In that time the Phoenician goddess of Astarte was worshipped, also a goddess of sexuality, fertility and war. In the Greek period, Astarte became Aphrodite, and the city of Paphos was known throughout the world for it’s parties, wine and prostitutes. The stone at this sanctuary never became Venus, as the Roman Emperor Theodosius I outlawed all pagan religions in the year 391 and the sanctuary of Aphrodite fell into ruins.