Aphrodite is the vain Greek Goddess of beauty and love. She is almost invariably depicted nude, though in the myths she had a enchanted belt or girdle made of gold by Hephaestus. When worn this girdle magnified her already remarkable charms.
She was apparently born a full-grown woman of great beauty and desirability. There's a few different conflicting origin stories for her, though. She may have sprung from the sea after Cronus castrated Ouranos and flung his testicles there. Or, she could be more mundanely the daughter of Dione as Homer suggests in the Illiad. There's even a version of things where she's the daughter of Zeus.
Aphrodite is married to Hephaestus the ugly god of smithing. The stories again diverge as to whether Zeus gave her hand to the smith to get her away from Olympus where her beauty and lust was causing trouble. Alternately, Hephaestus may have trapped Hera, Queen of the Gods, in a magic throne and forced her to give him Aphrodite in exchange for her freedom. Either way, it wasn't a happy marriage, as "The Net" and her affair with Ares indicates. She also had affairs with Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysis, Adonis, Anchises, and Butes.
The festival of Aphrodite is known as the Aphrodisiac, and as the name implies it involved much sexuality. Her priestesses were not technically Temple Prostitutes, but did none the less engage in sex as a means of communion with the Goddess.
Her symbols are the dolphin, the dove, the lime tree, the pomegranate and the swan. Due to Interpretatio Graeca she's associated with the later Roman goddess Venus. Aphrodite may herself be a less-militant variation on the earlier Middle Eastern goddess Astarte.
Game and Story Use
- A great divine character to put at the heart of any trouble. She's vain and jealous, lusty and tempting, and more than capable of destroying nations even when her intentions are "innocent". Men will kill for her, and she'll punish any mortal woman whose beauty (or vanity) rivals her own. Her ability to wrap NPCs around her finger could be a powerful springboard for an epic tale.
- Aphrodite might best be used off-camera. The myths talk about her irresistible beauty and ability to inspire powerful lust in all who view her. If you include her in a game, be forewarned that your players may ham it up, gross you out, or get upset that their own free will is compromised.
- Some sort of functional magic system could be worked up around her priestesses and orgies, I suppose. Worth a snicker, anyway. Not for every playgroup.