In the Homeric hymn of Aphrodite and Anchises, Zeus decided to put sweet desire into his daughter so that she would desperately want to make love to a prince of Troy. Aphrodite did not have the slightest clue to why she had suddenly fallen head over heels for Anchises, other than his appearance, closely resembled that of a god. Though she was somewhat confused by this unexpected desire to make love to Anchises, Aphrodite still gave everything she had, making every attempt to attract him to her.Aphrodite successfully lured Anchises by means of portraying herself as a mortal, but her immortality still showed through her disguise, manifested in her wealth, beauty, and emotional lust. Focusing specifically on lines 85-87 of this Homeric hymn, I argue that the mood of this scene has much to do with Anchises falling under Aphrodite’s casual love spell.
In the description of the elegance of her garments, many symbolic meanings are revealed.Her robe, is described as “out-shining the brightness of fire” and as a “robe of gold. Fire elicits impressions of heat, light, or warmth, but is also symbolic of passion, lust, love, and sexual ecstasy. Such an untraditional robe seems beyond the reach of mortals and Anchises senses this, but it still entices him enough to take the risk.
Aphrodite’s robe is said even to have “out-shined the brightness” of fire. Fire was the dramatic gift to mankind from Prometheus. As he states in Prometheus Bound, “I dared to save man from annihilation..
. Yes, they use fire, and fire shall teach them arts. (Harris and Platzner, lns. 35 and 52).This bequest made mortals powerful; the hyperbole of the garment is exaggerated by its surpassing of fire’s brilliance. The fact that her robe is explained as one of gold is also significant. Gold symbolizes money, power, and wealth.
It is also a material that does not fade in color, rust, or decay in any way. In other words, gold is practically invincible and eternal. In this sense, Aphrodite and gold are comparable because they are both immortal and invincible. Despite her efforts at disguise, she is intrinsically unable to cover up her immortal status.In addition to Aphrodite’s garments, her jewelry, including twisted brooches, shining earrings, and lovely necklaces, also carry supplementary significance.
Considering that jewelry is not a naturally formed element, this means it has to be manufactured, and must be made by either mortals or immortals. Jewelry made by mortals is distinguishable from the jewelry made by immortals. In other words, all the shining and shimmering that reflected off of Aphrodite and attracted Anchises was also an obvious indicator that she was not a human.Jewelry made by humans could be depicted from that of immortals by the difference in designs, manufacturing techniques, and even the lack of glow by the ones made by man. With the help of her jewelry, as well as specific explanations of her physical appearance, Aphrodite comes off as innocent and naive. Two examples of this are her “shining earrings in the form of flowers” and her “soft throat.
” Both suggest a sense of fragility, beauty, and delicacy. It seems almost as if Aphrodite is attempting to portray herself as a naive little mortal who just wants to play with Anchises.A soft throat suggests pure, delicate skin, which is not chafed, burned or irritated; perfect skin that nearly no human has.
In contrast to her immortal, perfect skin, Aphrodite wears earrings in the form of flowers. Flowers are very vivid, beautiful, temporary creations. They represent beauty, but only temporary life. Transience plays a big role. Aphrodite appears mortal for only a short term until she gets the sexual pleasures she desires. She then quickly informs Anchises to tell no one what has happened, when she returns to her immortal state. Her time as a “mortal” and her lust for Anchises are all temporary.Aphrodite is also aware of temporality when she decides to bed Anchises.
This man of such beauty and godliness, just like that of a flower, is still only mortal and eventually has to die. Aphrodite knows this, but still must fulfill her own desires and passions. Besides her engaging appearance and seductive tactics, Aphrodite also persuades Anchises through conniving words. To get Anchises even to consider making love to her in the first place, she has to make up a convincing story that she is human. She tells Anchises that her father is Ostreus, ruler of Phrygia, and that she has been abducted by Argos-killer (lns. 12-117).She mentions to Anchises that Hermes has told her that she would eventually be his lawfully wedded wife, and would bear him “splendid children” (ln.
127). Furthermore, she claims to be an inexperienced virgin (ln. 133). Clearly, Aphrodite wants Anchises badly enough to make up a believable tale and though it does not take much to convince Anchises, it has the ring of a legitimate story. This incident reflects the lengths Aphrodite will go to get what she wants. The fact that Aphrodite convinces Anchises to make love with her is not nearly as interesting as how she actually accomplishes it.Knowing that Anchises is a susceptible mortal, she plans to lure him in. She uses not only her physical beauty to her advantage, but also divine attire and shimmering jewelry.
She portrays her power and godliness in such a way that it is not completely apparent to the mortal, but yet must be more than any human woman would have to offer. She tops it off with manipulative words that convince Anchises of her eligibility. In the end, Aphrodite covers up her immortal perfections just enough to seduce successfully Anchises into one of the few divine-human unions not to end in tragedy.