Aphrodite Urania (Ancient Greek: Οὐρανία) was an epithet of
the Greek goddess Aphrodite, signifying "heavenly" or "spiritual", to
distinguish her from her more earthly aspect of
Aphrodite for all the people". The two were used (mostly in
literature) to differentiate the more "celestial" love of body and
soul from purely physical lust.
Plato represented her as a daughter of
the Greek god Uranus, conceived and born without a mother.
According to Hesiod, she was born from the severed genitals of Uranus
and emerged from the sea foam. Wine was not used in the libations
offered to her. According to Herodotus, the Arabs called this
aspect of the goddess "Alitta" or "Alilat" (Ἀλίττα or
The most distinctively oriental title of the Greek
Urania, the Semitic "queen of the heavens". It has been explained by
reference to the lunar character of the goddess, but more probably
signifies "she whose seat is in heaven", whence she exercises her sway
over the whole world—earth, sea, and air alike. Her cult was first
established in Cythera, probably in connection with the purple trade,
and at Athens it is associated with the legendary Porphyrion, the
purple king. At Thebes, Harmonia (who has been identified with
Aphrodite herself) dedicated three statues, of
Pandemos, and Apotrophia. A few words must be added on the second of
these titles. There is no doubt that Pandemos was originally an
extension of the idea of the goddess of family and city life to
include the whole people, the political community. Hence the name was
supposed to go back to the time of Theseus, the reputed author of the
reorganization of Attica and its demes.
Aphrodite Pandemos was held in
equal regard with Urania; she was called σεμνή ("holy"), and was
served by priestesses upon whom strict chastity was enjoined. In time,
however, the meaning of the term underwent a change, probably due to
the philosophers and moralists, by whom a radical distinction was
Aphrodite Urania and Pandemos. According to Plato, there
are two Aphrodites, "the elder, having no mother, who is called the
heavenly Aphrodite—she is the daughter of Uranus; the younger, who
is the daughter of
Zeus and Dione—her we call common." The same
distinction is found in Xenophon's Symposium, although the author is
doubtful whether there are two goddesses, or whether Urania and
Pandemos are two names for the same goddess, just as Zeus, although
one and the same, has many titles; but in any case, he says, the
ritual of Urania is purer, more serious, than that of Pandemos. The
same idea is expressed in the statement that after Solon's time
courtesans were put under the protection of
Aphrodite Pandemos. But
there is no doubt that the cult of
Aphrodite was on the whole as pure
as that of any other divinities, and although a distinction may have
existed in later times between the goddess of legal marriage and the
goddess of free love, these titles do not express the idea. Aphrodite
Urania was represented in Greek art on a swan, a tortoise or a
^ Pausanias: In the temple is the image of the goddess whom they call
Ourania; it is made of ivory and gold and is the work of Pheidias; it
stands with one foot upon a tortoise (the tortoise was a symbol of
domestic modesty and chastity).
^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1870). "Urania 3.". In Smith, William.
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 3. Little,
Brown and Company. p. 1284.
^ Plato, Symposium 180
^ Xenophon, Symposium 8. § 9.
^ Scholiast, ad Soph. Oed. Col. 101
^ Herodotus, i. 105
^ Suda, s.v. νηφάλια
^ Herodotus, i. 131., iii. 8
^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1870). "Alitta". In Smith, William.
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1. Little,
Brown and Company. p. 132.
^ quoted by Athenaeus, 569d, from Nicander of Colophon
^ Freese, John Henry (1911). "Aphrodite". In Chisholm, Hugh.
Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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