Aphrodite (‘foam—born’) is the same wide—ruling goddess who rose from Chaos and danced on the sea, and who was worshipped in Syria and Palestine as Ishtar, or Ashtaroth. Her most famous centre of worship was Paphos, where the original white aniconic image of the goddess is still shown in the ruins of a grandiose Roman temple; there every spring her priestess bathed in the sea, and rose again renewed.

She is called daughter of Dione, because Dione was the goddess of the oak—tree, in which the amorous dove nested. Zeus claimed to be her father after seizing Dione’s oracle at Dodona, and Dione therefore became her mother. ‘Tethys’ and ‘Thetis’ are names of the goddess as Creatrix (formed, like ‘Themis’ and ‘Theseus’, from tithenai, ‘to dispose’ or ‘to order’), and as Sea—goddess, since life began in the sea. Doves and sparrows were noted for their lechery; and sea ford is still regarded as aphrodisiac throughout the Mediterranean.

Cythera was an important centre of Cretan trade with the Peloponnese, and it will have been from here that her worship first entered Greece. The Cretan goddess had close associations with the sea. Shells carpeted the floor of her palace sanctuary at Cnossus; she is shown on a gem from the Idean Cave blowing a triton—shell, with a sea—anemone lying beside her altar; the sea—urchin and cuttle—fish were sacred to her. A triton—shell was found in her early sanctuary at Phaestus, and many more in late Minoan tombs, some of these being terracotta replicas.

(Robert Graves, The Greek Myths)

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