On Tuesday, I got out of the library (and read) Zeus: King of the Gods by George O’Connor. It’s the first in the series of graphic novels OLYMPIANS by O’Connor, published by First Second. In this excellent graphic novel, O’Connor recounts for his readers in dramatic fashion Hesiod’s Theogony, specifically the succession of Ouranos, Titans, Olympians. Thus it is an origins story, telling the rise of Zeus to becoming King of the Gods.
Having read it while my charge slept, I left it at work because his dad was interested. After he read it, then the older son read it. The older son and I were talking about Greek gods this morning (a topic I enjoy but rarely get to dig into), and upon examination of the family tree provided in the graphic novel, he asked by Aphrodite had no parents. So I referred him to the part of the story that talks about Kronos cutting Ouranos with his sickle, and how some of it fell into the sea, and turned to foam. Aphrodite was born from the foam on the island of Cyprus, where I used to live. (O’Connor leaves out that the foam was created by Ouranos’ severed testicles, but we’ll let him fiddle with Hesiod a little bit.)
A little bit later, while he was perusing www.olympiansrule.com, First Second’s accompanying website, this observant ten-year-old noted that if Aphrodite is older than the Olympians, why does she live with them? I said I wasn’t really sure. But it’s an interesting fact, if we go by Hesiod rather than references in Homer and elsewhere to Aphrodite being Zeus’ daughter. Aphrodite was born of Ouranos’ testicular foam before Rhea gave birth to the Olympian gods. She is, therefore, of the same breed and generation as the Giants, Nymphs, Fates, Furies.
Aphrodite’s “siblings” are all primal. They are beings of force, divinities that are sometimes characterised as impersonal forces, beings that could be characterised as the metaphysical or spiritual essence of what they represent.
Aphrodite is, herself, primal as well. It makes sense that she would pre-date the Olympians, especially the over-amorous Zeus and his ever-multiplying offspring. She is the goddess of “love”, as I told this young boy today. By love we mean sex and sexual reproduction and the romantic trappings that go with it. If the world is to be populated, then its inhabitants must copulate. If Zeus’ children are to be born, he must have a sexual drive. Aphrodite provides this.
Since Aphrodite is so important to the population and development of the world, it makes sense that she would reside with the Olympians, who are also highly important, governing weather, marriage, childbirth, celestial bodies, crops and plant growth, death, the sea, music, poetry, wisdom, battle, and so forth.
Another primal god along similar lines is Eros. In Hesiod, Eros is one of the oldest deities around. He came forth from Chaos at the beginning of all things, self-formed with neither father nor mother. No sea foam for Eros! The website Theoi makes a distinction between this Eros and the son of Aphrodite. I do not. They are the same driving force, the same primal urge to desire, to grasp, to lust, to long for something or someone else. It is perfectly logical that this being of desire would be one of the beings lying at the root of the universe.