Understanding Aphrodite is an experience of understanding feminine sexuality. For heterosexual men feminine sexuality means coming to terms with the impact of a lover upon the personality. Women view sexuality as it entails coming to terms with one's own sensual nature. For men the impact of the personality can mean several different things, such as beauty, sexuality, desire, and passion. These are all apparent traits in the way Aphrodite is viewed and displayed in Greek art. Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty and sexuality and that is exactly how she is perceived and depicted. In many ways, which I will explain through the paper, Aphrodite takes part in near pornography, the first public displays at least. The way I will define pornography in this paper is by addressing the desire one possesses for a female, and the way Aphrodite induced this desire. This portrayal of Aphrodite in a pornographic sense can be seen through statues, paintings, literature, and friezes. The pieces of art that I have chosen to view which represent Aphrodite as being viewed as a sex symbol in a pornographic sense are, Aphrodite riding a swan, Aphrodite of Knidos, Aphrodite and Pan from Delos, and Aphrodite of Melos.
The first piece I want to discuss is Aphrodite riding a goose or swan; in the piece itself it is hard to determine which one it is (Pratt, P.110). For arguments sake, let's just call it a swan, but either way the fact that Aphrodite is riding a bird is what is most important to consider when viewing this piece. This piece was from the time period between 470-460 B.C. and represents Aphrodite not only in a way of beauty and sexuality, but as a nurturing woman as well. To start off lets discuss what a swan represents in Greek art and its relevance to Aphrodite. The swan in nature is a bird and the bird represents the air or the heavens. The swan also represents female sensuality, love, lustfulness, and even rape, which will be discussed later in the paper. All of these attributes which the swan represents are also qualities that Aphrodite represents as well. The fact that Aphrodite is controlling the swan by riding it shows Aphrodite's control over these attributes shared by both figures. Even though in this particular piece Aphrodite is clothed her sexual side is still represented by many other factors. These factors include the already stated controlling of the swan, her pose on which she is riding the swan, and the fact that Aphrodite is extending her hand holding a flower, which also represents beauty, love and sexuality in Greek art. The pose that Aphrodite is positioned in the piece illustrates calmness and a sense of warmth and comfort. Even though Aphrodite is riding a wild swan her emotions are limited and she seems as if she is really at ease on the swan. Aphrodite has an archaic smile; she is not even holding on to the swan just calmly sitting representing the comfort once again, or even the idea that the two are intertwinable; they are compliments of one another. While riding the swan with a great comfort Aphrodite is also holding on to a very large flower, which also represents beauty, love, as well as a holding over nature because she is controlling the flower. The idea of Aphrodite holding on to the flower while riding the swan is a very comparable image to the snake goddess of early archaic Greece. The ways the two are similar are the ideas of women controlling nature. The reason women control nature is because of their fertility, or their capabilities of nurturing, being hand in hand with nature. While the snake goddess controls the snakes Aphrodite controls the flower and the bird, which is tied into with the snake as representing nature. The snake is representative of water, and the flower represents land, and the bird represents air, these three attributes combined to mesh into one archetype; that Aphrodite is the goddess and controller of beauty, love, nature, sexuality, and...
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