The tales of the Olympians continues with the arrival of Aphrodite. From her mysterious origin at the beginning of time to the seeds of war sowed in a power struggle at a wedding, Aphrodite shows the true power of love to both humans and gods alike. None can escape its many guises, even if they wanted to.
This sixth volume of tales of the ancient Greek gods introduces Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In the tales he tells, O’Connor chooses stories that depict not just her romantic side as the goddess of love, but also the power that love can wield.
Aphrodite’s origins are told by her attendants, the three Charities, Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, who were the first to greet her on the day of her birth. They tell of her ancient beginnings as eros, a force that fostered desire in others. Only a glimpse is given of Aphrodite’s many adventures, sans husband, before the tale of Pygmalion is told that shows Aphrodite spreading the joy of love. Then her son Eros is introduced, which leads into the final story, the wedding of Thetis, which pits Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite in a contest to be judged by Paris, a prince of Troy, as to who is the most beautiful.
O’Connor spins this tale of the gods in a way that goes beyond the scope of the original myths. Aphrodite is more than just a goddess, she is a force, almost as old as time itself, given form. I enjoyed how it was Zeus, the god best known for spreading the love around, who recognized not only her power but also how much of a threat her power could be. Zeus controls not only Aphrodite but any women he feels threatened by, by marrying them off. This leads to a great line at the end by Aphrodite to Hera: “I believe marriage is a celebration of two souls united in love and not a political union.” She sees marriage for what it is, a way to control women, and an institution that should be “torn down.” She is an independent-minded woman in a male-dominated world, and her strength doesn’t win her many friends, but she proves her power of love is just as great as Hera’s power or Athena’s strength.
O’Connor’s art just gets better with every volume. I loved the way he portrayed Aphrodite. It isn’t easy coming up with the ideal of beauty, but he accomplishes it through not just her appearance but her attitude as well. She is often shown expressing great joy, not just with love but with life. She comes across as very uplifting, and you can’t help but want to be happy with her. Her smile has a knowing look to it, as if she knows what you want before you do. Part of what makes her so appealing I think is that she is shown with dark skin and hair, making her stand apart compared to the other, paler gods.
Aphrodite: Goddess of Love is another great addition to the Olympians series. There is a lot of great humor, from Zeus’s quick thinking constantly getting him out of sticky situations with women and Aphrodite’s deadpan annoyance with Zeus to Eris the Goddess of Discord trying to disrupt the wedding. This volume was really a lot of fun and one that shouldn’t be missed. Just because Aphrodite is a goddess of love doesn’t mean her stories are all about romance!