I’m fierce and I’m feeling mighty
I’m a golden girl, I’m an Aphrodite
Alright? Alright yeah yeah yeah!
— “Aphrodite” by Kylie Minogue
If all you know about Aphrodite comes from the Kylie Minogue song of the same name or the 1995 Woody Allen movie “Mighty Aphrodite” (this writer’s favorite line (for a family publication): “Achilles only had an Achilles heel, I have an entire Achilles body”), then you don’t know anything about the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation who was said to have been born off the coast of Cythera from the foam produced by Uranus’s genitals, which his son Cronus has severed and thrown into the sea. That’s the more interesting version from Hesiod — Homer merely said she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus (the god of fire, blacksmiths and metalworking), cheated on him extensively, caused the goddess feud that resulted in the beginning of the Trojan War, inspired artists looking for a symbol for beauty and was the focus of a number of religions, including one associated with 2,500-year-old temple discovered recently in modern Turkey.
“We found a statue piece of a woman on the floor, and then a terracotta female head figure. From the findings, we understood that there must have been a cult area in the region. As we scanned the epigraphic publications, we understood that it was most likely the Temple of Aphrodite. There is also an inscription around the temple. It sets the border with the statement, ‘This is the sacred area.’”
According to Hurriyet Daily News, that was enough to convince Elif Koparal, associate professor at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, that Turkish scientists and archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 600 BCE Aphrodite Temple in the Urla-Çeşme peninsula in western Turkey. (Photos here.) Koparal’s team found 35 prehistoric settlements in an area approximately 1,600 square kilometers, that was fortunately reachable only by walking for 1.5 hours, preserving it from looters. Other artifacts and structures found there date back to 6,000 BCE, making this a cultural and historic treasure trove.
“It is a rural temple. Aphrodite was a very common cult at that time.”
Common but beautiful – not a description one generally attributes to a goddess, but that’s Aphrodite. After the collapse of the ancient Mycenaean civilization in Greece, many Greeks brought their culture to the western shores of Asia Minor around the eighth century BCE. Looking for good fortune and growth in the new land, building temples to the goddess of fertility seemed like a good idea. They named what is now Turkey Anatolia and built the city of Aphrodisias, near what is now the village of Geyre.
What next for this newly discovered temple of Aphrodite? More surface studies are planned, together with cooperation with the Turkish government to keep the area as secret as possible to protect it from looters as well as land developers. Sacred areas such as this were often cemeteries, so they’ll be searching for graves and remains. And, if they find Uranus’s severed genitals, the researchers probably will join Kylie Minogue in singing:
Alright yeah yeah yeah!