The ancient Greek goddess of erotic love and beauty, her name is the root of ‘aphrodisiac’. Her powers could requite longing, as shown in the tale of the sculptor Pygmalion who had never found a woman worth loving. Inspired by Aphrodite, he created and fell in love with an ivory statue, which he married when the goddess brought her to life. Even Aphrodite’s own relationships were fraught. Zeus, who feared her sexual allure and beauty would cause wars among men, forced her to marry grim smith Hephaestus, who unwittingly gave her a magic girdle making her even more irresistible, thereby encouraging numerous affairs. One such conquest, the perfect male mortal Adonis, was murdered by jealous lover Ares, god of war and son of Zeus, whose own affair with Aphrodite was discovered by her husband and punished with public ridicule. Zeus’s fears proved to be well founded when Aphrodite was the direct cause of the Trojan War. In a contest for the title of fairest goddess, Zeus appointed Paris as judge. Though he declined all other bribes, he could not resist the temptation of Aphrodite’s offer of the most beautiful mortal in the world – Helen.

Mighty Aphrodite

In the 1996 Woody Allen comedy, with ideas linked to Oedipus and Pygmalion, Mira Sorvino won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the ditsy porn star birthmother of an adopted boy looking for his roots.

Oedipus Complex

Unaware of his adoptive status, Oedipus became King of Thebes by killing his natural father and marrying his natural mother. Freud used this myth to construct his theory that a male child’s unconscious longing for his father’s death was necessary to fulfil his unconscious craving to be the sole recipient of his mother’s love.