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Herm of Aphroditus at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm

Aphroditus or Aphroditos (Greek: Ἀφρόδιτος, Aphróditos, [apʰróditos]) was a male Aphrodite originating from Amathus on the island of Cyprus and celebrated in Athens.

Aphroditus was portrayed as having a female shape and clothing like Aphrodite's but also a phallus, and hence, a male name.[2] This deity would have arrived in Athens from Cyprus in the 4th century BC. In the 5th century BC, however, there existed hermae of Aphroditus, or phallic statues with a female head.[3]

Aphroditus is the same as the later god Hermaphroditos, whose name derives from his being regarded as the son of Aphrodite and Hermes.[4][5] Hermaphroditos first appeared in the Characters of Theophrastus.[6] Photius also explained that Aphroditus was Hermaphroditos, and cited fragments from Attic comedies mentioning the divinity.[7]

One of the earliest surviving images from Athens is a fragment (late 4th century BC), found in the Athenian agora, of a clay mould for a terracotta figurine. The figurine would have stood about 30 cm high, represented in a style known as ἀνασυρόμενος (anasyromenos), a female lifting her dress to reveal male genitals,[8] a gesture that was believed to have apotropaic qualities, averting evil influences and bestowing good luck.[9]

This combination of the male and female in one divinity and being associated with the moon, both of which were considered to have fertilizing powers, was regarded as having an influence over the entire animal and vegetable creation.[10]


Aphroditus (Ἀφρόδιτος) seems to be the male version of Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη), with the female thematic ending -ē () exchanged for the male thematic ending -os (-ος), as paralleled e.g. in Cleopatra/Cleopatros or Andromache/Andromachus.



According to Macrobius, who mentions the goddess in his Saturnalia, Philochorus, in his Atthis (referred to by Macrobius), identifies this god with the Moon and says that at their sacrifices men and women exchanged clothing. Philostratus, in describing the rituals involved in the festivals, said that the image or the impersonator of the god was accompanied by a large train of followers in which girls mingled with men because the festivals allowed "women to act the part of men, and men put on woman's clothing and play the woman".[2]


Theophrastus (c. 371 – c. 287 BC), Characters 16.10

"On the fourth and seventh days of each month, he directs mulled wine to be prepared, and going himself to purchase myrtle-wreaths, frankincense and convolvuluses; he returns to spend the day worshiping the statue of Hermaphroditus."[11]

Philochorus (c. 337–283 BC), Atthis

Pausanias (c. 110 – c. 180 AD), Description of Greece 1.19.2

"Concerning the district called The Gardens, and the temple of Aphrodite, there is no story that is told by them, nor yet about the Aphrodite which stands near the temple. Now the shape of it is square, like that of the Hermae, and the inscription declares that the Heavenly Aphrodite is the oldest of those called Fates. But the statue of Aphrodite in the Gardens is the work of Alcamenes, and one of the most note worthy things in Athens."[12]

Alciphron (c. 125 – after 180 AD), Epistles 3.37

"Having woven a garland of flowers, I repaired to the temple of Hermaphroditus, to fix it there, in honour of my deceased husband Phaedria: but I was seized there by Moschion and his companions. He had been teasing me to marry him; but I refused, partly through compassion for my young children; and also because my dear Phaedria is ever in my thoughts."[13]

Philostratus (c. 190 – c. 230 AD), Imagines 1.2

"The torches give a faint light, enough for the revellers to see what is close in front of them, but not enough for us to see them. Peals of laughter rise, and women rush along with men, wearing men's sandals and garments girt in strange fashion; for the revel permits women to masquerade as men, and men to "put on women's garb" and to ape the walk of women."[14]

Macrobius (c. 400s AD), Saturnalia 3.8.2

"There's also a statue of Venus on Cyprus, that's bearded, shaped and dressed like a woman, with scepter and male genitals, and they conceive her as both male and female. Aristophanes calls her Aphroditus, and Laevius says: Worshiping, then, the nurturing god Venus, whether she is male or female, just as the Moon is a nurturing goddess. In his Atthis Philochorus, too, states that she is the Moon and that men sacrifice to her in women's dress, women in men's, because she is held to be both male and female."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bronze figure of a hermaphrodite". The British Museum Collections. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b Bullough, Vern L.; Bullough, Bonnie (1993), Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender (reprint ed.), University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 29, ISBN 9780812214314
  3. ^ Baillière, Tindall (1947), "The International journal of psycho-analysis", International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Published by Routledge for the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, International Psycho-Analytical Association, 28: 150, ISSN 0020-7578, OCLC 1640896
  4. ^ Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim; James Freake (1993), Three books of occult philosophy, Llewellyn Worldwide; p. 495 ISBN 0875428320
  5. ^ Siculus, Diodorus. Library of History. pp. 4. 6. 5. Hermaphroditos, as he has been called, who was born of Hermes and Aphrodite and received a name which is a combination of those of both his parents.
  6. ^ Theophrastus (2004), James Diggle (ed.), Theophrastus: Characters, Cambridge University Press, p. 366, ISBN 9780521839808
  7. ^ Braund, David (2005), Scythians and Greeks: cultural interactions in Scythia, Athens and the early Roman empire (sixth century BC - first century AD), University of Exeter Press; p. 78 ISBN 085989746X
  8. ^ Theophrastus; James Diggle (2004), Characters, Cambridge University Press; pp. 367-68
  9. ^ Koloski-Ostrow, Ann Olga; Lyons, Claire L. (2000), Naked truths: women, sexuality, and gender in classical art and archaeology, Routledge; pp. 230-231 ISBN 0415217520
  10. ^ Freese, John Henry (1911). "Aphrodite" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 166.
  11. ^ Theophrastus (1870) Translated by Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb, Theophrastou Charakteres, Macmillan; pp. 165, 269
  12. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, Paus. 1.19.2
  13. ^ John Jortin (1790), Tracts, philogical, critical, and miscellaneous: consisting of pieces many before published separately, several annexed to the works of learned friends, and others now first printed from the author's manuscripts, Volume 2, White; p. 45
  14. ^ Translated by Fairbanks, Arthur (1931), Elder Philostratus, Younger Philostratus, Callistratus, Loeb Classical Library Volume 256, Imagines Book 1.2, London: William Heinemann
  15. ^ Macrobius; Kaster, Robert A. (2011), Saturnalia, Volume 2, Harvard University Press; p. 58 ISBN 0674996712


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