T HE most beautiful of all the goddesses was Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. She was often called the "sea-born" goddess, because she was formed one evening from the foam of the sea, where its waves beat upon a rocky shore. Her eyes were as blue as the summer sky overhead, her skin as fair as the white sea-foam from which she came, and her hair as golden as the yellow rays of the setting sun. When she stepped from the water upon the beach, flowers sprang up under her feet; and when she was led into the assembly of the gods, every one admired and loved her.
Zeus, in order to make up for his cruelty to Hephaestus, gave him this beautiful goddess for his wife. The gods prepared for them the grandest wedding possible. All the gods and goddesses were there, bringing with them magnificent gifts for the bride. But the most wonderful of all were the presents given her by Hephaestus himself.
He built many palaces for her, the most marvelous of which was on the island of Cyprus. In the middle of this island was a large blue lake, in which there was another island Upon this Hephaestus built a palace of white marble, with towers and ornaments of gold and silver. It was then filled with wonderful things which the skillful god made to please his wife. Among these were servants of solid gold, that would obey the wishes of Aphrodite without word or sound. There were also golden harps, which made sweet music all day long, without any one playing upon them; and golden birds, which sang the sweetest of songs.
All birds were great favorites of Aphrodite, and they loved her as much as she loved them They taught her their bird language, so that she talked with them as though they had been persons. Of all them, however, she liked the doves and swans the best. Doves fluttered around her head and alighted, on her arms and shoulders, wherever she went; and swans drew her back and forth in a beautiful boat across the waters between her palace and the shore of the lake.
Aphrodite was the kindest and gentlest of the goddesses. The Greeks did not pray to her for power, as they did to Zeus, or for learning and wisdom, as they did to Athena. Instead, they prayed to her to make the persons they cared for love them in return
Once a sculptor, named Pygmalion, tried to make a statue that should be more lovely than the loveliest woman. He chose the finest ivory, and for months and months he worked patiently at his task. As it began to take the form of a beautiful maiden under his skillful chisel, he became so interested in his work that he scarcely took time to eat or sleep. At last the work was finished, and everybody said that the statue was more beautiful than any woman that had ever lived.
But Pygmalion was not satisfied. All day long he would sit in front of his statue and look at it. He came to love it so much at last, that he wished over and over again that it were a real woman, so that t might talk to him, and love him in return. He longed for this in secret until at last he grew bold enough tot ask the gods for help. Then he went to the temple of Aphrodite, and there before the altar he prayed to the goddess to change his statue into a real woman. As he finished his prayer, he saw the altar-fire flame up three times, and he knew that the goddess had heard him. He hastened home, and there he found that his statue of ivory had indeed been turned into a woman of flesh and blood; and all his life long he blessed the goddess Aphrodite for granting his wish.