The Goddess of Love, Aphrodite- or Venus, or Astarte- she has had many names. She is the goddess of life, fertility and renewal, but she is also the patroness of carnal desire: “a thousand honey secrets thou shalt know” is her promise to the boy Adonis in Shakespeare’s poem about the pair. Incredibly, perhaps, he resists this offer- but most of us do not.
The enduring role of the goddess in human sex and passion is well known, but how well is she suited for love and sexuality in the modern world? To understand that, we must trace something of her origins, and focus our attention on the way in which more recent writers and artists have imagined her.