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  Highlights of the Collection: Aphrodite, Female Figurines and Cyprus
  Aphrodite, Female Figurines and Cyprus: The Iron Age, Aphrodite and Paphos

Attic red-figure lekythos with image of Aphrodite riding a swan (AN1891.451)During the Iron Age (c.1050-325 BC) there was an influx of foreign influences in Cyprus (the Phoenicians, Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians). All brought elements of their cultures to the island, including the Greek gods Zeus, Hera, Artemis, Athena, Apollo and Aphrodite. It was at this stage in the history of Cyprus that the sanctuary at Paphos was dedicated to Aphrodite. Homer and Hesiod recount how she arose out of the sea there. Her Greek name even means 'the foam risen', aphro meaning 'foam' in Greek. Later Greek and Roman writers explain that the cult of Aphrodite at Paphos was aniconic (meaning it had simple shapes representing the deity and not human likenesses). Other temples dedicated to Aphrodite in Cyprus are Tamasses, Amathus and Golgoi.

Vases such as this, with long narrow necks, are known as lekythoi (oil-flasks). They came to Cyprus as a result of trade links with the Greek mainland. This lekythos, from Polis tis Khrysokhou, dates to the 5th century BC when Cyprus was under Persian control. The pottery type is called Athenian red-figure ware and the design on it depicts Aphrodite riding over waves on a swan or goose. The goddess is wearing Ionic style clothing and her hair is tied back under a diadem. The Second Homeric hymn to Aphrodite says:

'…the gold-filleted Hours welcomed her joyously. They clothed her with heavenly garments: on her head they put a fine, well-wrought crown of gold, and in her pierced ears they hung ornaments of orichalc and precious gold, and adorned her with golden necklaces over her soft neck…'

Orichalc was a precious metallic mineral known to the Greeks

  Attic red-figure lekythos with image of Aphrodite riding a swan,
from Tomb 57 at Arsinoe (Marion)
donated by Cyprus Exploration Fund (AN1891.451)
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