Aphrodite is usually said to have been born near Paphos, on the island of Cyprus, for which reason she is called “Cyprian”, especially in the poetic works of Sappho. Her chief center of worship was at Paphos, where the goddess of desire had been worshipped from the early Iron Age in the form of Ishtar and Astarte. However, other versions of her myth have her born near the island of Kythira (Cythera), for which reason she is called “Cytherea”. Kythira was a stopping place for trade and culture between Crete and the Peloponesus, so these stories may preserve traces of the migration of Aphrodite’s cult from the Middle East to mainland Greece.
In the most famous version of her myth, her birth was the consequence of a castration: Cronus severed Uranus’genitals and threw them behind him into the sea. The foam from his genitals gave rise to Aphrodite (for which reason she is called “foam-arisen”), while the Erinyes (furies) emerged from the drops of blood. Hesiod states that the genitals “were carried over the sea a long time, and white foam arose from the immortal flesh; with it a girl grew.” This girl became Aphrodite. She floated ashore on a scallop shell. This image of a fully mature “Venus rising from the sea” (Venus Anadyomene) was one of the iconic representations of Aphrodite, made famous in a much-admired painting by Apelles, now lost, but described in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder.
As the patron of Delphi (Pythian Apollo), Apollo was an oracular god—the prophetic deity of the Delphic Oracle. Medicine and healing are associated with Apollo, whether through the god himself or mediated through his son Asclepius, yet Apollo was also seen as a god who could bring ill-health and deadly plague. Amongst the god’s custodial charges, Apollo became associated with dominion over colonists, and as the patron defender of herds and flocks. As the leader of the Muses (Apollon Musegetes) and director of their choir, Apollo functioned as the patron god of music and poetry. Hermescreated the lyre for him, and the instrument became a common attribute of Apollo. Hymns sung to Apollo were called paeans.