One of our best ancient sources for the myth of Anchises comes from a Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite. In this hymn we learn about how the mortal man Anchises was selected by Zeus (the ruler of the Greek gods) to become a paramour of the goddess Aphrodite. It is suggested in the hymn that Zeus essentially wanted to give the beautiful goddess a taste of her own medicine, so to speak, by making her fall in love with a mortal. And so Aphrodite - who was, remember, the Greek goddess of love - became smitten with the handsome hero Anchises.
The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite features some lovely descriptions of the manner in which the goddess appears to the mortal man:
"And Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus, stood before him,
in size and form like an unwed maiden,
so that he might not see who she was and be afraid.
When Anchises saw her, he pondered and marveled,
at her size and form, and at her glistening garments.
She was clothed in a robe more brilliant than gleaming fire
and wore spiral bracelets and shining earrings,
while round her tender neck there were beautiful necklaces..."
(Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 81-88)
It is not surprising that Anchises would be a bit shocked to see such a gorgeous creature as this appear to him while he was tending his sheep on Mount Ida. In the end, however, desire overcame the man's natural fears, and soon the pair were joined together in a blissful union. And the result of this relationship was the conception and eventual birth of the hero Aeneas. Aphrodite did warn Anchises that he was never to reveal this secret tryst to anyone after they parted company, and the man was wise enough to agree to these terms. But, as fate would have it, Anchises made the mistake of bragging about his affair with the glorious goddess when he was drunk. He was in turn punished for this indiscretion by Zeus.
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