Aphrodite and Eros – the portrayal of these two gods and the depiction of their active intervention have a significant impact on the plots of numerous classical tragedies. Focussing upon a selection of dramas from Aeschylus to Seneca, the author demonstrates how the images of these two multifaceted gods have been transmitted and altered, at the same time that certain features have been preserved. The tension between a powerful Aphrodite, working on a cosmic scale, and a goddess whose influence is restricted to matters of personal love relationships – as it emerges from a survey of relevant passages in early epic texts – is palpable in tragedy as an oscillation between a goddess presented as a mighty authority, whose existence is never really questioned, and a conventional name devoid of substance, which is invoked only as an excuse. The emphasis on the destructive side of the twofold love gods is shown to be characteristic of tragedy. This is demonstrated particularly with regard to the motif of divine anger, which serves also as starting point for the concluding reflections on Theocritus, Ovid and Nonnus.
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