‘Of all the goddesses of Olympos only Aphrodite did no work. She was good for one thing and for one thing only: love. And for that she was very, very good. Hers was the magic girdle [Cestus] that could inspire uncontrollable passion in the most solid and respectable. Zeus was ever at its mercy. It could provoke, some claim, lustful fantasies in even the mutilated Ouranos himself. There was no need for the girdle, however, when she wished to be the object of passion herself. No goddess was more enchantingly lovely, more perfectly made.
Her marriage to the smith-god Hephaistos took place in heaven but grave doubts soon arose as to whether it was made there; for before long she made war-loving Ares her lover. Afternoons when Hephaistos labored over his forge, Aphrodite would furtively unlatch their doors to Hephaistos’s palatial bedroom and the wondrously wrought four-poster he had fashioned with his own hands. There they would sport themselves in sensual diversions unknown to husband, reserved for lover alone.
The afternoon trysts did not, however, go unobserved. Helios, God of the Sun, looked down from high above Mount Olympos at the shameless comings and goings; and when unable to contain his indignation for Hephaistos’s sake any longer, he went to the Smith God and revealed all.
Angry, spirits crushed, Hephaistos shuffled back to his smithy and set his great anvil on the anvil block. Nor did he leave the anvil until he had hammered chains unbreakable and finely wrought and had joined the chains together into a most subtle mesh. Still bristling with anger, he went to his own bedroom and spread the mesh over the posts of his magnificent bed just under the canopy. It hung there, like a thinly spun spider’s web, invisible to the naked eye.
Then to shapely Aphrodite he went. “I must betake myself to Lemnos, of all islands to me most precious,” he told her. “Can you manage a few days without me?”
Sweetly she bid him good-bye, and off he hobbled as if to his beloved island.
…Throwing wide the bedroom doors, the simple Smith God roared in his anger. Neither Ares nor Aphrodite could move from the bed; prisoners they were in a showcase cell. Hephaistos went to the balcony and, in loud voice both pained and triumphant, called out to Zeus and the other gods to witness his wife’s disgrace.
…Out of modesty the goddesses all declined the lame god’s invitation, but earth-shaking Poseidon came with quickened pace and so also did Hermes, bringer of luck., and the glorious Apollo. As the stood in the doorway, the two younger gods broke forth with inextinguishable laughter. “I thought Ares was the fastest god on Olympos,” said Hermes. “He must not be. A cripple caught up with him.”
“Oh, to be in bed with her! Who would worry about the chains,” the Far-shooter remarked, pressing his face against the transparent mesh to get a better look.
…All this time Poseidon, whose eyes had not left the shapely Aphrodite since the moment he entered the room, bore a serious aspect. He did not mask his irritation over the lightheartedness of the other gods. “This is truly outrageous,” he said to Hephaistos. “Let him go. He’ll pay you for this. I’ll see to it myself.”
“No,” said the Smith God. “Form a villain I expect only more villainy. If I free him, what surety do I have? He’ll leave his debts behind with his chains.”
“If he does that, I’ll take his place,” promised Poseidon, his eyes still fixed on the lovely goddess.
Hephaistos pondered the proposition while Apollo and Hermes doubled up with new laughter. At length, however, the lame smith relented and loosed the mesh from his violated marriage bed and its prisoners. Off fled Ares immediately to Thrace, one of the few places he was welcome.
Laughter-loving Aphrodite betook herself to Cypros, her favorite island, where the Graces bathed her in her virginity-restoring bath and rubbed oil of ambrosia into her unflawed skin. When she returned to her husband, she radiated the innocence and sweetness of an untouched bride. Zeus did not return the dowry, nor did war-loving Ares or the earthshaker Poseidon come up with so much as a bronze ring in compensation for Hephaistos’s humiliation. Aphrodite simply charmed her way back again into her husband’s good graces, no great feat for her; and then, when all was returned to normal, again she played him false and again and again and again.’ –Great Zeus and All His Children by Donald Richardson