The Child of the Chemical Marriage

If, as I have argued, the marriage of Aphrodite  and Hephaestus represents the alloying of copper (Aphrodite) with tin (Hephaestus) to produce bronze, then we would expect there to be a child of the marriage, a god or demi-god representing bronze. Yet, at first sight, there seems to be no such character. In classical mythology the only god sometimes claimed to be the son of Aphrodite and Hephaestus is Eros or Cupid, a personification of sexual desire. Other classical writers, however, hold that Eros is the result of Aphrodite’s adulterous liaison with Ares and merely passed off as the child of Hephaestus. There are a number of other demi-gods  and goddesses who are said to be the offspring of Aphrodite and Ares. They are either personification of love – Eros, Anteros, Harmonia – or like Phobos, Deimos, and Adrestia, that is Fear, Terror and Retribution, aspects of war.

There is one child of Aphrodite, however, that doesn’t seem to fit this pattern of personification, one son that is actually the subject of a mythological narrative. That is Aeneas, the son that Aphrodite bore to the mortal Anchises, a prince of Troy. Aeneas appears in the Iliad; he is several times saved by his mother Aphrodite from various Greek heroes. He is also the hero of the Aeneid, Virgil’s great epic of the remote origins of Rome.

Virgil tells how Aeneas escaped the sack of Troy. He fled with his family, carrying the aged Anchises on his back and accompanied by his young son, Ascanius. Aeneas’ wife Creusa was lost in this escape. This account of Virgil’s closely follows the Iliad. Virgil then goes on to tell of Aeneas’ wanderings, his sojourn in Carthage and his final arrival in Latium where he marries the princess Lavinia and founds the Roman race.

Aeneas flees Troy carrying his father, Anchises.

Aeneas flees Troy carrying his father, Anchises.
“5049 bassenge chiaroscuro”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

There seems little in this tale to suggest that Aeneas is the missing personification of bronze, yet that is what I want to argue. My first point is his name. Aeneas is generally presumed to be a Greek name, derived from  the Greek αἰνή meaning “praised”, which seems reasonable. It should be noted that most of the Trojan heroes in the Iliad have names that are clearly Greek. However if we put that derivation aside for a moment and consider Aeneas as a Latin name –  then it most closely resembles  aeneus, meaning bronze.

Furthermore, some versions of the story of Anchises relate that when the goddess Aphrodite lay with him she made him promise never to tell anyone of it. Inevitably, however, Anchises did boast of his relations with the goddess – whereupon Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at him, laming him in the heel. In other words Anchises may just be another version of the lame smith god, perhaps a version that was a deified mortal rather than a goddess-born craftsman.

I suspect that there were once many versions of the myth of the copper goddess, her lover and their son Bronze to be found in the cultures around the Mediterranean. As the secrets of bronze-making became well known and everyday the importance of this story would have dwindled and been superceded by other versions. Except perhaps in Latium where the Bronze son , there known as Aeneus/Aeneas was believed to be a founding ancestor of the people. Later, perhaps because of a similarity of names, perhaps for other reasons, that story got conflated with the story of a Trojan prince, or included into the tale of Troy, resulting in the legend of Aeneas as we know it today.

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