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Primary Sources | Secondary Sources | Music | DVD

Primary Sources

Apollod. 3.14.4 Adonis.
Hdt. 1.199.1 Read through 1.199.5: Babylonian customs.
2.181.1 Read through 2.181.5: Aphrodite of Cyrene.
Th. 233-264: Nereus and the Nereids.
Th. 378-383: The winds.
HH 5
HH 6
HH 10
Read Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.
Read Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.
Read Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.
Paus. 1.1.3 Sanctuaries of Aphrodite.
1.19.2 Temple and statue of Aphrodite in the Gardens.
2.10.4 Read through 2.10.6: sanctuary and statue of Aphrodite.
2.20.8 Read through 2.20.10: sanctuary of Aphrodite and the exploits of Telesilla.
3.15.10 Read through 3.15.11 [22]: sanctuary of Aphrodite Morpho.
6.24.6 Read through 6.24.7: sanctuary of the Graces.
6.25.1 Statues of Aphrodite Ourania and Pandemos.
7.17.9 Read through 7.17.12: Attis.
7.20.3 Sanctuary of the Dindymenian Mother.
7.23.1 Read through 7.23.3: myth of Selemnus.
9.16.3 Read through 9.16.4: three wooden images of Aphrodite.
9.27.1 Read through 9.27.5: depictions of Eros and Aphrodite.
9.35.1 Read through 9.35.7: the Graces.
10.30.1 Read through 10.30.2: Aphrodite and the daughters of Pandareos.
Pind. O. 14.1 Read through 14. 24: invocation to the Graces.
Plat. Sym. 201d: Read through 212c: Socrates’ speech on Eros. The complete Symposium begins at Plat. Sym. 172a.
Phaedr. 242d Read through 257a: the nature of Love. The complete Phaedrus begins at Plat. Phaedrus 227a
Xen. Sym. 8.9 Read through 8.15: on Aphrodite Ourania and Pandemos. The complete Symposium begins at Xen. Sym. 1.1

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Primary Sources | Secondary Sources | Music | DVD

Secondary Sources


Auden, W. H. (1907–1973). “Venus Will Now Say a Few Words.” Poem.

Bidart, Frank. “The Second Hour of Night.” The Best American Poetry:  1998.  New York:  Scribner, 1999. 57–73. A profound poetic meditation on love and loss, life and death, including a provocative retelling or the tale of Cinyras and Myrrha.

Burgess, Anthony (1917–1993). The Eve of Saint Venus.  Novel.

Dalby, Andrew. Venus: A Biography. Los Angeles:  Getty Publications, 2005.

Graves, Robert (1895–1985). “Anchises to Aphrodite.” Poem.

Green, Peter. The Laughter of Aphrodite. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. A novel about Sappho of Lesbos.

Huxley, Aldous (1894–1963). “Mythological Incident.” Poem.

James, Henry (1843–1916). “The Last of the Valerii.” Short story. Variation on Ring of Venus theme.

Lewis, C. S. Till We Have Faces. New York: Harcourt [1956]. An acclaimed reworking of the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

MacNeice, Louis (1907–1963). “Venus” Speech.” Poem.

Santayana, George (1863–1952). “Aphrodite’s Temple.” Poem.

Shakespeare, William (1564–1616). “Venus and Adonis.” Poem.

Wilde, Oscar (1854–1900). “Charmides.” Poem.


Borgeaud, Philippe. Mother of the Gods from Cybele to the Virgin Mary. Translated by Lysa Hochroth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

Calame, Claude. The Poetics of Eros in Ancient Greece. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. A comprehensive survey of Eros in poetry, iconography, religion, and society, i.e., initiation rites, celebrations, and education, including the special function of the god in the personal and erotic lives of men and women.

Cavicchioli, Sonia. The Tale of Cupid & Psyche, An Illustrated History. Translated from the Italian by Susan Scott. New York: Braziller, 2002. A beautifully illustrated book that traces the history of artistic representations of the myth from ancient times through the nineteenth century.

Ferrari, Franco. Sappho’s Gift: The Poet and Her Community. Ann Arbor: Michigan Classical Press, 2009.

Friedrich, Paul. The Meaning of Aphrodite.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

Greene, Ellen, ed. Reading Sappho, Contemporary Approaches. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

———. Re-Reading Sappho, Recaption and Transmission. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Greene’s two anthologies of scholarship on Sappho include contemporary theory about gender. For the ancient biographical tradition about Sappho, see the Introduction to the translations in the Loeb Classical Library.

Roller, Lynn E.  In Search of God the Mother, The Cult of Anatolian Cybele. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. A comprehensive study of the nature, growth, and evolution of the worship of Cybele.

Rosenzweig, Rachel. Worshipping Aphrodite: Art and Cult in Classical Athens. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004.

Snyder, Jane McIntosh. Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Thornton, Bruce S. Eros: The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality. Boulder: Westview Press, 1997.

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Primary Sources | Secondary Sources | Music | DVD


Arkenstone, David. “Venus” in Goddess. New Age music. Troika. Enso ND-62804. Percussion, synthesizer, keyboard, and voices pay tribute to two other classical goddesses, Athena, and Diana, and as well Oya, Zorya, Kuan Yin, Gwenhwyfar, and Inanna.

Bach, Johann Christoph Friedrich (1735–1782). Pygmalion. Cantata for bass and orchestra. Van der Kamp. Das kleine Konzert, cond. Max. Capriccio 110 303. Includes Ino.

Bantoch, Granville (1868–1946). The Cyprian Goddess (Symphony No. 3). Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Hadley. Hyperion CDA66810. The score is prefaced with two verses from Horace, Odes 1.30 (“O Venus, queen of Cnidus and Paphos”) and quotations from Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus.

———. Sappho. Prelude and nine fragments for mezzo-soprano and orchestra. Bickley. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Handley. Hyperion CDA66899. Extensive excerpts from Sappho, including the Hymn to Aphrodite. This recording also includes Bantoch’s Sapphic Poem, for cello and orchestra.

Banter, Harald (1930–). Phädra. Rhapsodic concerto for cello and orchestra.

Benda, Jirí Antonín (1722–1795). Pygmalion. Melodrama (spoken text in German). Quadlbauer, Uray, et al. Prague Chamber Orchestra, cond. Christian Benda. Naxos 8.553345. Includes Adrianna auf Naxos.

Berners, Lord (1883–1950). Cupid and Psyche. Ballet suite. RTE Sinfonietta, cond. Lloyd Jones. Marco Polo 8.223780. Music for a ballet choreographed by Frederick Ashton, which follows Apuleius’ version. Includes “Les Sirènes.”

The Portrait of Urania (Le Portrait d’Uranie). Cantata for soprano, violin, bass viol, and harpsichord. Nicolas, Mejean, Plubeau, and Weiss. Pierre Verany PV792113. Urania is a queen in Cyprus and also the epitome of chaste love, the alter ego of the sensuous Venus, by whom she is defeated. Recording includes Hippolyte et Aricie.

Bernstein, Leonard (1918–1990). Serenade. After Plato’s Symposium, for solo violin, string orchestra, harp, and percussion. Bernstein Conducts Bernstein. Deutsche Grammophon 423 583–2. Sections are entitled Phaedrus, Pausanias; Aristophanes; Erixymachus; Agathon; and Socrates, Alcibiades.

Blow, John (1649–1798). “Sappho to the Goddess of Love” and “Sappho to the Goddess of Beauty.” Kirby and Rooley. Classical Kirkby (Orpheus and Corinna). BIS-CD-1435. This album devoted to 17th century songs on classical themes, arranged for soprano and lute, includes other works about Orpheus by Greene and Boyce and also Sappho, Ancreon, and Lanier’s “Hero and Leander.”

———. Venus and Adonis. Masque. (1649?–1708). Argenta et al. London Baroque, cond. Medlam. Harmonia Mundi HMA 1901276.

Campra, André (1660–1774). La Dispute de l’Amour et de l’Hymen. Cantata. Feldman et al. Les Arts Florissants, cond. Christie. Harmonia Mundi HMA 1901238. 35. Includes Arion and énée & Didon.

Chadwick, George Whitefield (1854–1931). Aphrodite. Symphonic poem. Czech State Philharmonic, Brno, cond. Serebrier. Reference Recordings RR-74CD. Inspired by the head of Aphrodite from Cnidos in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Chadwick affixed a poem to his score and also explained his musical evocation of the great goddess.

Cherubini, Luigi (1760–1842). Pigmalione. Opera. Borghi et al. Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro della RAI di Milano, cond. Gerelli. Melodram CDM 29501.

Donizetti, Gaetano (1797–1848). Il Pigmalione. Operatic scene between Pygmalion and Galatea. Pellegrini and Rigacci. Orchestra da Camera dell’Associazione in Canto, cond. Maestri. Bongiovanni GB 2109/10–2.

Eaton, John (1935–). “Aphrodite Rising.” From A Greek Vision, for soprano and flute. Charleston and Morgan. Indiana School of Music IUSM-04. The other two poems in A Greek Vision are entitled “Sparta” and “Return.” Other selections of Eaton’s music on this disc are From the Cave of the Sybil, Ajax, and The Cry of Clytemnestra.

Falla, Manuel de (1876–1946). Psyché. Song for voice and five instruments. Rama, soprano, and Harmonia Ensemble, cond. Grazioli. Asdisc AS 5004. The text is a poem by Jean Aubry about the awakening of Psyche. Also De Los Angeles. Orquestra de Cambra Teatre Lliure, cond. Pons. Harmonia Mundi HMC 901432.

Franck, César (1822–1890). Psyché. Symphonic poem for chorus and orchestra. Orchestre de Paris, cond. Barenboim. Deutsche Grammophon 431468-2 GGA; BBC Welsh National Orchestra and Chorus, cond. Otaka. CHAN 9342; Final section: “Psyché et Eros.” NBC Symphony Orchestra, cond. Toscanini. RCA Victor 09026-60322-2. Includes Les Eolides.

Gounod, Charles (1820–1889). Sapho. This first opera of Gounod revolves around the legendary, tragic love of Sappho for Phaon and Sappho’s suicide. Command et al. Nouvel Orchestre de Saint-Etienne, cond. Fournillier. Koch/Swann 3-1311-2. Ciesinski et al. Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique, cond. Cambreling. Rodolphe RPC 32453/54.

Harrison, Lou (1917–2003). A Summerfield Set, for solo piano. Inspired by lines from the invocation to Venus, at the beginning of Lucretius, De rerum natura, depicting Mars seeking love from Venus. Miller et al. cond. Davies. Music Masters MMD 60241X. Includes Ariadne and Solstice.

Kleigel, cello, and North West German Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Jurowski. Marco Polo 8.223860. Inspired by Euripides’ Hippolytus. Includes Tod des Aktaeon.

Koechlin, Charles (1867–1950). “Hymne à Vénus.” Song. Leblanc and Sharon. Hyperion CDA66243. Includes “Le Cortège d’Amphitrite.”

Lerdahl, Fred (1943–). Eros. Variations for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble on a poem “Coitus” (in Lustra) by Ezra Pound. Eros. Morgan. Collage, cond. Erdahl. CRI CD 580.

Lloyd, George (1913–) The Vigil of Venus. Lovely setting of the Latin text of Pervigilium Veneris, for soprano, tenor, chorus, and orchestra. James and Booth. Orchestra and Chorus of the Welsh National Opera, cond. Lloyd. Argo 430 329–2.

Loevende, Theo (1930–). Venus and Adonis, for five instruments. Nieuw Ensemble. Etcetera KTC 1097. Suite drawn from music written for a stage production of Shakespeare’s poem.

Loewe, Frederick. My Fair Lady. Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Musical based on Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Andrews, Harrison et al. Original Broadway cast. Columbia CK-5090. See DVD.

Lully, Jean-Baptiste (1631–1687). Atys. Opera about Attis and Cybele. Mey et al. Les Arts Florissants, cond. Christie. Harmonia Mundi HMC 901257.59.

Magnard, Albéric (1865–1914). Hymne à Vénus. Symphonic poem. Orchestre Philharmonique de Liege, cond. Bartholomée. Ricercar 030005. Includes Du Crépuscule à L’Aurore.

Masse, Victor, Galathée. Comic Opera. Morlet, Jouvin, Vaguet, and Gresse. Orchestra cond. Archaimbaud. Malibrand-Music CDRG 128. Recorded in 1912 and of historic interest for the score and the singers.

Martin, Frank (1890–1974). “Le Retour d’Adonis” (“The Return of Adonis”), the second of Trois Poèmes Païens (Three Pagan Poems).Van Dam, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana de Lugano, cond. Baudo. Forlane 16768. The poems are by Leconte de Lisle; the first one is a “Hymne” to Dionysus.

———. Trois Poèmes Païens (Three Pagan Poems). Song cycle for baritone and orchestra. Poems by Leconte de Lisle.Van Dam. Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana de Lugano, cond. Baudo. Two of the songs are classical in theme: “Hymne” to Bacchus and “Le Retour d’Adonis.”

Mondonville, Jean Joseph Cassanéa (1711–1772). Les Fêtes de Paphos. Opera. Fouchécourt, Gens, et al. Les Talens Lyriques, cond. Rousset. L’Oiseau-Lyre 455 084-2. Act 1 is entitled Venus and Adonis, act 2, Bacchus and Erigone, and Act 3, Cupid and Psyche. Appropriately, these love stories are set on Venus’ island of Paphos.

Montano, Linda (1942–). Portrait of Sappho, Montano, voice, electronics, and piano. Lesbian American Composers CRI CD 780.

Nielsen Carl (1865–1931). Hymnus Amoris. Soloists and choir with The Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Jensen. Danacord DACOCD 354–356. The text of this paean to love in the various stages of life is in Latin. Includes Pan and Syrinx and Helios Overture.

Nono, Luigi (1924–1990). Fragmente-Stille, An Diotima, for string quartet. LaSalle Quartet. Deutsche Grammophon 437 720–2. Short quotations from the poetry of Hölderlin are written into the score, twelve of them from the poem “To Diotima,” in which Hölderlin evokes his beloved Susette Gontard as Diotima.

Orff, Carl (1895–1982). Trionfo di Afrodite (Triumph of Aphrodite). Scenic Cantata. Soloists and chorus. Prague Symphony Orchestra, cond. Smetácek Supraphon 11 0321-2; Leipzig Radio Orchestra, cond. Kegel. Berlin Classics BER 2047. Settings of texts in the original Latin and Greek of Catullus and Sappho presenting a wedding ceremony with a concluding apparition of Aphrodite. Both recordings include Carmina Burana (songs to medieval texts) and Catulli Carmina (a setting of some of Catullus’ love lyrics).

Pacini, Giovanni (1795–1867). Saffo. Opera (like Gounod’s) about Sappho’s tragic love for Phaon. Gencer et al. Orchestra e Coro del Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, cond. Capuana. Hunt CD 541; also Opera d’Oro OPD-1450. Pedaci et al. National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, cond. Benini (Wexford Festival live). Marco Polo 8.223883-84

Rameau, Jean-Philippe (1683–1764). Castor et Pollux. Souzay et al. Concentus Musicus Wien, cond. Harnoncourt. Teldec 8.35048 ZB. The prologue to this opera deals with Venus’ subjugation of Mars.

———. Pygmalion. Acte de ballet, with a text. Les Arts Florissants, cond. Christie. Harmonia Mundi 901381. Includes Nélée & Myrthis, a tale set in antiquity: Nélée, a victor in the Argive games, puts the love of his Myrthis to the test. Fouchécourt et al. Le Concert Spirituel, cond. Niquet. Fnac Music 592196.

Rautavaara, Einojuhani (1928–). Anadyomene (Adoration of Aphrodite). Orchestral work. Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Segerstam. This homage to the goddess of love, born of the sea foam, liberated the composer “from the serial straitjacket and quasi-scientific thinking towards organic music-making and “born of the foam’ autogenesis.”

Sabata, Victor de (1892–1967). La Notte di Plàton (The Night of Plato). Symphonic poem. London Philharmonic, cond. Ceccato. Hyperion CDA67209. This work by the renowned conductor is peripheral but illuminating for a reading of the Symposium. Inspired by a passage from the book Les Grands Initiés by Edouard Schuré, it represents Plato’s renunciation of physical pleasures for a life of the spirit. His thoughts turn toward Socrates and “a wondrous serenity filled his soul,” as the suddenly the first rays of the sun shone on the slope of the Acropolis.

Satie, Erik (1866–1925). Socrate. For voice or voices and chamber orchestra or piano, entitled a Dramatic Symphony. Texts (in French) are drawn from Plato’s Symposium, Phaedrus, and Phaedo. Cuenod and Parsons. Nimbus NI 5027.

Scarlatti, Alessandro (1660–1725). Il Trionfo dell’Onestà and Venere e Amore. Gonzálea and Ulbrich. Savaria Baroque Orchestra, cond. Németh. Hungaroton Classic HCD 32101. In the first serenata, Amor (Cupid) tells Venus how he inspired love between a virtuous, beautiful girl and a valiant hero; in the second, Cupid and Honesty dispute whose power is greater, and Honesty triumphs.

Schoeck, Othmar (1886–1957). Venus. Opera based on Mérimée’s La Vénus d’Ile and Eichendorff’s Das Marmorbild (The Marble Statue) about a statue of Venus that comes to life. Popp et al. Philharmonische Werkstatt Schweiz, cond. Venzago. Musikszene Schweiz (Suisa) MGB CD 6112.

Schubert “Atys.” Song of the Catullan Attis. Fischer-Dieskau and Moore. Deutsche Grammophon 437 215-2. Vol. 2.

Sicilianos, Yorgo (1922–). Mellichomeide.  Ivanò and Symphony Orchestra of Bulgarian cond. Panayotopoulos. Agorá AG 179. For soprano and eleven instruments on poems by Sappho and a dedication to Sappho by Alcaeus.

Stachowski, Marek (1936–). Sapphic Odes, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra. Winogrodzka. Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Penderecki. Polskie Nagrania PNCD 076. Fragments of Sapphic poems translated into Polish to provide a musical and dramatic entity.

Sternau, Cynthia. The Tale of Cupid and Psyche. A Story Opera. AUR CD 3071. Sternau’s vocal works are composed for singers and electronics and recorded as story-operas, with the story told over the music.

“Stupid Cupid.” Popular song written by Neil Sedaka. Among the reissues on CD of the recording by Connie Francis are Polydor 827 569-2 and Mercury 832 041-3.

Suppé, Franz von (1900–1950). Die Schöne Galathée. Highlights. Moffo et al. Münicher Rundfunkorchester, cond. Eichorn. Eurodisc 258 376. Delightful comic operetta about Pygmalion and Galatea.

Tavener, John (1944–). Sappho: Lyrical Fragments. Rozario and Gooding. The Academy of Ancient Music, cond. Goodwin. Harmonia Mundi HMU 907231. Scored for two sopranos, the fragments come from 1, 80, 48, 130, 12, 69, 111, 81, 108, and 11 (Greek Lyric, vol. 2, Loeb Classical Library).

Trask, Stephen. Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Rock musical. Music and lyrics by Stephen Trask. Text by John Cameron Mitchell. Atlantic 83160-2. Original cast album. Hedwig, the victim of a botched sex-change operation, pursues a dream of a becoming a rock star. This music is identified as glam-rock, a variety concocted from various pop musical styles. The theme of androgyny is highlighted by a song, “The Origin of Love,” which stems directly from the creation myth told by Aristophanes in the Symposium.

“Venus.” Popular song. The Best of Frankie Avalon. Varèse Sarabande VSO-5594.

“Venus in Blue Jeans.” Popular song. The Very Best of Jimmy Clanton. Ace Records 2039.

Wagner, Richard (1813–1883). Tannhaüser. The overture and the Venusberg music present a voluptuous depiction of carnal Aphrodite. Studer, Domingo et al. Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Sinopoli (Dresden Version) Deutsche Grammophon 427625-2; Dernesch, Kollo et al. Vienna Phiharmonic Orchestra, cond. Solti (Paris version). London 414581-2. See DVD.

Weill, Kurt (1900–1950). One Touch of Venus. Musical. Title song sung by Greta Keller. Kurt Weill, American Songbook Series, Smithsonian Collection of Recordings. Sony Music Special Products. “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” Stratas. Y Chamber Symphony, cond. Schwarz. Nonesuch E2-79131. Selections by te Kanawa. London 440280-2; 440280-4. See Video.

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Rock musical. Music and lyrics by Stephen Trask. The writer, director, and star is John Cameron Mitchell. Hedwig, the victim of a botched sex-change operation, pursues a dream of a becoming a rock star. This music is identified as glam-rock, a variety concocted from various pop musical styles. The theme of androgyny is highlighted by a song, “The Origin of Love,” which stems directly from the creation myth told by Aristophanes in the Symposium. New Line Home Entertainment.

Mannequin. Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall star in the film about an artist who falls in love with the department store mannequin he has created, a masterpiece that comes to life. Directed by Michael Gottlieb. MGM Home Entertainment.

Mighty Aphrodite. Film starring Mira Sorvino and Woody Allen (also writer and director). Comic testimony of the power of love, with a spoof of the chorus in Greek tragedy. Buena Vista Home entertainment.

My Fair Lady. Celebrated film of the musical by Lerner and Loewe, based on Shaw's Pygmalion, starring Audrey Hepburn (her singing voice is that of Marni Nixon) and Rex Harrison and directed by George Cukor. Premiere Collection and also Two-Disc Special Edition. Warner Brothers.

One Touch of Venus. Movie. A statue of Venus comes to life. Based on the novel The Tinted Venus, with music by Kurt Weill, starring Robert Walker and Ava Gardner, and directed by William A. Seiter. Lions Gate Home Entertainment.

Pygmalion. Excellent film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play, starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller and directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. The Criterion Collection. It is enlightening to compare parallel scenes with the musical version, My Fair Lady.

Tannhaüser, by Richard Wagner. Bel Canto Paramount Home Video. Richard Cassilly, Eva Marton et al., Director, Brian Large. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, cond. James Levine. Pioneer Classics; René Kollo, Waltraute Meier et al. Production of the Munich National Theater’s Bayerische Staatsoper. Director, David Alden. Orchestra of Bayerische Staatsorchester, cond. Zubin Mehta. Image Entertainment. An operatic tour de force (with its depiction of a voluptuous Venus and her abode) that delineates, unforgettably, the conflict between sacred and profane love. The revised Paris version of the opera contains a more extensive  initial Venusberg scene than the initial Dresden version and is to be preferred.

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