Aphroditus or Aphroditos was a male Aphrodite originating from Amathus on the island of Cyprus and celebrated in Athens in a transvestite rite.
Aphroditus was portrayed as having a female shape and clothing like Aphrodite’s but also a beard and phallus, and hence, a male name. This deity would have arrived in Athens from Cyprus in the 4th century BC. In the 5th century BC, however, there existed hermae of Aphroditus, or phallic statues with a female head.
According to Macrobius, who mentions the goddess in his Saturnalia:
"There’s also a statue of Venus on Cyprus, that’s bearded, shaped and dressed like a woman, with scepter and male genitals, and they conceive her as both male and female. Aristophanes calls her Aphroditus, and Laevius says: Worshiping, then, the nurturing god Venus, whether she is male or female, just as the Moon is a nurturing goddess. In his Atthis Philochorus, too, states that she is the Moon and that men sacrifice to her in women’s dress, women in men’s, because she is held to be both male and female."
Aphroditus is the same as the later god Hermaphroditus, whose name means “Aphroditus in the form of a herm” - a statue shaped as a quadrangular pillar surmounted by a head or bust, and first occurs in the Characters of Theophrastus. Photius also explained that Aphroditus was Hermaphroditus, and cited fragments from Attic comedies mentioning the divinity. In later mythology Hermaphroditus came to be regarded as the son of Hermes and Aphrodite.
The first mention of Hermes and Aphrodite as Hermaphroditus’s parents was by the Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC), in his book Bibliotheca historica, book IV, 4.6.5.
"Hermaphroditus, as he has been called, who was born of Hermes and Aphrodite and received a name which is a combination of those of both his parents. Some say that this Hermaphroditus is a god and appears at certain times among men, and that he is born with a physical body which is a combination of that of a man and that of a woman, in that he has a body which is beautiful and delicate like that of a woman, but has the masculine quality and vigour of a man. But there are some who declare that such creatures of two sexes are monstrosities, and coming rarely into the world as they do they have the quality of presaging the future, sometimes for evil and sometimes for good."
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