The statue of Aphrodite of Cnida is so realistic that she was once raped

Many believe that throughout the ancient era, sculptors did nothing but create statues of naked men and women. But this is not so — the Greeks began to create sculptures without clothes quite late — only in the time of Alexander the Great, and the Romans - even later. The Greeks quickly achieved high mastery in the art of depicting the naked body. One of the works of the Greek sculptor Praxiteles was so realistic that it was... raped by a connoisseur of beauty.

The statue of Aphrodite of Cnida is so realistic that she was once raped

Praxiteles was the first to depict women naked. Before the great creator, it was customary to create only figures of male gods without clothes. Women in Hellas were not treated too well — they were almost disenfranchised and, in the opinion of the Hellenes, did not deserve the honor of being depicted naked.

For many centuries, the Greeks depicted only men without clothes

In fact, the right to appear in public without clothes was inherently masculine — it was one of the freedoms of a person in a democratic society. Praxiteles was well aware that his work could cause a scandal, but he could not refuse the temptation. It remained to wait for someone to order a female figure and try to offer the client a new formulation.

Such a case presented itself — the inhabitants of the island of Kos ordered the famous sculptor a statue of the goddess Aphrodite for the temple. Praxiteles created two versions - naked and dressed in a tunic and invited clients to choose the one they like. The islanders, who were in captivity of prejudice, shied away from the naked goddess, calling her sinful, and chose the version in clothes.

But Aphrodite in the nude style, the first in the history of the ancient world, fortunately, did not go missing and was not destroyed. It was purchased for their temple by the inhabitants of the city of Cnidus, located in Asia Minor. The statue was installed near the shrine, in the open air, and it suddenly became incredibly popular.

The statue of Aphrodite of Cnida is so realistic that she was once raped

Aphrodite of Cnidus - Roman copy

But a naked marble woman brought some troubles to her creator. The fact is that as a model, Praxiteles invited his mistress Phryne, whose name translates from Greek literally as "Toad". Despite the name, she was a beautiful young woman, though not too strict in disposition.

Phryne was a hetaera and she had many rich and influential lovers. However, unlike her colleagues, this lady behaved modestly enough and never exposed herself in public. Moreover, Phryne met with men in complete darkness, which was very much liked by influential lovers.

Problems at Praxiteles and his models arose because of the famous Greek orator Ephrios, who was in love with a woman, but was refused. He appealed to the court, accusing the sculptor of using the hetaera's body as a model for the image of the goddess.

The statue of Aphrodite of Cnida is so realistic that she was once raped

Phryne before the Areopagus

The judges were amazed by the perfect body of the woman and fully agreed with the arguments of the lawyer. Praxiteles was fully acquitted, and his fame became even louder. There was no end of customers and everyone tried to order a nude female figure with perfect forms from the master.

Phryne also received her share of fame, and her fame almost surpassed the popularity of the sculptor. Hetaera became even more in demand and fabulously rich. Her influence in society was so high that the woman even dared to challenge the conqueror of the world Alexander the Great.

When the great king and commander stormed Thebes and then, as a warning to the obstinate inhabitants, destroyed their walls, Phryne offered to restore the fortifications at her own expense. The only requirement of the vain woman was only the placement of a sign above the main gate of the city with the following text: "Thebes was destroyed by Alexander and restored by Phryne." But the townspeople were too proud to take money from the hetaera and managed on their own.

The statue of Aphrodite of Cnida is so realistic that she was once raped

Phryne in the image of Venus at the Poseidon Festival

But Phryne was not particularly upset — by this point she had become so popular that she was trusted to portray the goddess of beauty herself in the annual ceremony. Phryne, in the image of Aphrodite, went to the beach and, naked, bathed in the sea waves under the reverent gazes of thousands of Hellenes. This rite symbolized the return of the goddess of chastity and it was believed that at the moment of immersion in the waves, Phryne temporarily turns into Aphrodite herself.

The statue of Aphrodite of Cnida is so realistic that she was once raped

This could look like a painted statue of Aphrodite of Cnidus

One of the pilgrims fell in love with the marble figure and did not leave it for days. One night, taking advantage of the moment, the fan climbed onto the pedestal and copulated with Aphrodite. After that, realizing the severity of his blasphemous act, he fled in panic and, they say, threw himself off a cliff into the sea.

The statue of Aphrodite of Cnida is so realistic that she was once raped

The ruins of the city of Cnidus. The territory of modern Turkey

But the marble copy of Hetaera Phryne did not receive serious damage, it was renewed with paint and provided with security. She decorated the Cnidus temple for a very long time, until she was transported to Constantinople is the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Unfortunately, Aphrodite of Cnidus did not delight the eyes of the residents of the city for long — she died during one of the sieges of the city in the flames of a fire.

Fortunately, by that time dozens of copies had been removed from the sculpture, many of which could not be distinguished from the original. Thanks to these virtuoso fakes, we can today appreciate the skill of Praxiteles and the beauty of Phryne.

Keywords: Gods | Greece | Sea | Marble | Sculptor | Court | Temple

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