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Hands-on with the Greek Goddess of love...
Aphrodite had a key role. Photoshoot was vital.
AS Media access_time 6 min read

The sea was lapping the shore as I stroked the white buttocks of a naked picturesque beauty standing in the spume a few metres from the beach… This was the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, beauty, pleasure and procreation in Greek folklore. Like in so many strands of mythology, it happened at dawn.

It wouldn’t be long before the sun rose over Petra tou Romuiou, a tall sea stack rock on the shoreline near Pathos, Cyprus. The photographer was adjusting his settings…We could not miss this moment. The whole country knew what we were up to.

My very own Aphrodite was standing next to me in the glistening sea. We had just a few more minutes to prepare. Me, getting more pan stick onto her white bits with a sponge and then spreading it evenly to match the surrounding suntanned body. She, adjusting her brown wig to replicate Renaissance paintings of Aphrodite being born from the sea.

We were here to add our own 20th Century take on the event, shooting photographs needed for the marketing brochure of the upcoming Pathos Beach Hotel. The hotel was on land owned by the Church of Cyprus. It was my job to handle the launch PR and marketing – and, any local goddesses that happened along.

The Pathos Beach Hotel was in the last stages of construction on land above a sandy beach that curved around the bay to the small harbour of Pathos, guarded by a 13th century Ottoman fort. A string of local bars and restaurants lined the harbourside. It was unspoilt; it was idyllic because in the 1970s Pathos was the least developed town in Cyprus. A quality 4-star hotel on the beach had great potential. I had gained the contract six months earlier through London contacts, so I got to work quickly in producing a marketing plan and copywriting a sales brochure.

I had soon cottoned onto the Aphrodite myth as a good wheeze for bringing in the tourists as had been the case for 3,000 years or more. Pathos had been a favourite holiday destination for the elite of ancient Rome and the area was dotted with their palaces and luxury holiday villas that contained some of the finest mosaic floors. Aphrodite was their Venus, worshipped for love and fertility.

Aphrodite features in many ancient mosaics discovered in the Pathos area

The temples in which the ancients worshipped this goddess might be in ruin, but hey, a local myth suggests that any person who swims around Petra tou Romuiou (Aphrodite’s Rock) will be blessed with eternal beauty. Good for looks and good for the soul. Good place for a holiday. Good for business for the new hotel.

Aphrodite had a key role to play, The photo shoot was vital.

According to Homer’s Iliad, Aphrodite was born of the foam that covered the shoreline and she ascended to Mount Olympus, home of the gods – and that bit about the foam might just be true. At certain times of the year, along this stretch of the coast, a natural phenomenon of foaming sudsy sea occurs – but not this month, evidently. So, we had brought a truckload of our own soapy suds.

The photographer yelled we needed more foam around Aphrodite’s naked body. I left off the bum work, hauled drums of detergent to the water’s edge and tipped the contents into the sea spreading them around the reclining goddess with a large yard brush…

I quickly discovered saltwater and detergents are not the best mixers, so getting up a head of foam was hard work as the waves swept in.

Eventually, the photographer was happy with the foam and worked his way around the posed Aphrodite using fill-in flash for some shots. He got the main picture, as the goddess emerged from the foam with the sun nudging over Petra tou Romuiou, illuminating her long hair reaching just short of her now dulled down derriere. This replicated the scenario every Greek and Greek Cypriot had learned about at school and, for the most part, actually believed in… Ruins of ancient temples, dedicated to Aphrodite, were close by and figurines of the goddess have been unearthed and dated back to 700 BC.

The legend of Aphrodite was still big in Cyprus. As the photo session concluded, the first truck of the day, grinding its way along the coast road from Limassol to Pathos, screeched to a halt alongside the beach. The driver leapt from his cab and raced towards the foaming sea yelling “Afroditi, Afroditi…einai esy” (“Aphrodite, Aphrodite – it is you.”)

He couldn’t see the photographer and me packing away kit in the lee of the low cliffs. However, he got an eyeful of the nude Aphrodite, all right, dripping in the shallows recovering from the buffeting of the sea. A scene imprinted in his mind since early schooldays and now happening before his very eyes…

The truck driver kept running towards the mythical figure, but stopped up short as the goddess raised her right arm majestically, with two fingers extended and formed into the internationally recognised vee-sign. She spoke to him in a God-like tone: “Fuck off will you”… Even as Aphrodite gave her fond farewells, the driver turned tail and ran back to his truck. We could hear the frantic grinding of his gear changes disappearing into the distance.

Retelling that close encounter to his mates in the taverna might suggest to them too much of last night’s ouzo was still in his bloodstream… Conversely, some of them might remind him of my appeal on Cyprus TV the previous week for local girls to apply for the role of Aphrodite in our upcoming photoshoot. None applied, leaving it to a German model holidaying on the island to play the goddess – and bid a fond farewell to a local worshipper…as she rose to her legendary place atop nearby Mount Olympus

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