Aphaea, also spelled Aphaia, was a Greek goddess who has been associated with numerous other goddess names, depending on location. She was initially associated with fertility and agriculture when her name came into being in the early 14th century BCE. However, because her name has been so intertwined with other goddesses, she has also been associated with fishing and hunting. In early mythology, she initially appeared under the name Britomartis, meaning “sweet maiden,” and was the daughter of Zeus and Carme.
She was a mountain nymph and enjoyed hunting, which made her great friends with Artemis, the goddess of hunting. The story goes that Artemis turned Britomartis into a goddess when she was fleeing from the pursuit of King Minos, who had fallen in love with her. She jumped into the sea and landed on some fishing nets. Artemis took pity on her and turned her into a goddess. However, when she became a worshipped deity on the island of Aegina, she was named Aphaea.
The Aegina people built a temple, the Temple of Aphaea, in her honor; the ruins of it still stand to this day. Visitors to the temple offered gifts in the form of lit candles to Aphaea. This has suggested to historians that Aphaea was a goddess that was considered a protector of pregnant and nursing women, as well as babies. In addition to her other names, Aphaea is also linked with the goddess named Diktynna of the Nets by the people of Crete.
An important fact to know is that historians believe that all the names that the goddess has been called throughout the ages were all treated as separate goddesses by those who worshipped them even though their stories overlapped greatly. Some historians even believe that all the names may actually be alternate identities of Artemis herself.
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