In the works of Plotinus and Proclus, Aphrodite becomes the symbol of a love that is no more associated with the body (i.e. with the feminine principle), but rather with theoretical research, an endeavour typically associated with male traits. Like Plato, Plotinus states that there are two Aphrodites—one heavenly, the other associated with the material world. Plotinus links the heavenly Aphrodite with the male principle, immateriality and purity; this confirms by contrast the connection between the feminine principle, matter and impurity. Moreover, Plotinus subordinating Aphrodite as soul and principle of love to Cronus and Zeus, who stand for intellect and perfect knowledge, is a very clear sign of how the philosopher appropriated the meaning of the myth. While in the commentary on the Cratylus Proclus distinguishes, like Plato and Plotinus before him, two Aphrodites, in his commentary on the Republic there is only one goddess bearing this name, even though her twofold mode of being, existing both in the intelligible and in the sensible realm, is highlighted. Consequently, Aphrodite’s relationship with male gods is more complex, and cannot be dismissed as just subordination.
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