According to Hesiod the sea of Kythera is the birthplace of goddess Aphrodite (Venus). Gaia (the Earth) wanted to punish her husband Uranus (the Sky) for forcing her to keep her children within the bowels of the Earth, so she called on them to help her get rid of their “wild” father. Cronus took a weapon and severed his father’s genital organs, which fell into the sea of Kythera. The foam thus formed travelled by force of wind to the island of Kythera, where Aphrodite came forth.
The island of Kythera is at the crossroads of Mediterranean thoroughfares. It was probably during the Neolithic Period (towards the end of the 5th millennium B.C.) that the first inhabitants arrived in Kythera, as evidenced by the few pottery vases found in the cave of Agia Sophia in Kalamos. Before this, archaeologists believed Kythera’s earliest inhabitants dated back to the 4th millennium B.C., based on discoveries in the cave of Chousti in Diakofti and in the area surrounding Palaiapolis. The number of villages on the island grew significantly during the protohelladic period (3rd millennium). Towards the end of the 3rd millennium B.C. the Minoans extended their domination to Kythera, controlling the area and creating a maritime trading point in Palaiapolis, where there was once a bay (now covered with earth). Kythera is also one of the strategic sites in the Minoans’ fight against piracy in the Aegean Sea. In Vuono (also called Agios Giorgios) archaeologists found signs of a Minoan “summit sanctuary”, which served three different purposes: it had a religious function, it served as an observatory, and as a “lighthouse” for maritime navigation. In the late 15th century B.C. the Minoan colony followed the decline of Minoan Crete’s metropolitan territories, and it was exactly at that time that the Mycenaeans arrived on the island. As the Mycenaean empire declined the Dorians colonized the island (around the end of the 12th century B.C.); Kythera was then subordinated to the city-state of Argos. The time at which the Phoenicians arrived on the island still remains a mystery; this people had mastered the much sought-after art of extracting a dark red colour from a rare mollusc called “porphyry” (Molinus brandaris). This color is one of the most expensive export commodities. According to Herodotus the creation of Aphrodites’s sanctuary is the work of the Phoenicians, who brought the worship of goddess Astarte in from the East.