by Laura Shamas

One of my favorite classical images of Aphrodite is on this ring: “The Weighing of Love.” This ring is gold, dates to about 350 B.C.E., and is an erotostasia in the Getty Museum Collection. The goddess Aphrodite weighs her son Eros in each balance.

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(Another gorgeous example of an erotostasia is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. )

The Getty Museum site says that the exact purpose of an erotostasia is still “open to a variety of interpretations; it is possibly akin to our own ‘he loves me, he loves me not.’” This speaks to the uncertainty of new love—an attempt to know what fate has in store in terms of romance and matters of the heart. Is it safe to love? Are we falling in love? A possibly related old-fashioned French game is “Effleur la Marguerite,” in which a love-charmed seeker pulls off daisy petals saying “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” (or “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not”). The answer is given with the final petal pull.

But the reason I love the Getty’s “The Weighing of Love” ring is because of its representation of Aphrodite. The ring is gold, one of Aphrodite’s main colors as a solar goddess. Seated, her form is elegantly engraved; she holds the scales in her own hands, giving her agency. Her son Eros, the god of Love, is her measure of Love’s own worth. The divinity of love is doubly reinforced in the image of goddess and god.

In one section of Venus in Orange, Paula Cizmar and I elaborated on the crazy wonderment or weight of insecurity at the beginning of new love:

“Ever wonder how you get from standing close

not knowing what’s happening

to that first kiss?

Ever keep your eyes open

tracking the looks

the sounds

the shift in the air

the way you’re both standing or sitting

the way one head moves closer

or does it

or how does it

or do they both move as one

and how do you know

what to look for

what to expect

if you don’t know

what’s happening

and then—a kiss.”