In Odyssey VIII 271-368 the story is told how Aphrodite fell in love with with Ares. Nothing abnormal you would say, but there is a problem: Aphrodite is married to Hephaestos, the crippled smith of the god. Hephaestos is told by the Sun what is going on and furious he makes a very thin and strong net to catch the two lovers and indeed they are caught in fragrante delicto!
Such a Götterkomödie does not imply that the Greeks were careless about religion. Funny stories about gods are as old as the Rig Veda and occur all over the world. I think that there is more room for comic relief in polytheistic religions and a greater possibility to humanize gods than in monotheistic religions, where the only god must be as perfect as possible. It makes polytheistic religions more fun to study! We must also keep in mind that the basis in polytheistic religions is often not belief in a sacred text - like Christians believe in the Bible and Muslims in the Quran - but ritual. However, Plato scorned Homer for such stories and Greek philosophers had a quite different concept of god and gods.
Such a story could not be left aside by Ovid and he used it in book four of his Metamorphoses. The context is that the daughters of king Minyas refuse to attend the Bacchic rites. Instead they are spinning and shorten the time by telling each other stories. Leuconoe tells the story of how the Sun once fell in love. The prologue is the story about Mars and Venus and later Venus takes revenge on the Sun by making him fall in love.
Ovid, Metamorphoses IV 167-189
Desierat: mediumque fuit breve tempus, et orsa est
dicere Leuconoe: vocem tenuere sorores.
'hunc quoque, siderea qui temperat omnia luce,
cepit amor Solem: Solis referemus amores. 170
primus adulterium Veneris cum Marte putatur
hic vidisse deus; videt hic deus omnia primus.
indoluit facto, Iunonigenaeque marito
furta tori furtique locum monstravit, at illi
et mens et quod opus fabrilis dextra tenebat 175
excidit: extemplo graciles ex aere catenas
retiaque et laqueos, quae lumina fallere possent,
elimat. non illud opus tenuissima vincant
stamina, non summo quae pendet aranea tigno;
utque levis tactus momentaque parva sequantur, 180
efficit et lecto circumdata collocat arte.
ut venere torum coniunx et adulter in unum,
arte viri vinclisque nova ratione paratis
in mediis ambo deprensi amplexibus haerent.
Lemnius extemplo valvas patefecit eburnas 185
inmisitque deos; illi iacuere ligati
turpiter, atque aliquis de dis non tristibus optat
sic fieri turpis; superi risere, diuque
haec fuit in toto notissima fabula caelo.
desino –sii: to stop (i.e. the previous story)
medium: in between
ordior - orsus sum: to begin
teneo - tenui: to hold, keep
sidereus: pertaining to the stars, starry (siderea omnia = all stars)
tempero (1): to temper
refero: to tell
puto (1): to regard
indolesco – indolui: to be grieved (here with the abl. facto)
Iunoni-gena: son of Iuno =Vulcan. Like his Germanic colleague Weyland he is cripple and there are more examples of cripple (semi)divine smiths. It is not unlikely that behind this theme there lies a social reality of long ago: cripple men are unable to hunt or to work as a farmer or herdsman, but what they can do is work as a smith.
furtum: here: secret act, secret love
torus: cushion (pars pro toto for bed)
monstro (1): to show
illi: ethical dative
excidit governs both mens and (id,) quod opus (this is called zeugma)
excido - excidi: to drop down (excido mentem: to become mad, furious)
fabrilis dextra (manus): right smith-hand
aes, aeris: bronze
laqueus: noose, snare
lumen, -inis: as often: eye
fallo – fefelli – falsus: to deceive
elimo (1): to make
stamen, staminis (n): thread
non summo quae pendet aranea tigno = non aranea, quae pendet summon tigno
pendeo – pependi: to hang down
tignum: log, beam (tigmun specially refers to building material, so the idea is the highest point in a house)
tactus, -us (m): touch
sequor - secutus sum: to give way to, yield
efficio –feci, -fectum: to put into work
circum-do (3) + dat.: to put around
colloco (1): to place
venere: poetic form of the 3 pl. plus.perf. ind.= venierant
in unum torum
vir, viri: man, husband
vinclum = vinculum: fetter, chain
paro (1): design
in mediis amplexibus: urbs condita construction: in the midst of their embracings
deprendo (=deprehendo) – deprendi – deprensum: to catch
Lemnius = Vulcan. The island of Lemnos was most dear to Vulcan and in the Odyssey he pretends to go there, making Mars think it is save to go to Venus.
valvae: the folds, valves of a door
patefacio: to open
eburneus: of ivory
iacuere poetic form of the 3 pl. plus.perf. ind.= iacuerant
iaceo – iacui – iacitum: to be thrown, lie
ligo (1): to tie, bind
dis = deis
tristis: sad. dis non tristibus: litotes: very amused!
opto (1): to wish. In the Odyssey it is Hermes who confesses to Apollo that he wouldn’t mind being caught in this way making love to Aphrodite. I guess Ovid wouldn’t have mind either
superi: the (male) gods. Homer tells us that the goddesses didn’t want to look out of shame.
diu: for a long time
fabula: `talk of the town’
Translation (I could not resist to give a link to the translation by Arthur Golding of 1567, but there is a modern translation too on this site)
Maerten van Heemskerck, Vulcan caught Venus and Mars in a net and shows them. (16th century)