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Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty
By Patti Wigington
The Roman equivalent of Aphrodite, Venus was a goddess of love and beauty. Originally, she was believed to be associated with gardens and fruitfulness, but later took on all the aspects of Aphrodite from the Greek traditions. She is considered by many to be the ancestor of the Roman people, and was the lover of the god Vulcan. The cult of Venus was based in the city of Lavinium, and her temple there because the home of a festival known as the Vinalia Rustica. A later temple was dedicated after the defeat of the Roman army near Lake Trasimine.
As often found in Roman gods and goddesses, Venus existed in many different incarnations. As Venus Victrix, she took on the aspect of warrior, and as Venus Genetrix, she was known as the mother of the Roman civilization. During the reign of Julius Caesar, a number of cults were started on her behalf, since Caesaer claimed that the family of the Julii were directly descended from Venus. She is also recognized as a goddess of fortune, as Venus Felix.
Similar to Aphrodite, Venus took a number of lovers, both mortal and divine. She bore children with Mars, the god of war, but doesn’t seem to have been particularly maternal in nature. Scholars have noted that Venus doesn’t have many myths of her own, and that many of her stories are borrowed from the tales of Aphrodite.
Venus is nearly always portrayed as young and lovely. The statue Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo, depicts the goddess as classically beautiful, with womanly curves and a knowing smile. The statue is believed to have been done by Alexandros of Antioch, around 100 b.c.e.
The Roman goddess Venus is distinct from the Greek goddess Aphrodite, although there is substantial overlap.
The goddess of love has an ancient history. Ishtar/Astarte was the Semitic goddess of love. In Greece this goddess was called Aphrodite. Aphrodite was worshiped especially on the islands of Cyprus and Kythera. The Greek goddess of love played a crucial role in the myths about Atalanta, Hippolytus, Myrrha, and Pygmalion. Among mortals, the Greco-Roman goddess loved Adonis and Anchises. The Romans originally worshiped Venus as goddess of fertility. Her fertility powers spread from the garden to humans. The Greek aspects of the love and beauty goddess Aphrodite were added on to Venus’ attributes, and so for most practical purposes, Venus is synonymous with Aphrodite. The Romans revered Venus as the ancestor of the Roman people through her liaison with Anchises.
“She was the goddess of chastity in women, despite the fact that she had many affairs with both gods and mortals. As Venus Genetrix, she was worshiped as the mother (by Anchises) of the hero Aeneas, the founder of the Roman people; as Venus Felix, the bringer of good fortune; as Venus Victrix, the bringer of victory; and as Venus Verticordia, the protector of feminine chastity. Venus is also a nature goddess, associated with the arrival of spring. She is the bringer of joy to gods and humans. Venus really had no myths of her own but was so closely identified with the Greek Aphrodite that she “took over” Aphrodite’s myths.”
Source: (http://www.cybercomm.net/ ~grandpa/rommyth2.html) Roman Gods: Venus
The Parentage of the Goddess Venus/Aphrodite
Venus was the goddess not only of love, but of beauty, so there were two important aspects to her and two main stories of her birth:
“There were actually two different Aphrodites, one was the daughter of Uranus, the other the daughter of Zeus and Dione. The first, called Aphrodite Urania, was the goddess of spiritual love. The second, Aphrodite Pandemos, was the goddess of physical attraction.”
“The patron deity of Pompeii was Venus Pompeiana; she was always shown as being fully clothed and wearing a crown. The statues and frescos which have been found in Pompeian gardens always show Venus either scantily clothed or totally nude. Pompeians seem to have referred to these nude images of Venus as Venus fisica; this may be from the Greek word physike, which meant ‘related to nature’.”
Venus in Pompeiian Gardens
Festivals of the Goddess Venus
“Her cult originated from Ardea and Lavinium in Latium. The oldest temple known of Venus dates back to 293 B.C., and was inaugurated on August 18. Later, on this date the Vinalia Rustica was observed. A second festival, that of the Veneralia, was celebrated on April 1 in honor of Venus Verticordia, who later became the protector against vice. Her temple was built in 114 B.C. After the Roman defeat near Lake Trasum in 215 B.C., a temple was built on the Capitol for Venus Erycina. This temple was officially opened on April 23, and a festival, the Vinalia Priora, was instituted to celebrate the occasion.”