Who Is the Roman Goddess Venus?

The Roman Version of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite

"The Birth of Venus" painting by Botticelli.

Uffizi / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The beautiful goddess Venus is probably most familiar from the armless statue known as the Venus de Milo, displayed at the Louvre, in Paris. The statue is Greek, from the Aegean island of Milos or Melos, so one might expect Aphrodite, since the Roman goddess Venus is distinct from the Greek goddess, but there is substantial overlap. You'll notice the name Venus is often used in translations of Greek myths.

Fertility Goddess

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 the 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."

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. Note that these birth stories are really about the Greek version of the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite:

" 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."
Source: Aphrodite

Portraits of Venus

Although we are most familiar with the nude Venus artistic representations, this wasn't always the way she was portrayed:

" 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'."
(www.suite101.com/article.cfm/garden_design/31002) Venus in Pompeiian Gardens

Festivals of the Goddess

Encyclopedia Mythica

" 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."
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Gill, N.S. "Who Is the Roman Goddess Venus?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/venus-goddess-of-love-and-beauty-p2-117049. Gill, N.S. (2020, August 28). Who Is the Roman Goddess Venus? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/venus-goddess-of-love-and-beauty-p2-117049 Gill, N.S. "Who Is the Roman Goddess Venus?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/venus-goddess-of-love-and-beauty-p2-117049 (accessed March 26, 2023).