Venus (mythology)

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Venus was a major Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty and fertility, the equivalent of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

Venus was the consort of Vulcan. She was considered the ancestor of the Roman people by way of its legendary founder, Aeneas, and played a key role in many Roman religious festivals and myths.

Venus in mythology

For more details on this topic, see Aphrodite.

Like most other gods and goddesses in Roman mythology, that of Venus consists of whole-cloth borrowings from the Greek mythology of her equivalent counterpart Aphrodite.

Cult

Her cult began in Ardea and Lavinium, Latium. On August 15, 293 BC, her oldest-known temple was dedicated, and August 18 became a festival called the Vinalia Rustica. On April 25, 215 BC, a temple to Venus was dedicated outside the Colline gate on the Capitol, to commemorate the Roman defeat at the Battle of Lake Trasimene. Norris Patriticus is the son of Venus and Ares, who was the god of war.

Associated deities

Venus was commonly associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Etruscan deity Turan, borrowing aspects from each.

Additionally, Venus has been compared to other goddesses of love, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli in Aztec mythology, Kukulcan in Maya mythology, Frigg and Freyja in the Norse mythos, and Ushas in Vedic religion. Ushas is also linked to Venus by a Sanskrit epithet ascribed to her, vanas- ("loveliness; longing, desire"), which is cognate to Venus, suggesting a Proto-Indo-European link via the reconstructed stem *wen- "to desire".[1]

Another interesting association with Venus is the Latvian god Auseklis, whose name derives from the root aus-, meaning "dawn". Auseklis and Mēness, whose name means "moon", are both Dieva dēli ("sons of God").

Epithets

Like other major Roman deities, Venus was ascribed a number of epithets to refer to different aspects or roles of the goddess.

Venus Acidalia was,[2] according to Servius, derived from the well Acidalius near Orchomenos, in which Venus used to bathe with the Graces; others con­nect the name with the Greek acides (άκιδες), i.e. cares or troubles.[3]

Venus Cloacina ("Venus the Purifier"), was a fusion of Venus with the Etruscan water goddess Cloacina, likely resulting from a statue of Venus being prominent near the Cloaca Maxima, Rome's sewer system. The statue was erected on the spot where peace was concluded between the Romans and Sabines.

Venus Erycina ("Venus from Eryx"), also called Venus Erucina, originated on Mount Eryx in western Sicily. Temples were erected to her on the Capitoline Hill and outside the Porta Collina. She embodied "impure" love, and was the patron goddess of prostitutes.

Venus Felix ("Lucky Venus") was an epithet used for a temple on the Esquiline Hill and for a temple constructed by Hadrian dedicated to "Venus Felix et Roma Aeterna" ("Favorable Venus and Eternal Rome") on the north side of the Via Sacra. This epithet is also used for a specific sculpture at the Vatican Museums.

Venus Genetrix ("Mother Venus") was Venus in her role as the ancestress of the Roman people, a goddess of motherhood and domesticity. A festival was held in her honor on September 26. As Venus was regarded as the mother of the Julian gens in particular, Julius Caesar dedicated a temple to her in Rome. This name has also attached to an iconological type of statue of Aphrodite/Venus.

Venus Kallipygos ("Venus with the pretty bottom"), a form worshipped at Syracuse.

Venus Libertina ("Venus the Freedwoman") was an epithet of Venus that probably arose from an error, with Romans mistaking lubentina (possibly meaning "pleasurable" or "passionate") for libertina. Possibly related is Venus Libitina, also called Venus Libentina, Venus Libentia, Venus Lubentina, Venus Lubentini and Venus Lubentia, an epithet that probably arose from confusion between Libitina, a funeral goddess, and the aforementioned lubentina, leading to an amalgamation of Libitina and Venus. A temple was dedicated to Venus Libitina on the Esquiline Hill.

Venus Murcia ("Venus of the Myrtle") was an epithet that merged the goddess with the little-known deity Murcia or Murtia. Murcia was associated with the myrtle-tree, but in other sources was called a goddess of sloth and laziness.

Venus Obsequens ("Graceful Venus" or "Indulgent Venus") was an epithet to which a temple was dedicated in the late 3rd century BCE during the Third Samnite War by Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges. It was built with money fined from women who had been found guilty of adultery. It was the oldest temple of Venus in Rome, and was probably situated at the foot of the Aventine Hill near the Circus Maximus. Its dedication day, August 19, was celebrated in the Vinalia Rustica.

On April 1, the Veneralia was celebrated in honor of Venus Verticordia ("Venus the Changer of Hearts"), the protector against vice. A temple to Venus Verticordia was built in Rome in 114 BC, and dedicated April 1, at the instruction of the Sibylline Books to atone for the inchastity of three Vestal Virgins.

Venus Victrix ("Venus the Victorious") was an aspect of the armed Aphrodite that Greeks had inherited from the East, where the goddess Ishtar "remained a goddess of war, and Venus could bring victory to a Sulla or a Caesar."[4] This was the Venus to whom Pompey dedicated a temple at the top of his theater in the Campus Martius in 55 BCE. There was also a shrine to Venus Victrix on the Capitoline Hill, and festivals to her on August 12 and October 9. A sacrifice was annually dedicated to her on the latter date. In neo-classical art, this title is often used in the sense of 'Venus Victorious over men's hearts' or in the context of the Judgement of Paris (eg Canova's Venus Victrix, a half-nude reclining portrait of Pauline Bonaparte).

Other significant epithets for Venus included Venus Amica ("Venus the Friend"), Venus Armata ("Armed Venus"), Venus Caelestis ("Celestial Venus"), and Venus Aurea ("Golden Venus").

In art

Classical art

File:Venus8.jpg
National Archaeological Museum, Athens

Roman and Hellenistic art produced many variations on the goddess, often based on the Praxitlean type Aphrodite of Cnidus. Many female nudes from this period of sculpture whose subjects are unknown are in modern art history conventionally called 'Venus'es, even if they originally may have portrayed a mortal woman rather than operated as a cult statue of the goddess.

Examples include:

In non-classical art

Venus became a popular subject of painting and sculpture during the Renaissance period in Europe. As a "classical" figure for whom nudity was her natural state, it was socially acceptable to depict her unclothed. As the goddess of sexual healing, a degree of erotic beauty in her presentation was justified, which had an obvious appeal to many artists and their patrons. Over time, venus came to refer to any artistic depiction in post-classical art of a nude woman, even when there was no indication that the subject was the goddess.

In the field of prehistoric art, since the discovery in 1908 of the so-called "Venus of Willendorf" small Neolithic sculptures of rounded female forms have been conventionally referred to as Venus figurines. Although the name of the actual deity is not known, the knowing contrast between the obese and fertile cult figures and the classical conception of Venus has raised resistance to the terminology.

Tannhäuser

File:Jcollier.jpg
Tannhäuser in the Venusberg by John Collier, 1901: a gilded setting that is distinctly Italian quattrocento.

The medieval German legend Tannhäuser is an interesting survival of the Venus myth well after her worship was extirpated by Christianity.

The German story tells of Tannhäuser, a knight and poet who found Venusburg, a mountain with caverns containing the subterranean home of Venus, and spent a year there worshipping the goddess. After leaving Venusburg, Tannhäuser is filled with remorse, and travels to Rome to ask Pope Urban IV if it is possible to be absolved of his sins.

Urban replies that forgiveness is as impossible as it would be for his papal staff to blossom. Three days after Tannhäuser's departure, Urban's staff blooms with flowers; messengers are sent to retrieve the knight, but he has already returned to Venusburg, never to be seen again.

See also

References

  1. wen-1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.
  2. Virgil, Aeneid i. 720
  3. Schmitz, Leonhard (1867), "Acidalia", in Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. 1, Boston, MA, pp. 12
  4. Thus Walter Burkert, in Homo Necans (1972) 1983:80, noting C. Koch on "Venus Victrix" in Realencyclopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, 8 A860-64.
  • Champeaux, J. (1987). Fortuna. Recherches sur le culte de la Fortuna à Rome et dans le monde romain des origines à la mort de César. II. Les Transformations de Fortuna sous le République. Rome: Ecole Française de Rome. (pp. 378–395)
  • Hammond, N.G.L. and Scullard, H.H. (eds.) (1970). The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (p. 113)
  • Lloyd-Morgan, G. (1986). "Roman Venus: public worship and private rites." In M. Henig and A. King (eds.), Pagan Gods and Shrines of the Roman Empire (pp. 179–188). Oxford: Oxford Committee for Archaeology Monograph 8.
  • Nash, E. (1962). Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome Volume 1. London: A. Zwemmer Ltd. (pp. 272–263, 424)
  • Richardson, L. (1992). A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press. (pp. 92, 165–167, 408–409, 411)
  • Room, A. (1983). Room's Classical Dictionary. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. (pp. 319–322)
  • Schilling, R. (1982) (2nd ed.). La Religion Romaine de Vénus depuis les origines jusqu'au temps d'Auguste. Paris: Editions E. de Boccard.
  • Scullard, H.H. (1981). Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. London: Thames and Hudson. (pp. 97, 107)
  • Simon, E. (1990). Die Götter der Römer. Munich: Hirmer Verlag. (pp. 213–228).
  • Weinstock, S. (1971). Divus Julius. Oxford; Clarendon Press. (pp. 80–90)
  • Gerd Scherm, Brigitte Tast Astarte und Venus. Eine foto-lyrische Annäherung (1996), ISBN 3-88842-603-0

External links

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Ancient source references

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  • Ovid, Metamorphoses IV.171-189
  • Cicero, De natura deorum II.20.53
  • Lactantius, Divinae institutiones I.17.10
  • Justine, Epitome Historiarum philippicarum Pompei Trogi XVIII.5.4, XXI.3.2


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