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Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty

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Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty

The Venus de Milo, on display in the Louvre Museum, portrays the goddess of beauty.

Image © Stuart Gregory/Getty Images

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 became 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 Caesar 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.

 

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