Venus is the Roman goddess of love, fertility, and beauty. She is the daughter of Jupiter who was the king of the gods in Roman mythology and she was married to Vulcan who was one of the 12 Olympian gods and is the god of fire and the forge. The Roman poet Ovid wrote that it was Venus’ controlled beauty, fortune, and good fame.
Venus’ Creation Story
It is believed that Venus was created from seafoam. It is the same story as the Greeks used for Aphrodite. According to the story, Saturn castrated his tyrant father throwing his parts into the ocean. The mixture of a body part and ocean water formed into a seashell that gave birth to Venus. Many different statues of Venus around Rome were decorated with seashell motifs. Additionally, many paintings feature Venus standing on top of a shell. The most famous of these is The Birth of Venus which was painted by Italian artist Sandro Botticelli and is part of the collection at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
Those living in ancient Rome probably looked forward to attending a Veneralia festival held on April 1 each year. During this festival, tribute was paid to Venus as the changer of hearts. On this day, women would put myrtle wreaths went to the men’s baths to take advantage of the swimming pools located there that they did not have in their own baths. After offering incense to Fortuna who was the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck, women would drink a beverage containing pounded poppy, honey, and milk. While in the male baths, they would pray that Venus would bless them with a modest life and harmony. Many statues of Venus were found in ancient Rome. During Veneralia, the statues were often taken down, washed and then put back into place adorned with rose bracelets and myrtle wreaths.
On April 23, Venus was again honored with another festival. During this festival, called Vinalia Urbana, tribute was paid to her as the patron of fine wine. During this event, a special cup of wine was poured for Jupiter, but it was Venus’ blessing that was asked on the previous harvest and for good weather to grow the crop which was just beginning to bloom each year during this festival.
Venus and Mars
While ancient historians record that Venus was married to Vulcan, the pair did not have any children. Legend says that Venus fell in love with the god Mars. When Vulcan found out, he used a net to trap Mars and Venus in bed. According to legend, Mars and Venus produced Timor who was the personification of fear and who often accompanied Mars into battle. Timor’s twin is Metus who is the personification of terror. She is also given credit as the mother of Concordia who was the goddess of harmony. Venus is also credited with producing the cupids. There is a debate about how many cupids Venus bore with each representing different aspects of love.
Venus’ Mortal Love Affairs
She is also credited with having affairs with several mortals including Anchises, Adonis, Sicilian king Butes, but only her relationship with Butes was fertile as she bore him Eryx and Phaethon. She then had a love affair with Phaethon that Sandocus.
Temples Dedicated to Venus
The first mention of a temple dedicated to Venus occurs in 295 BCE. Called Venus Obsequens, the temple had many Greek decorations. During the Second Punic War, a Sibylline oracle suggested that if the Romans who were losing the war badly could convince Venus to be on their side, then they could win the war. Roman soldiers brought her image back to the city, and Roman temples were built to her. Dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus had one of the temples built. Another temple, called the Venus Verticordia, was dedicated to Venus because of people’s believes that she could turn the hearts of women from lust and make them pure.
Julius Caesar and Venus
While some claim that Julius Caesar believed that his ancestry tied directly to Venus, he may have worshipped her as the bringer of victory. Julius Caesar was the first living ruler to have his portrait appear on a coin that he ordered to be minted. On the reverse side of those coins minted in 44 BC is the image of Venus. By that time, he had already ordered several other coins minted with Venus’ image on them.
Venus is an important goddess in Roman history. She is mostly seen as the protector of beauty and good fortune. Others worshipped her, however, as the goddess who could return purity to women’s hearts. Julius Caesar may have been one of her biggest fans as he ordered several coins minted with her image on them including the first coin to show the image of a living Roman ruler.