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Roman Goddess Venus: Epithets & Roles

Instructor: Margaret Moran
In this lesson we explore the intoxicating legend of the Roman Goddess Venus. She was a highly revered Goddess mostly associated with beauty and love, however she was assigned several epithets that described the other roles she fulfilled for the Roman people.

Background

The cult surrounding the goddess Venus's roots can be traced back to circa 293 B.C.E. when her oldest temple was built in Lavinum, Latium, the section of Italy in which Rome was built. Her popularity and influence among the Roman people would eventually grow to the point that a temple was erected in her honor to recognize the defeat of the Romans during the Battle of Lake Trasimene.

Venus is associated both with the Etruscan god Turan and the Greek goddess 'Aphrodite', all three share common traits. Similar deities also include Frigg and Freya from Norse mythology, and Kukulcan from Mayan myths. Amazingly, a link to Venus is even mentioned in Sanskrit writing, vanas, translated to beauty and desire.

In Roman mythology, Venus is primarily associated with loveliness and love. She not only is commonly referred to as the mother of the founder of the Roman people, Aeneas, but also a common ancestor of the Roman people. She was honored in many Roman festivals and played an active role in several Roman myths.

Epithets and Roles

The Venus de Milo

The goddess, while primarily worshiped for her relation to love and beauty, was also assigned other roles as symbolized by the different epithets found throughout Roman history.

Venus Obsequens was known as Graceful or Indulgent Venus. This epithet ('Graceful Venus' or 'Indulgent Venus') was originally bestowed on Venus Obsequens by adulteresses. The money for a temple dedicated to Venus Obsequens came from the fines to punish these unfaithful women and is commonly thought to be the oldest temple of Venus within Rome.

Venus Genetrix was known as Mother Venus and celebrates Venus's role as the Roman peoples' ancestor. Since she is mostly affiliated with the Julian line, Julius Ceasar was responsible for her temple in Rome. A festival day to honor her as the goddess of domesticity and motherhood was held in her honor on September 26.

Venus Cloacina is known as Venus the Purifier. This epithet symbolizes the combination of Venus with the Etruscan water deity, Cloacina. Incredibly fitting, this Venus statue is prominently displayed near Rome's sewer system!

Venus Felix or Lucky Venus was built by Hadrian to honor eternal Rome. This temple was constructed on the north side of Rome, at Esquiline Hill.

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