Venus on seashell, from the Casa di Venus, Pompeii. Before 79 AD.
Venus is a Roman goddess whose functions related to love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and desire. In Roman mythology, she was considered the mother of Romans through her son, Aeneas, who escaped the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was important to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion with numerous cult titles. Venus is the Roman Goddess of Love who acquired most of her qualities from the Greek Goddess Aphrodite who represented love, sexuality, abundance and fertility in all living beings and things – in all forms. So The Romans changed and adapted the myths and iconography of her Greek counterpart Aphrodite fort he benefit of Roman art and Latin literature. In the later classical Western tradition, Venus becomes one of the most widely known deities of Greco-Roman mythology and the embodiment of love and sexuality. She is also associated through the evening star with Ishtar of Mesopotamia, Inanna of Sumeria and Hathor of Egypt. Venus was connected with cultivated fields and gardens and the abundance of growth and life. Venus represents sex, love, beauty, enticement, seduction, and persuasive female charm among the pantheon of immortal gods; in Latin orthography, her name is identical to the Latin noun venus („sexual love“ and „sexual desire“), from which it is taken. Venus has been said to be perhaps „the most original creation of the Roman pantheon“, and „an ill-defined and assimilative“ native goddess, combined „with a strange and exotic Aphrodite“.[
Her cults possibly suggest the religiously derived legitimate charm and seduction of the divine by mere mortals, in contrast to the more formal, contractual relations between most members of Rome’s official pantheon and the state, and the unofficial, illicit manipulation of divine forces through magic. The ambivalence of her function can be seen in the etymological relationship of the root *venes- with Latin venenum (poison), in the sense of „a charm, magic philtre“.
In myth, Venus-Aphrodite came from sea-foam. Roman theology presents Venus as the yielding, watery female principle, of great importance to the generation and balance of life. Her male equivalents in the Roman pantheon, Vulcan and Mars, are active and fiery. Venus absorbs and moderates the male essence, uniting the opposites of male and female in mutual affection. She is essentially assimilative and benign, and embraces several otherwise quite differing functions. She can give military victory, sexual success, good fortune and prosperity. In one context, she is a goddess of prostitutes; in another, she turns the hearts of men and women from sexual vice to virtue.
Venus‘ signs were for the most part the same as Aphrodite’s. They include roses, myrtle, which was cultivated for its white, sweetly scented flowers, aromatic, evergreen leaves and its various curative properties. Myrtle was considered to be a particularly potent aphrodisiac. The female pudendum, particularly the clitoris, was known as murtos (myrtle). As goddess of love and sex, Venus played an essential role at Roman prenuptial rites and wedding nights, so myrtle and roses were used in bridal bouquets.
Venus was offered official (state-sponsored) cult in some festivals of the Roman calendar. Her sacred month was April (Latin Mensis Aprilis) which Roman etymologists understood to derive from aperire, „to open,“ with reference to the springtime blossoming of trees and flowers.
As with the majority of major gods and goddesses in Roman mythology, the literary concept of Venus is embellished with whole-cloth borrowings from the literary Greek mythology of her counterpart, Aphrodite. In some examples of Latin mythology Cupid was the son of Venus and Mars, the god of war. In other periods, or in similar myths and theologies, Venus was believed to be the consort of Vulcan. Virgil, in compliment to his patron Augustus and the gens Julia, strengthening an existing connection between Venus, whom Julius Caesar had adopted as his protectress, and Aeneas. Vergil’s Aeneas is shown the way to Latium by Venus in her heavenly form, the morning star, shining brightly before him in the daylight sky; much later, she lifts Caesar’s soul to heaven. In Ovid’s Fasti Venus came to Rome because she „preferred to be worshipped in the city of her own offspring“. In Vergil’s poetic writing of Octavian’s victory at the sea-battle of Actium, the soon to be emperor is an ally of with Venus, Neptune and Minerva. Octavian’s opponents, Antony, Cleopatra and the Egyptians, assisted by strange and unhelpful deities such as „barking“ Anubis, lose the battle.
In the interpretatio romana of the Germanic pantheon during the early centuries AD, Venus became connected with the Germanic goddess Frijjo, which led to the loan translation „Friday“ for dies Veneris. The historical cognate of the dawn goddess in Germanic tradition, however, would be Ostara.