Goddesses of Love in Ancient Rome and Greece
Venus was one of the most popular Roman goddesses and the myths about her are similar to those of the ancient Greek goddess, Aphrodite.
Venus took on the characteristics of ancient Greek goddess, Aphrodite around the end of the 3rd century BC, when Aphrodite’s cult was introduced to the Romans; before that time Venus was Roman goddess of spring time, vegetable gardens and cultivation, writes the Encyclopaedia of Greco-Roman Mythology. Aphrodite is of an eastern origin, her counterpart being Astarte of Phoenician Syria, or Ishtar of Babylon.
Like Aphrodite, Roman goddess Venus was born out of the white foam that was created when the blood, or a piece of the anatomy, of Uranus, who was wounded by Saturn, fell into the sea. Venus, like Aphrodite, was born fully grown – in fact the name Aphrodite means in Greek “she who emerged out of foam”. In ancient Rome, Venus was the patroness of Julius Caesar and Augustus as well as of the city of Pompeii.
Venus, Goddess of Love
One of the 12 Olympian gods, Venus was the Roman goddess of love, marriage, fertility, sensual love and feminine beauty and was also the patroness of prostitutes. Venus’ power was such that no mortal or immortal was immune to her love spells; none except for the three virgin goddesses: Minerva (Athena), Diana (Artemis) and Hestia. As discord rose among the Olympian Gods over Venus, Jupiter made her marry his son Vulcan (Hephaestus), the god of fire.
Lovers of Venus, or Aphrodite
Unhappy as she was with ugly, smith-god Vulcan, Roman goddess of love Venus sought to consort with other men and gods. Many stories tell of her love affairs with Mars (Ares), god of war; Neptune (Poseidon), god of sea; Dionysus; Jupiter (Zeus); Mercury (Hermes); Anchises and Adonis. She bore many children, among whom Cupid and Harmonia with Mars; Priapus with Dionysus; Hermaphroditos with Hermes; Aeneas with Anchises.
In earlier myths, Cupid (the Greek Eros), the god of love, was not the son of Venus at all but a primal entity which was present at the birth of the Roman goddess and her companion thereafter. Venus had many lovers but also interfered in the affairs of the mortals, helping lovers or punishing those who rejected love. When Venus’ lover Adonis was killed, the Roman goddess made a red anemone spring from his blood in his memory.
Venus and the Trojan War
The ancient Greek goddess, Aphrodite, and consequently her Roman goddess equivalent, Venus, was responsible for the start of the Trojan War. Eris, the only one of the gods not to be invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, threw the golden Apple of Discord among the guests. The apple bore the inscription “to the fairest” and each of the goddesses, Aphrodite, Hera and Athena, wanted the apple for herself.
To resolve the problem Zeus, or Jupiter, asked Paris to judge which of the goddesses was the fairest. Each goddess tried to tempt Paris with different offers but when Venus promised him the most beautiful woman in the world as his wife, he gave the apple to her. Paris consequently sailed to Sparta and abducted Helen, thus starting the ten-year Trojan War.