TIBI AVSCVLTAMVS ET VENVS ALMA|
AMBAE TE OBSECRAMVS
ARAM AMPLEXANTES HANC TVAM
LACRVMANTES GENIBVS NIXAE
IN CVSTODELAM NOS TVAM VT RECIPIAS ET TVTERE
ILLAS SCELESTOS QVI TVOM FECERVNT FANVM PARVI
FAC VT VLCISCARE NOSQVE
VT HANC TVA PACE ARAM OBSIDERE PATIARE
NE INVISAS HABEAS NEVE IDCIRCO NOBIS VITIO VORTAS
MINVS QVOD BENE ESSE LAVTVM TV ARBITRARE
Kindly Venus, we tearfully entreat Thee,
as we kneel and clasp this, Thy altar.
Take us under your protection and defend us!
Punish the evil ones who have belittled Thy sanctuary;
and in your good grace let this altar be our refuge.
Be not offended with us, nor hold us at fault,
if there be anything about us that to Thee is unclean.
--- Plautus, Rodens, 694-701.
THE GODDESS OF LOVE, BEAUTY AND WAR
by Doctor Xadium
This article deals primarily with the Roman Goddess Venus, not her Greek counterpart Aphrodite. Admittedly this becomes next-to-impossible
due to the assimilation of Aphrodite into the Mythos by Julias Caesar, therefore this article will focus more on the Roman-specific aspects of her persona,
many of which exhibit striking parallels to the Venus of
Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon. This is hardly surprising, considering Naoko Takeuchi's attention to
classical myth and legend. Other articles in this series will cover Aphrodite, the Babylonian Ishtar, the Sumerian Ianna and the Etruscan Turan, and the Phoenician Astarte.
THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS, CORRECTIONS AND ADDITIONS WELCOME!
Originally an Italian deity, the Roman Venus was the goddess of fertility, gardens and cultivation, as well as the patroness
. Her name, Venus
, is associated with the Latin words venia
(divine favor) and venerari
(to exert the power of charm)2
Interestingly, Venus was not worshipped in early Rome. The scholar Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC) could not find her
name in any ancient records, nor did she have a special priest, or any festivals on the ancient Roman calendar.3
Venus' legend among the Latin people, however, was immeasurably ancient. (The Latins were an Indo-European people from a country called Latium, located around the banks of the
Tiber river in central Italy-- modern day Lazio4) There were at least two temples dedicated to her worship, one at Lavinium, the other at Ardea, where festivals
were often held in her honour.5
Venus' rise to prominence (probably the only reason we have a planet named Venus and thus, Sailor Venus) was due to deliberate intermixing of her legend with that of the
Greek goddess Aphrodite, an action Julius Caesar would later exploit to claim descent from her, and thus a divine connection to the Olympian gods.
The date of this fusion is even known to us; On August 19th, 293 B.C., during the Vinalia Rustica, a traditional festival dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter (Zeus),
the first Roman temple dedicated to Venus was founded, thus linking them as father and daughter. (Yes, in proper Greek Myth, Aphrodite predates Zeus). Thereafter,
wine libation was made to Jupiter at the festival, while Venus was honored with offerings of myrtle, mint, and incense. Thus Venus entered the Pantheon of Roman Gods
and Goddesses as a major Deity6, assuming new powers and abiltiies commensurate with her new dual identity as Aphrodite. She was worshipped under many
different names, depending on what her followers wanted her blessing for.
VENUS GENETRIX, THE MOTHER OF ROME
In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar built a temple to Venus Genetrix ("Venus the Begetting Mother") in the forum (the buildings at the core of ancient Rome).
He wasted no time claiming a direct line of descent from her son Aeneas. (According to some myths Aeneas was the founder of Rome) After this time, she became known
as the Universal Mother, divine ancestor of the Roman people, the goddess of Motherhood and domestic affairs (in addtion to everything else she controlled).7
A festival was celebrated for Venus Genetrix every 26th of September, during which time the Imperial family honoured her as their ancestral mother and protectress.8
Venus was widely worshipped in this form even after the Julian line ended with the death of Nero in 68 A.D.9
Emperor Hadrianus erected a temple of Venus in Rome near the coliseum as late as 135 A.D.10
VENUS VICTRIX, THE GODDESS OF WAR
Venus standing half-right (facing away), naked to waist, holding an apple and a palm frond over her left shoulder, resting her left elbow on a column. (Mint of Rome, Julia Domna, AR Denarius)11
Could Juno's self more sovereign presence wear
Than thou, 'mid other ladies throned in grace?—
Or Pallas, when thou bend'st with soul-stilled face
O'er poet's page gold-shadowed in thy hair?
Dost thou than Venus seem less heavenly fair
When o'er the sea of love's tumultuous trance
Hovers thy smile, and mingles with thy glance
That sweet voice like the last wave murmuring there?
Before such triune loveliness divine
Awestruck I ask, which goddess here most claims
The prize that, howsoe'er adjudged, is thine?
Then Love breathes low the sweetest of thy names;
And Venus Victrix to my heart doth bring
Herself, the Helen of her guerdoning.
“Venus Victrix” - Dante Gabriel Rossetti - From The House of Life | 1881
Fans of Sailor Moon may wonder why Venus was placed in charge of the Inner Senshi in the manga and Pretty
Guardian Live Action series, with Mars as Sub-leader. After all, was not Mars the god of War, and Venus merely the goddess of love? Not quite. In Roman myth, (and Babylonian myth,
where the connection is even more profound), Venus was also known as Venus Victrix ("Venus, bringer of Victory"), who was worshipped as a goddess of military victory. 12
Sailor Venus in battle.
Q Fabius Gurges reputedly dedicated the first temple to Venus Obsequens (Gracious Venus) in 295 BCE, in appreciation for a victory against the Samnites.
Venus' favor was also sought when Rome fought Carthage for control of Sicily. 13
Interestingly, Minako's connection to the performing arts may also be tied in with Roman history as well; In 55 BC, the triumvir (one of the three principal Roman lawmakers) Gnaeus Pompeius dedicated a temple to Venus Victrix.
What made this particular temple so interesting was the fact that, in addition to being a real temple of Venus, it was also a permanent theatre! (To build one in those days
was an offense worthy of censure).
The Theatrum Pompei (which was dedicated as the Aedes Veneris Victricis [Temple of Venus Victrix] to throw off suspicion) was built so that its seats appeared to be nothing more
than the stairs leading up to the temple14-- all in all a clever scheme worthy of Aino Minako herself!
The Temple of Venus Victrix.15
Ironically (for a man who had the temerity to proclaim himself and his nation as descended from Venus), on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was assasinated in this
very theatre, below the temple itself, at the foot of Pompey's statue.16
(Of course the fact that his mistress Cleopatra had him place a golden statue of herself
next to the image of the Goddess Venus in Venus' own temple
probably didn't help matters much!) 17
Sailor Venus poses on stage.
Venus Victrix had special festival days to herself. The 2nd of August was the "Prior festival of Venus Victrix" and October 9th was the "Latter Festival of Venus Victrix."
VENUS VERTICORDIA, NOBODY'S FOOL?
April was a sacred month to Venus (who you will remember, started out as a field goddess in charge of the spring) Every April 1st,The festival of Veneralia
was consecrated to
Venus Verticordia, the "Goddess of Beauty, Mother of Love, Queen of Laugher, Mistress of the Grapes." At
the temple of Venus, women washed her statue, replaced her golden necklace and other jewelry (interestingly Venus (kinsei
) is strongly identified with Gold in
Japanese as well) , and offered her roses and other flowers. Women bathed in myrtle and scented water and wore crowns of myrtle, supposedy at the command of the
. In her role as Verticordia, Venus was charged with the protection of chastity in women and girls, and opposed vice.19
Contemporary readers no doubt remember April 1 (what the Romans would have called the Kalends of April) for a reason quite different-- April Fool's day. What is surprising,
however, is that there is a connection to Venus on this day as well. Just as Venus could be stern and uncompromising, she could also be jovial and pleasant. (sound like a certain
Minako having a klutz attack.
April Fool's day is also known as Poisson d'Avril
(April Fish), a day filled with pranks and amusement. April Fish
? Venus' touch can be seen here, if one looks deeply enough.
Some believe the term is astrological, as the sun is leaving Pisces at this time. Historically, Venus has been associated with Pisces and the fish. The fish outline seen on so many vehicles today actually bears its origins to her;
As Venus' origins were fused with Aprohdite's so she became born of the sea, suggesting the wave-tossed foam of Her birth, the two fish of Pisces were considered to represent
herself and Adonis. So. like our loveable Minako can be at times, a part of Venus indeed is the April Fool.20
Because of her ancient association with love and with feminine beauty,
Venus has been a favorite subject of painters and sculptors for centuries (the author included);
notable representations of her are the "Venus de Milo" (c. 150 BC) and "The Birth of Venus" by Sandro Botticelli. So intimately connected is Venus with the
very notion of femininity that even ancient "mother goddess" statues have been dubbed "Venus Figurines", most notably the
Venus of Willendorf, which was carved an etimated 24,000 to 22,000 years ago.21
An Incredible Simulation!
Artistically, Venus is associated with many symbols. She is usually depicted nude or semi-nude. She is a beautiful, and young but mature. She sometimes wears a sash on her chest,
or a girdle. Often she has a mirror and comb, or a quince (a love apple-- you will note in the picture of Venus Victrix above, she holds an apple). She is associated with doves, tunny, sturgeon, scallop, periwinkle and fishtail. Due to the nature of her birth,
the seafoam and seashore are also powerfully evocative of her presence. Also, myrtle, mruex, and myrrh trees are strongly associated with her. 22
Artists who wish to
invoke the classical "image" of Venus without neccessarily depicting her directly use these items to make a subtle allusion to her true nature. (See the statue Paulina Borghese as Venus Victrix
while ostensibly a depiction of Napoleon's sister Paulina Borghese, has its subject in a languid pose, holding an apple.23
Paulina Borghese as Venus Victrix
Venus' legend, of course, is tied in directly to that of her Greek counterpart, Aphrodite's. (Coming soon).
14. Platner, Samuel Ball, and Thomas Ashby. 1929 (rev. ed.). "Venus Victrix, Aedes." A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome: 555. London: Oxford University Press