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The Roman goddess of love was Venus, assisted by her son Cupid who’s arrows induced desire (of the loved one). Contrary to common belief, the Roman Venus was not a simple adaptation of the Greek Aphrodite but simply the parallel interpretation of the same essence of Indo-European origin. Her contemporary Etruscan equivalent was Turan, often shown on Etruscan hand held mirrors as a winged beauty but on occasion also associated with motherhood as a parallel of Venus Genetrix.
Even the name of Venus had a meaning close to that of love and veneration (note even in English, the word veneration has the venus root in it). In fact the early Indo-European root would have been "wen" – meaning "desire".
As with many other deities, particularly those of greater importance within Roman culture, Venus came to have a variety of names (epithets) to describe a variety of aspects of her being: Venus Erycina (of Eryx, in Sicily, she was the patron of prostitutes), Venus Genitrix, Venus Murcia, Venus the Obsequious, Venus Victrix amongst many others.
Her extremely important position within Roman mythology made her an ideal ancestor to have, for example Julius Caesar claimed to descend from her through his supposed ancestor Julus (who’s Greek name was Ascanius, son of Aeneas, son of Anchises and Venus) and hence gave the name of his clan the "gens Julia" (see structure of ancient Roman names). The goddesses’ statue and shrine dedicated to Venus Genetrix (goddess of motherhood and domesticity, important in her position as mother of Aeneas) was built within his forum, the "forum Iulium" aka "forum Caesaris" which he built in 46BC. We have an idea of what the statue must have looked like because it is portrayed on the reverse of a coin minted at the time with the inscription VENERI GENETRICI.
Emperor Augustus, adoptive son of Julius Caesar and of the gens Iulia went further in using Roman art to underline the family connection with deities for purpose of propaganda and hence Virgil’s Aenid was sponsored, reinforcing the link through the figure of Julus (Ascanius).
There are a variety of myths connected with Venus, for example the judgement of Paris (which led to the fateful Trojan war) or the story of Cupid and Psyche told in Apuleius’ Golden Asse (Metamorphoses).
See Roman Goddess Venus
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"goddess of love" was written by Giovanni Milani-Santarpia for www.mariamilani.com - Rome apartments