VENUS, GODDESS OF LOVE AND BEAUTY
Stephen Contrado, B.A., Th.M.
Many anthropologists and scholars believe that before the warring Greek-speaking people invaded Greece the indigenous population of the mainland and the Minoans on the Island of Crete worshipped a female divinity, a mother goddess (often accompanied by a smaller male god). The goddess was associated with nature and with the protection of the social order. When the Indo-Europeans conquered the indigenous people the female deities were subordinated to positions of wives and daughters. And in the process of syncretism female deities were made into warrior goddesses to suit the martial inclinations of the Mycenaeans. Thus the patriarchy under Zeus was an amalgam of pre-Hellenic Minoan and conquering Mycenaean religions. The "Morning Star" in the sky before sunrise that heralds each new day is a lovely planet in our solar system that the ancients named in honor of the goddess Venus. The goddess satisfied diverse psychological, social, and cultural needs and gave stability to ancient society.
Venus, goddess of love and beauty, being a representative of the pre-Hellenic female goddess, has survived into modern times in literature and art. Great artists such as the Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) and Adolphe Bouguereau(1825-1905) painted fascinating portraits of the goddess. Their work alludes to the triumph of love and reason over brute instinct and conquest. The goddess deserves recognition. She has been a wonderful asset to Western civilization. In 1959 Frankie Avalon’s song “Venus” became a number one hit, which is still played by millions of people around the world. Venus has compensated for the harsh and severe Judeo-Christian theology of an all-powerful Father, Yahweh. Roman tradition credited Venus with protecting the Trojan prince, Aeneas, after the destruction of his city Troy and guiding him to Italy. Below are some verses from the Latin poet Virgil of Venus speaking to Jupiter (Zeus). Her words reflect the tender and warm female principle of sustaining a peaceful and orderly life.
VENUS SPEAKS TO JUPITER
-- from “The Aeneid” of Virgil (trans, by Jackson Knight)
Disposer, by eternal decrees, of all life human and divine, you whose bolt of thunder is our dread is our dread, how can Aeneas, my dear son, and the other Trojans have given you offense so grave ? Often has death visited them; and now, because they make for Italy, all earth is closed to them. Yet your promise was of Romans, leaders of men, who should one day with the rolling of years be their descendants, with Teucer's blood, strong once more, running in their veins; they were to discipline all the sea and all lands under their law. Father, what thought has been changing your will? As for me, your promise consoled me for the dread havoc of Troy's fall, since I could weigh against her fate the compensation of this new destiny. But now the Trojans, driven on from disaster to disaster, are still pursued by the same ill fortune. Monarch Supreme, what end to their ordeals will you grant them?