Hachette Book Group
September 22, 2020
Everyone knows of Venus as the beautiful Roman goddess of love, lust, and debauchery, and the definitive symbol of desire. She was closely based on the Greek goddess Aphrodite and has defined the beauty of the female form in artworks, whether clothed or naked, for centuries. Author and historian Bettany Hughes explores the goddess’ past and what she represents, and how her influence is still at work. She explains that in the Middle East, earlier civilizations other than the Greeks had similar goddesses such as Inanna, Ishtar, and Astarte. Why were so many goddesses who combine wantonness and warfare created?
The story starts on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, the historical home of the goddess, where an annual celebration and worship of the miracle of life was held long before the Greek civilization. Archeology now traces the basic idea of the goddess of womanhood and birth, which of course involves sex, back more than 4,000 years as represented in many small voluptuous rock carvings of a female form with a penis head called the Lady of Lemba. It is most likely that each of these goddesses influenced the next permutation. Within the chapters, a fuller explanation develops of the goddess as a symbol of life. Eventually, lust leads to many urges of humankind, including war which Venus also exemplifies by her affair with Mars, the god of war.
VENUS AND APHRODITE describes the transformations of this goddess through time and changes in civilization. We still celebrate her today in art museums, where sculptures and paintings through the ages show her many traits. She is also used more indulgently in commercials and media used to sell products. Her fame has lasted longer than any other gods and goddesses, undoubtedly because Aphrodite-Venus symbolizes so much more than we expect. She shows the dichotomy of love and life. It is an entertaining and informative read with amazing insights into humanity.