Main Menu | List of entries | finished

VENUS, the daughter of Jupiter and Dione, was at first the goddess of gardens (Met XIV.585-595). The vinalia rustica, the wine festival of August 19, was dedicated to Venus and Jupiter (Varro, De lingua Latina [On the Latin Tongue] VI.20). She was Vulcan's wife but had many lovers. By Bacchus, she was mother of Hymenaeus, god of marriage (Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiae I.1), and of Priapus, god and guardian of gardens (Pausanias, DG IX.31.2). By Mars, she was Cupid's mother; by Hermes (Mercury), she was mother of Hermaphroditos, whose name denotes his parentage (Met IV.288-388). By Antigamus, Venus was mother of Jocus or Sport (De planctu Naturae, X.142-154, Prose V). Ovid calls her geminorum mater amorum (mother of the twin loves), as the mother of Eros and Anteros (Fasti IV.1).

Venus, Saturn's daughter, was born of the foam of his severed testicles, which his son Jupiter cut off and threw into the sea. This story is told of Aphrodite Urania, who represents chaste love in Plato, Symposium 180D-181. Medieval mythographers, including Isidore (Etym VIII.xi.77), say that Venus's father is the mutilated god Saturn, instead of Uranus. One version of the myth says that as Venus emerged from the sea, she landed at Paphos in Cyprus; another version says that she first landed at Cythera off the Laconian coast. Both islands claimed her as their goddess. She is also called Venus Anadyomene (Venus rising from the sea). Both Venus, Jove's daughter, and Venus, Saturn's daughter, represent multiple connotations, including the vita voluptuosa or the voluptuous life, in Chaucer's poetry. The dove and the sparrow are her birds, Friday her day, and copper her metal. Her devotees are Alys of Bath, Aurelius, Chauntecleer, Damyan, Januarie, Palamon, and Troilus.

Palamon is devoted to Venus in The Knight's Tale. He thinks he sees Venus walking in the garden below his prison window, but it is Emelye, KnT 1102-1111. Venus slays him with jealousy, KnT 1332-1333; she is "gerry" or fickle, KnT 1535-1539. Theseus builds her an oratory above the east gate of the stadium, KnT 1902-1905, on the walls of which are pictures that indicate the goddess is a conflation of her mythological and planetary aspects. Venus dwells on Mount Citheron, KnT 1918-1936. Her effect on lovers is their destruction, KnT 1940-1954. She floats on the sea, KnT 1955-1958. From the navel down, she is covered with waves as green as glass; she holds a citole or cithara in her right hand, and on her head she wears a garland of fresh roses. Her doves fly above her head, and her son Cupid--winged, blind, and armed with bow and arrows--precedes her, KnT 1957-1966. Chaucer describes Venus in this passage in almost the same words as Petrus Berchorius in De formis figurisque deorum, fol. 5va. 41-44: Fingebatur igitur Venus puella pulcherrima nuda & in mari natans & in manu sua dextera concham marinam continens atque ges[ta]ns, que rosis erat ornata, a columbis circumvolantibus comitata ("Venus is painted as a very beautiful girl, nude, swimming in the sea, and holding a seashell in her right hand; she is ornamented with roses, with a train of doves flying around her"). Berchorius links the seashell with music and, by substituting the citole or cithara for the seashell, Chaucer continues the tradition that music is part of the voluptuous life. Palamon worships Venus at the twenty-third hour of Sunday, two hours before sunrise on Monday, KnT 2209-2216. He addresses Venus as Jove's daughter and Vulcan's spouse when he prays to her, KnT 2221-2386. Strife erupts between Venus and Mars in heaven, which Saturn eventually settles, KnT 2438-2482.

Venus dominates Dame Alys, WBP 464-710. Venus laughs because Januarie has become her knight and dances with her firebrand in her hand before the bride, MerchT 1723-1728; this fire hurts Damyan, the squire, MerchT 1777. The firebrand is borrowed from RR 15778. Damyan burns in Venus's fire, MerchT 1875. Perhaps because of destiny or happenstance, or because the time is appropriate for the works of Venus, May pities Damyan, MerchT 1968-1981. Wine and youth increase Venus's influence, PhysT 59. Friday is Venus's day; she is the goddess of pleasure, and Chauntecleer is her servant, NPT 3342-3348. The Dreamer finds himself in a temple of glass, where he sees a portrait of the Venus, naked and floating in the sea, wearing a garland of red and white roses, holding a comb; her doves, her blind son Cupid, and her husband Vulcan accompany her, HF I.130-139. Jove's Venus causes Dido to fall in love with Eneas, with unhappy results, HF I.213-432. The Eagle tells the Dreamer that Jupiter will reward him for his service to Venus, HF II.615-618. On a tablet of brass is painted the story of Troy, as Venus warns Eneas to flee, HF III.162-165. Ovid, Venus's clerk, stands on a pillar of copper, HF III.1486. Copper is Venus's metal, CYT 829, and in Confessio Amantis IV.2473.

The inscription above the garden gate acknowledges the dual nature of Venus, PF 127-140. The sparrow is Venus's bird, PF 351. In the darkened temple Venus lies half-naked on her bed; painted on the walls are stories of love's martyrs and the manner of their deaths, PF 246-294. The formel eagle does not want to serve Venus or Cupid just yet, PF 652-653. Pandarus serves Venus, Tr II.234, 1524. The narrator of the Troilus invokes Venus in the Prohemium, Tr III.1-49. Chauncey Wood shows that multiple Venuses appear in this passage: the goddess of concupiscence, the goddess of generation, the patron deity of friendship, and the source of filial and patriotic love. Troilus invokes Venus, whose servant he is, Venus, Tr I.1014, II.972-973, III.706-719, but curses Cipride, Tr V.208. Venus is the God of Love's mother, LGW F 338, LGW G 313.

Venus, the mother of Aeneas, was called Venus Genetrix or Venus Erycina and was regarded as the mother of the Roman people. The Julian clan (gens Iulia), of which Julius Caesar was the most famous member, traced their descent from Iulus (Ascanius), her grandson (Fasti IV.19-60, 123-124). A temple on Mount Eryx, on the northwest coast of Sicily, was dedicated to her as ancestress of the Roman people (Met V.363)

As Aeneas's mother, Venus appears in HF I.162-252, LGW 940-1086.

Venus is also the planet of the third circle, counting away from the earth, between Mercury and the sun (see Ptolemaic map). Mars is lord of the third heaven, Venus's sphere. Libra is her day house, and Taurus her night house. Pisces is her exaltation or sign of maximum power, and Virgo is her depression, or sign of minimum power (Tetrabiblos I.19). She is Hesperus, the evening star, and Lucifer, the morning star (Amores; Heroides XVIII.112).

Dame Alys says that she is all Venerien and her heart is Martian, WBP 609-610. Venus has given her great desire; she cannot withdraw her chamber of Venus from the man who pleases her, WBP 611-618. The children of Venus (i.e., those born under her influence) are contrary to Mercury's children: Venus's children love riot and extravagance, while Mercury's children are clerks or scholars, WBP 697-700. Ptolemy remarks that when Mars and Venus are allied, their subjects are pleasing, cheerful, erotic, fond of dancing, and pleasure loving, among other qualities (Tetrabiblos III.13). Venus and Mercury occupy opposite positions, so that Venus is exalted in Pisces (the depression of Mercury) and depressed in Virgo (the exaltation of Mercury), WBP 704; SqT 272-273; Venus falls where Mercury is raised, WBP 705. Venus sits in her seventh house (the division of the celestial sphere just above the horizon) at Troilus's birth, Tr II.680-686. She adorns the third heaven, Tr III.2. She represses the malice of Mars and Saturn, Tr III.715-721, LGW 2589-2595. She is the "wel-nilly" or well-meaning planet, Tr III.1257. She rises as Cynthia sets, Tr V.1016-1019. Venus gives Ypermystra her great beauty, and Venus, allied with Jupiter in Ypermystra's horoscope, influences her behavior, LGW 2584-2588. Jupiter allied with Venus makes the subject pure, of good character, guileless, religious, moderate, and decorous in matters of love (Tetrabiblos III.13). Ypermystra cannot hold the knife to kill Lino because Venus has repressed Mars's venom at her birth, LGW 2589-2595. Venus weeps in her sphere and causes the downpour, Scogan 11-12.

The Complaint of Mars, a Valentine poem, is an astrological interpretation of Met IV.171-189; J.D. North shows how the poem accords with medieval astronomy. The narrator, bidding the birds awaken, points to Venus rising, Mars 2. The poem will tell how Mars had to leave Venus when Phebus rose in the morning, Mars 22-28. Mars, lord of the third heaven, wins Venus's love, Mars 31. Venus reigns in bliss because she governs Mars, Mars 44, and Mars sings in his happiness with Venus, who causes him such pleasure, Mars 45-46. Mars enters Venus's palace to live there, Mars 50-56, and in great joy Venus kisses Mars, Mars 71-75. Phebus, torch in hand, knocks on Venus's chamber, Mars 81-84, and Venus weeps and embraces Mars, Mars 85-91. Venus flees to Cilenios's tower; that is, Venus enters the first 2 degrees of Gemini, Mercury's mansion or house, Mars 113-114. Mars is now disconsolate and addresses Venus in the language of courtly love, Mars 136-146.

The Complaint of Venus is based on three French balades by Otes de Graunson, the first, fourth, and fifth from his Cinq balades ensuivans (Braddy 61-64). The fifth and twelfth hours of Saturday belong to Venus, Astr II.12. The degree of longitude of Venus is the sixth degree of Capricorn, Astr II.40. [Bachus: Cipride: Citherea: Dido: Dyone: Eneas: Esperus: Fyssh: Graunson: Imeneus: Libra: Lucifer1: Mars: Mercurie: Palamon: Pisces: Priapus: Taur: Troilus: Virgo: Vulcano]

Venus occurs three times initially, WBP 611; Tr III.1257; HF I.213; seventy-eight times in medial positions: KnT 1102, 1104, 1332, 1536, 1904, 1918, 1937, 1949, 1955, 2216, 2265, 2272, 2386, 2440, 2453, 2480, 2487, 2585, 2663; WBP 464, 604, 618, 700, 704, 705, 708; MerchT 1777, 1875, 1971; SqT 272; CYT 829; PhysT 59; MkP 1961; NPT 3342; PF 261, 351, 652; HF I.130, 219, 227; HF II.618; HF III.1487; Tr II.234, 680, 972, 1524; Tr III.48, 187, 705, 712, 951, 1257; Tr IV.1601; Tr V.1016; LGW F 338; LGW G 313; LGW 1021, 1072, 1086, 2584, 2591, 2592; Mars 2, 26, 31, 46, 77, 84, 89, 104, 113, 136, 141, 143, 145, 146; Scogan 11; nine times in final rhyming position, KnT 2221; WBP 697; FranklT 937, 1304; HF I.162, 465; LGW 940, 998; Mars 43.

Alan of Lille, De planctu Naturae, ed. N.M. Häring, 849; ibid., The Plaint of Nature, trans. J.J. Sheridan, 164-165; Petrus Berchorius, Ovidius Moralizatus XV, ed. J. Engels, 22; H. Braddy, Chaucer and the French Poet Graunson, 61-64; Fulgentius, Fulgentius the Mythographer, trans. L.G. Whitbread, 105-160; John Gower, The Complete Works, ed. G.C. Macaulay, II: 368; R. Hollander, Boccaccio's Two Venuses, 51-52; Isidore, Etymologiae, ed. W.M. Lindsay, I; Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiae, ed. A. Dick, 3-4; ibid., The Wedding of Mercury and Philology, trans. W.H. Stahl, 3; J.D. North, "Kalenderes Enlumyned Ben They." RES, 20 (1969): 137-142; Ovid, Amores and Heroides, ed. and trans. G. Showerman, 250-253, 340-341; ibid., Fasti, ed. and trans. J.G. Frazer, 188-193, 196-197; ibid., Met, ed. and trans..F.J. Miller, I: 198-205, 262-263, II: 340-343; E. Panofsky, Studies in Iconology, 142-144; Pausanias, DG, ed. and trans. W.H.S. Jones, IV: 306-307; Plato, Symposium, ed. and trans. W.R.M. Lamb, 106-111; Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, ed. and trans. F.E. Robbins, 90-91, 349-351, 352-355; B.N. Quinn, "Venus, Chaucer, and Pierre Bersuire." Speculum 38 (1963): 479-480; E.G. Schreiber, "Venus in the Medieval Mythographic Tradition." JEGP 74 (1975): 519-535; J. Steadman, "Venus' Citole in Chaucer's Knight's Tale and Berchorius." Speculum 34 (1959): 620-624; Varro, De lingua Latina (On the Latin Tongue), ed. and trans. R.G. Kent, I: 192-193; E.H. Wilkins, "Descriptions of Pagan Divinities from Petrarch to Chaucer." Speculum 32 (1957): 511-522; C. Wood, Chaucer and the Country of the Stars, 103-160; ibid., The Elements in Chaucer's Troilus, 99-128.
Copyright © 1988, 1996 Jacqueline de Weever
Published by Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London.

Main Menu | List of entries | finished