Book Review

Venus & Aphrodite: history of a goddess by Bettany Hughes


Through ancient art, evocative myth, exciting archaeological revelations and philosophical explorations Bettany Hughes shows why this immortal goddess endures through to the twenty-first century, and what her journey through time reveals about what matters to us as humans.

Charting Venus’s origins in powerful ancient deities, Bettany demonstrates that Venus is far more complex than first meets the eye. Beginning in Cyprus, the goddess’s mythical birthplace, Bettany decodes Venus’s relationship to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, and, in turn, Aphrodite’s mixed-up origins both as a Cypriot spirit of fertility and procreation – but also, as a descendant of the prehistoric war goddesses of the Near and Middle East, Ishtar, Inanna and Astarte. On a voyage of discovery to reveal the truth behind Venus, Hughes reveals how this mythological figure is so much more than nudity, romance and sex. It is the both the remarkable story of one of antiquity’s most potent forces, and the story of human desire – how it transforms who we are and how we behave.

Venus & Aphrodite: history of a goddess by Bettany Hughes is a non-fiction book on the mythology of the goddess of love and her incarnations throughout the history of humanity. If you wish to get a glimpse into the world of mythology and the evolution of religion, the content of the book is a revelation and the love affair the human race had with this goddess.

Historian Bettany Hughes uncovers the enduring mythology of the Goddess of Love and her transition from pre-history cultures to the 21st century. 

This book is about how humans perceived the goddess through the ages and her changeability to adapt to the current trends of the day. Bettany Hughes has provided provocative research on the emergence of the goddess with her bloody inception on the sandy shores of Cyprus, from the genital remains of her father Ouranos, and how she became a Christian figure during the Middle Ages, a virginal mother of Jesus. It is such a curious mix of history for the goddess, venerated by women and men, associated with prostitutes to then have been reinvented as the Mother of Jesus. This was a strategic move by the Christian powers to circumvent Aphrodite’s popularity and ‘convert’ her sexual appeal to an ideology suited to their teachings. And of course, there is the movie and advertising industry, where the concept of the goddess of love pervades every market.

Venus & Aphrodite: history of a goddess is easy to read, and Bettany Hughes has written a compelling historical account of a mythology that is still here with us. I enjoyed reading this book, as I had Hughes’ Helen of Troy. For those who are fans of ancient history and mythology, this is one for you.

Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.

Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet.

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…the mythology of the goddess of love and her incarnations throughout the history of humanity.


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  1. Jacqui Murray

    What a fascinating book. I love following beliefs through the ages, how they change with cultures. I do think it’s one of my favorite parts of your trilogy, Luciana, that you bring Greek myths into the modern era, with some sense of where they’ve been the last 2,000 years.

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  2. Anne

    I’m going to buy this book right now, Luciana. I love Bettany Hughes’ writings; I so enjoyed reading her book ‘Helen of Troy’ in which she intertwined historical facts with the legends and beliefs that swirled around them. I have always been interested in the legends of Ishtar, Inanna and Astarte…goddesses yes, but at times, so human!

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