Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Venus: The Mother of Rome

Posted by Diana Stanley, Museum Volunteer and Customer Service Representative

Venus was the mother of Rome. According to Roman myth, she gave birth to Aeneas, a hero of the Greek Trojan War. When Troy fell to the Greeks, Aeneas and his men escaped. After a series of adventures they settled down in Italy and intermarried with the neighboring Latins. Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, earned herself a special place in the hearts of Romans. It is unsurprising that one of the first large temples in the region was built for her. Quintus Fabius Gurges dedicated the temple to her on August 19, 295 B.C.E.

Venus and Aeneas

According to the Roman historian Livy, Q. Fabius Gurges promised to build the temple in the middle of the Third Samnite War. The Samnites were an Italian neighbor of the Republic and rebelled against Roman rule. Ultimately, the Romans conquered the Samnites and became the dominant power in Italy. Fabius Gurges’ father, Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, was consul (head of the Roman government) and the hero of the Third Samnite War. In the middle of war when success seemed dim, the Sibylline Books, a set of prophecies of the Roman people, said to appease the gods they should build a temple. Fabius Gurges used his power as a curule aedile (a high city official) to build the temple from fines on women found guilty of adultery. He built the temple of Venus Obsequens or Obedient/Compliant/Gracious Venus near the Aventine Hill.

Artist depiction of what the inside of the temple might have looked like.

Fabius Gurges went on to have a successful career like his father. He became consul and received a triumph (large celebration and parade) for a military victory. His grandson, Fabius Maximus, surpassed him by becoming a hero of the Punic Wars and was elected dictator five times. It can’t have hurt either of their careers to have a prominent temple with the words “FABIUS GURGES MADE THIS” carved in marble. Building temples became a good way for politicians to advertise their name. Julius Caesar, who claimed his line descended from Venus, later built his own temple to her in her aspect of Venus Genetrix, or Venus the Mother. There are few records of Fabius Gurges’ temple after it was built, so one must assume that it eventually fell into disrepair and was replaced by another building.

Modern day temple of Venus Genetrix.

To learn more about Roman history, please visit the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, KS. Learn more on our website or call 316.263.1311.

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