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Venus and Aphrodite

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  535 ratings  ·  110 reviews
Through ancient art, evocative myth, exciting archaeological revelations and philosophical explorations Bettany Hughes shows why this immortal goddess endures through to the 21st century and what her journey through time reveals about what matters to us as humans.

Charting Venus' origins in powerful ancient deities, Bettany demonstrates that Venus is far more complex than
Hardcover, 241 pages
Published November 14th 2019 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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This is a biography and history of the goddess Aphrodite/Venus running through ancient history to the modern day. It is a surprisingly brief tome and consequently there are times when it feels a little thin or brief. It would have benefited from more detailed analysis. It reads easily but it felt a little superficial at times. There are plenty of brief anecdotes sometimes loosely linked together. Thought provoking statements are not always furnished with arguments.
There are though plenty of int
Maja  - BibliophiliaDK ✨

One the one hand I really liked that this was a short book. Often times I want to read non-fiction, but get tired halfway through because of the sheer length. It was nice to get a short non-fiction book for once. On the other hand, it did leave some things to be desired because of the length. So I am of two minds. Still, overall, it was a good, informative read.

👍 What I Liked 👍

Evolution: When I have read other books about mythology or gods and g
Aphrodite/Venus is my favourite Greek/Roman goddess. Well, it is no surprise really considering she is the ruling goddess of my star sign but also because she has always fascinated me. Compared to all the ancient gods and goddesses of Greek/Roman mythology, Aphrodite seems to be a lot more complex and has a lot of layers to her history and personality. For the ancient Greeks she was born from the sea- a symbol of love, desire, sensuality and sexuality. For civilizations before the Greeks and Rom ...more

Well here’s a surprise from Bettany Hughes. Although Aphrodite has been a persistent background theme, particularly in her early work on Helen of Troy, the release of this book took me unawares, and I’ll admit the only reason I didn’t read it straight away was because I thought I would have to set aside a solid chunk of time for it. But unlike Hughes’ previous books, which have been thick, solid tomes of academia, this one is a little lighter and breezier – both in tone and volume. That the audi
Rebecca Roose
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
I devoured this little book while lazing on the almost mythic, dreamy beaches of Australia’s South West. Something about that region always draws me to read/write/paint Greek mythology, so coming across this in a tiny bookshop seemed like serendipity.

Bettany Hughes writes really beautifully. Her writing style is smooth, evocative and never dry—I enjoyed her creative way of presenting historical information. While I thoroughly enjoyed this analysis, it felt a little too brief. It read more to me
Three stars - I liked it.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book to read!

We are all familiar with the Greek myth about Aphrodite' s birth, a much violent act — Kronos throwing his father' s genitals in the sea. It might seem paradoxical, at first, that after such an act was born the goddess of Love, Beauty and Desire, but after all, pain and destruction always accompany those, very much like the Horai accompanying Aphrodite when she came out of the sea on the island o
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This little book is a short biography of the Venus/Aphrodite and explains how the perception of the goddess has shifted through time. It is a very quick and easy read, always accessible, and never dry. The author seems to be very knowledgable and passionate about the topic. I really enjoyed her writing style, at times it felt like she was telling Aphrodite's story to a good friend over a nice cup of coffee.
There is no background knowledge of Greek/Roman mythology needed in order to understand t
Caidyn (he/him/his)
I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

I went into this book expecting a larger "biography" of Aphrodite. But this is a very short book and really is a cursory examination of the goddess, from proto-Aphrodites to now and a more modern look at her. Sadly, I didn't get into this. I thought that this would be 3 stars at the most, but then I hit the chapter that was about Aphrodite and sexuality. However, I could tell that the author didn't do a review on terms. She see
Jelena Milašinović
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My friend Antonia kindly lent me her copy of Venus and Aphrodite so I stared reading it as soon as I could. Bettany Hughes has this amazing talent for writing - the text is wonderfully written, when you read the paragraphs you feel as a friend is excitingly telling you about their research.

In her approachable and lovely way of writing Bettany Hughes shows her readers that Venus is far more complex than we thought she is. Venus and Aphrodite is truly a lovely and refreshing read, where you learn
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aphrodite and Venus is both a history, and a love letter to the goddess Aphrodite.

It tells the tale of the Goddess Aphrodite (Venus) painted primarily through the gaze of her impact on the very humans who worshiped, admired or were otherwise infatuated with her.

This book definitely had many compelling moments though at times I felt the story would jump too quickly from one bit of information to the next leaving me struggling to catch up, though overall I enjoyed how the story was laid out.

I li
Kind of a Catalogue Raisonné but with details of art about a subject rather than by a single artist. I feel like I am being stalked by the residents of Mount Olympus at the moment so a friend lent me this as a kind of in-depth dossier on a particular inhabitant. It is a great history of the changing attitudes towards Venus/Aphrodite and Hughes tries very hard to tell this story in an inclusive way - not always successfully mind you (especially when it comes to sex work..) but I appreciated the e ...more
This is a sort of biography of the Greek goddess looking at the people who worshipped her, the stories that created her and how her image has been used and continues to be used to this day. Short and sweet and a good introduction to the mythology.
Thanks to NetGalley and Basic Books for providing an ARC!


I was glad to find this book on NetGalley! I love mythology and discovering more about gods, goddesses, their history, what they become as time goes.

Aphrodite's history is fascinating to read. Her duality is there almost from the beginning of her "life": she is both sweet, charming, loving and destructive, dark, a killer. She is both a love goddess and a war goddess in a way. She is beauty and contention, desire and
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: net-galley
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free digital copy of this book for exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

DNF at 75%

It felt like not a lot of history was getting across in this book. At times it felt like a lot of stuff was just being thrown out there and being overalls explained. The author also talked a lot about their experiences which wasn’t really what I wanted or was expecting to read. The writing was kind of off for me. Used a lot of photos o
Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Check out this review and more on my blog!

We all know Aphrodite. She’s the spiteful, mostly naked love goddess who started the Trojan war and gads about on seashells.

Right? Well, classic historian Bettany Hughes has something to say about that.

In this short and sweet book, Hughes traces the origins of Aphrodite from the early goddesses who influenced her to her ancient Greek golden age, her time stripped and sexualised at the height of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity through to her
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's no secret to say there has been a longstanding connection - in patriarchal societies and religions at least - between sexual passion and violence. Bettany Hughes here gives us a strong, clear history of Aphrodite, who became Venus, and who subsequently became all sorts of sub-creatures - good Venus, bad Venus, the goddess and the whore, the duality of insecurity in mostly male minds: the allure of beauty, and the power of female sexual power to turn that allure into slavery, uncertainty, pa ...more
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a lovely little book that complicated our understanding of what Aphrodite represented in the past. I do wonder what this book would be like if we decentralized Aphrodite-Venus and instead made an Egyptian goddess or African goddess the center of the story. Or even if we introduced one of the others such as Athena or Hera alongside her. At this point it seems a bit convenient to reduce everything to her.
Sophie (RedheadReading)
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an immensely readable history of Venus-Aphrodite! Takes you through from Aphrodite's origins to her Greek and Roman representations, along to Renaissance interpretations and all the way up to modern depictions and views. Very light and easy to read, but with a definite thoroughness of knowledge. Most enjoyable! ...more
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a free copy in exchange for an honest review. You can read the illustrated version of this review (and what seltzer I paired with it) here:

I’ve had a special affinity for Aphrodite after spending a Fulbright year on Cyprus, the legendary birthplace of the goddess of love and beauty. It’s hard to overstate the cultural importance of Aphrodite on the island. The Cyprus Tourism Board even has an Aphro
☼ Sarah ☼
I've always been interested in mythology - the final year of my recently-obtained Masters degree in English Literature was devoted to a dissertation on the representation of the Hades/Persephone myth in several texts - yet I knew comparatively very little about Aphrodite. I found Venus and Aphrodite to be a fascinating read, and I learned a lot: each page, barring those that hold an image of a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, holds at least one intriguing fact.

Hughes invites the reader to fo
Jan 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting and beautiful, but too many stories and ideas were introduced without enough explanation, leaving you wanting more. The book did teach me a lot about the symbolism and representation of Venus/Aphrodite through time. I guess I just wished it was more in-depth.
John Teller
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sound scholarship

This journey through the iterations of Aphrodite captures the ambivalence with which this important figure has been held. Excellent scholarship.
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great introduction to the goddess Aphrodite-Venus that we’ve all heard about before.

Venus and Aphrodite: A Biography of Desire is a new non-fiction book by Bettany Hughes. Unlike her previous titles, this one is briefer in its explanation of its topic. The book presents the story and meaning of Aphrodite-Venus through time, from its first appearance in history up to modern times. It covers an overview of what this goddess is associated with and the way it’s been viewed and used in
Feb 18, 2021 rated it liked it
In this collection of essays, classicist Bettany Hughes follows Aphrodite from her Eastern origins to her birth in Cyprus, her rebranding as Venus in the Roman Empire, her integration into Christianity, her renaissance period revival, and finally to the modern day.

Hughes provides interesting insights into how the shift to a more militaristic society changed the roles of men and women and how the cultural treatment of Aphrodite reflects the treatment of women. I enjoyed learning how Aphrodite ev
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a beautifully written chronicle of the Greek goddess Aphrodite who had become Venus in Roman Empire.
Starting with her Middle-Eastern predecessors, Inanna and Ishtar, and citing the archaeological findings of her first forms in Cyprus, this is a very exciting book about the journey of Aphrodite and Venus from East to West, from iron age to modern day.
Myths and history go hand in hand in this thoroughly well researched book, with the beautiful images and representations of goddess th
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Despite being a history book rather than a spiritual one, Venus & Aphrodite by Bettany Hughes was one of the books recommended to me as food for thought when I asked for advice regarding learning more about Aphrodite as a deity. While this is a really interesting and fascinating book, I was a little disappointed.

Venus & Aphrodite an academic view of the worship of Aphrodite-Venus through history. While it takes you through her origins, the goddesses she evolved from, and what she has meant and s
Laura Newsholme
This was an interesting but ultimately, a little bit too brief exploration of Aphrodite/Venus throughout history. Following a chronological structure, we see the origins of the goddess through to how she is represented in modern day in art. I thought that the writing style was really accessible, which is always welcome in a non-fiction book and that the structure was a great contributing factor in this accessibility. I just wish that this was a bit more of a deep dive into the subject matter, as ...more
3.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed this book for its historical value. It helps that Bettany Hughes is a damn good writer. What I hoped for but did not receive is an in-depth why for Aphrodite’s shift in roles
throughout history. For example, during the Augustinian period, why the shift from a more public Venus to a more private one solely for the eyes of the rich? I’m being generic here but that question alone could afford, I’m sure, ten more pages of a deep dive into such an intriguing and influenti
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, non-fiction
Cover art: 5/5 so pretty

Aphrodite the goddess of sex! I leaned a lot of fun facts about Aphrodite & the way ancient Greeks thought about sex. It was a fascinating read and having pictures made it eve better.

This book was very well researched but a tad dry - I feel like Venus is such a juicy topic there was so much more entertainment and fun to be had. But overall it was a super quick read, about 200 pages and didn’t drag on too long. I was happy to learn more about a topic I knew very little of
Samantha Olson
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really, really enjoyed this book! It definitely reads like a thesis...almost like Hughes wrote a really long paper or had her thesis printed. So...short for a “biography”, but it got the job done. She presented interesting historical points and had me looking at Aphrodite/Venus in a completely different light than I ever have before. As a lover of art history, and a feminist, I felt like this was a must-read :)
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Bettany Hughes is an English historian, author and broadcaster. Her speciality is classical history.

Bettany grew up in West London with her brother, the cricketer Simon Hughes. Her parents were in the theatre: she learnt early the importance and delight of sharing thoughts and ideas with a wider public. Bettany won a scholarship to read Ancient and Modern History at Oxford University and then cont

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