Venus and Aphrodite: A Biography of Desire

Basic: Perseus. Sept. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781541674233. $26. HIST
Quick paced, insightful, and often times humorous, this newest work by Hughes (history, New Coll. of the Humanities; Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities) is an approachable look at the ancient legacy of the goddess, Aphrodite-Venus. The author provides an impressive exploration of over 4,000 years of human history, as well as the relationship between the goddess and the collective human psyche. From Syria through the Greek islands, and south into Egypt, the journey of the goddess can be traced through prehistory and ancient history all the way to contemporary popular culture, as people continue to use her as a guide to understand the world around them. Hughes asserts that Aphrodite-Venus was, and continues to be, a symbol for humanity’s relationship with sex, violence, power, and religion all wrapped up into this complex figure of feminine divinity. Even as her image changed to merge with other iconic figures, such as the Virgin Mary, and as various religious leaders tried to tarnish her memory for political gain, Aphrodite-Venus has not left the collective imagination. As Hughes notes, she continues to inspire generations of intellectuals and artists of all genres.
VERDICT A lively work recommended for both researchers and casual readers with an interest in prehistory, ancient history, anthropology, religion, and popular culture.

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