Presenter: Catherine Smallcombe (Thesis review seminar)

Venus’ ability to bestow martial favour was the subject of intense political competition in the Late Republic. Sulla, Pompey, and Caesar had all fought for her patronage, with each man seeking to outdo his predecessor’s claim to the goddess’ favour. The Civil War between Caesar and Pompey became an important turning-point in this competition, with Caesar emerging victorious as the unquestionable recipient of Venus’ patronage. The longstanding ancestral connection between Venus and the Julii played an important role in Caesar’s eventual control over the goddess’ martial attributes. His well-advertised ‘descent’ from the goddess had surpassed any competing claims to her favour. Caesar’s construction of the Forum Iulium and the Temple of Venus Genetrix was designed to broadcast this ancestral connection on an unprecedented public scale, however Venus’ martial attributes were not ignored in this complex. Ultimately, the Forum Iulium and its Temple of Venus Genetrix functioned as a permanent reminder of Caesar’s power and position in the state as the result of the goddess’ patronage.