Thursday, April 23, 2009


Venus, the Bringer of Peace

Yesterday on the radio I heard Gustav Holst's "Venus, the Bringer of Peace," one of the movements from The Planets, and I wondered about the source of the epithet. The Wikipedia article on The Planets asserts (footnote omitted):
Holst also used Alan Leo's book What is a Horoscope? as a springboard for his own ideas, as well as for the subtitles (i.e., "The Bringer of...") for the movements.
But when I look in Alan Leo's What is a Horoscope and How is it Cast? on Google Book Search, and when I use the "Search Inside This Book" feature at, I don't find the word "bringer" anywhere. Neither does the word "peace" appear in the book.

Alan Leo, by the way, is an apt name for an astrologer, as Leo is one of signs of the Zodiac.

I don't see εἰρηνηφόρος in Liddell-Scott-Jones. In Latin, according to Lewis and Short, pacifer is "a frequent epithet of the gods," but Venus doesn't appear among the gods listed.

As goddess of love, Venus probably brings strife as often as she brings peace. One way she does bring peace, however, is to keep Mars, the Bringer of War, distracted. See, for example, the prayer to Venus at Lucretius 1.29-40 (tr. C.H. Sisson):
Bring it about meanwhile that military ferocity
On land and sea everywhere falls fast asleep.
It is only you can bring men peace and quiet
For Mars is the one who manages these affairs
And often he throws himself on your belly,
Conquered in turn because desire has wounded him.
He lies there with his handsome neck thrown back,
Gaping at you and feeding on your looks,
His breath hangs on your lips as he falls back.
As he lies there on top of your holy body
Allow your lips to speak gently to him, Goddess.
Ask him, lady, to give the Romans peace.

effice ut interea fera moenera militiai
per maria ac terras omnis sopita quiescant;
nam tu sola potes tranquilla pace iuvare
mortalis, quoniam belli fera moenera Mavors
armipotens regit, in gremium qui saepe tuum se
reiicit aeterno devictus vulnere amoris,
atque ita suspiciens tereti cervice reposta
pascit amore avidos inhians in te, dea, visus
eque tuo pendet resupini spiritus ore.
hunc tu, diva, tuo recubantem corpore sancto
circum fusa super, suavis ex ore loquellas
funde petens placidam Romanis, incluta, pacem.
Botticelli, Venus and Mars

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