Venus Barbata ('Bearded Venus') was an epithet of the goddess Venus among the Romans. Macrobius also mentions a statue of Venus in Cyprus, representing the goddess with a beard, in female attire, but resembling in her whole figure that of a man (see also Aphroditus). The idea of Venus thus being a mixture of the male and female nature seems to belong to a very late period of antiquity. In certain forms Venus was depicted as physically androgynous:
On her native Cyprus, Aphrodite was worshipped as the Venus Barbata, the Bearded Venus... . Elsewhere as Venus Calva or Bald Venus, Aphrodite was shown with a man's bald head, just like the priests of Isis. Aristophanes calls her Aphroditos, a Cypriot male name. Aphrodite appeared in battle armor in Sparta... [and] Venus Armata or Armed Venus became a Renaissance convention.
The idea of Venus having a double-sexed nature has the same double meaning, in the mythological sense, that there is not only a Luna, but also a Lunus. The name Venus in itself, is masculine in its termination, and it was perceived that the goddess becomes the god and the god the goddess sometimes.
Her male followers dressed as women, and they were often even castrated: in her incarnation as Aphrodite Urania, she destroys a king who mates with her upon a mountain top, 'as a queen-bee destroys the drone: by tearing out his sexual organs' and as Cybele, 'the Phrygian Aphrodite of Mount Ida' she is worshipped as a 'queen-bee' – her priests mutilating themselves via acts of 'ecstatic self-castration'.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "Barbata". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
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- Pulham, Patricia (2008). Art and the Transitional Object in Vernon Lee's Supernatural Tales. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7546-5096-6.