Volume 27, Issue 2, 2006

John Mulryan, Steven Brown
Pages 135-156

Venus and the Classical Tradition in Boccaccio's Genealogia Deorum Gentilium Libri and Natale Contfs Mythologiae

This paper is a comparative study of the accounts of the goddess Venus in the Genealogia of Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) and the Mythologiae of Natale Conti (1520?-1382?). Conti's superior knowledge of Greek, access to Greek sources unknown or incomprehensible to Boccaccio, easily accessible Latin prose style, and exceptional organizational skills, enabled him to create a richer, more extensive, and more accurate account of the goddess than Boccaccio could provide. Both Boccaccio and Conti escape from the binary, antithetical understanding of Venus that dominated medieval commentary. Conti focuses on the paradox of a beautiful goddess representing ugly things; Boccaccio's organizational scheme (based on a flawed genealogical chart originating with the supposed god Demogorgon) makes for a more disparate approach to symbolic interpretation, interesting in parts but thematically unfocused.