Like other ancient civilizations, the Romans didn't realize that Venus was a planet. They believed it was two different stars.
The morning version of the planet (when it was seen at dawn) they called Lucifer, meaning literally "light-bearer," from the words lucem ferre. The association of Lucifer with the Devil came later, from early Christians in the 2nd or 3rd century.
The evening version of the planet (seen at dusk) they called Vesper, the son of the dawn goddess Aurora, symbolizing evening.
The planet itself was named "Venus" starting around the 13th century, after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, herself a favorite subject for painters and poets for centuries.
Alexandre Cabanel's 1863 painting The Birth of Venus, for example, was huge success at the Paris Salon of that year and was immediately purchased by Napoleon III for his personal collection.
"This Venus hovers somewhere between an ancient deity and a modern dream", wrote art historian and curator Robert Rosenblum, who described "the ambiguity of her eyes, that seem to be closed but that a close look reveals that she is awake...A nude who could be asleep or awake is specially formidable for a male viewer."
A similar statement could be made about the goddess' namesake planet, which was cloaked in ambiguity for the ancients, and in so many ways, still is for us.
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