Aphrodite and Venus... the only good excuse Renaissance artists had for depicting naked females. But I must say, not my favorite goddesses from the bunch – I'll tell you why some other time. For now, let me get to the differences between Aphrodite and Venus – a long overdue piece.
Before Aphrodite and before Venus there was an Etruscan goddess called Turan – a young girl with wings, believed to be Venus' great-grandmother, because she was a common decoration for mirrors, and because she was surrounded by swans and doves. And geese. Geese are the birds of love too, you know.
Before landing the job of ultimate swimsuit top-model, Venus started out as the goddess of gardens and vegetation. And before moving to the capital of fashion, love, good food and, well, capital of the entire world at the time, Venus resided in the small town of Ardea, where we find the oldest temple dedicated to the goddess (in 293 BC, on the 15 of August – if you want to be that specific, though you shouldn't ask a goddess how old she is). This aspect of Venus was perhaps prolonged later on, after her association with Aphrodite, when she was considered to be the mother of Priapus, also a god of gardens, vegetation, and, well, other things.
It's quite possible that this young Venus was seen as an intermediary for prayers, and, as original goddess of beauty, she probably presided over all aspects of beauty, not just that of women (naked, mostly). Even in this primitive form, Venus made her debut in Rome rather late, and sometime during the second Punic War the famous Sibylline oracle had to ask the Romans to import a foreign Venus to their city.
Similar to all Roman gods, Venus doesn't have any stories of her own, and overlaps with Aphrodite in literature and arts. (Which is ok, since Aphrodite had enough adventures and affairs to fill several volumes and an entire television series.)
With the town of Rome itself, Venus would have a rather special relationship. As Aphrodite, she started the Trojan war, lost it, and managed to save only her son, Aeneas. As Venus, she now protected the town of Aeneas, Rome. Things will get even more personal, as Caesar, and the entire Julian family, claimed to be direct descendents of Aeneas, and thus close family to Venus. Considering what we know of Caesar's life, the goddess of love favored him more than other mortals, so maybe there is some truth to this story, no matter how outrageous it may seem today.