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Ištar and Aphrodite (1)

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02 Religious and ideological symbols and iconographic motifs

01 Religious and ideological doctrines and imagery

03 Religious festivals, cults, rituals and practices

03 Religious festivals, cults, rituals and practices

5th century BCE
1st century CE
Greek Classical Age
Roman Empire
Greek philosophers and scholars
Helleno-Roman philosophers and scholars

The sphere of activity of the Greek goddess Aphrodite is joyous consummation of sexuality. Behind the figure of Aphrodite clearly stands the ancient Semitic goddess of love, Ištar or Astarte, divine consort of the king, queen of heaven and hetaera in one. Her Semitic or more precisely Phoenician background is already asserted by Herodotus (1.105). The decisive evidence comes from the correspondences in cult and iconography which go beyond mere sexuality. This deity is androgynous - there is a male Aphroditos on Cyprus and in Athens as well as the bearded Ištar or Aphrodite, and a male Ashtar beside female Astarte. Astarte is called Queen of Heaven just as Aphrodite is called the Heavenly, Urania. Astarte is worshipped with incense altars and dove sacrifices as is Aphrodite. Ištar is also a goddess of war, and also Aphrodite may be armed and bestow victory. There is some evidence for prostitution in the Aphrodite cult in Corinth and Lokroi, and this is the most notorious characteristic of the Ištar-Astarte cult. The connection with the garden and with the sea is also present in both cases (see Strabo 14.683 (?)). In the process of transmission from East to West a part was played by frontal representation of the naked goddess, such as are encountered primarily in small objects, on ornamental pieces and gold pendants; perhaps for this reason Aphrodite was called Golden.

Sources (list of abbreviations) (source links will open in a new browser window)
Herodotus 1.105
Strabo 14.683 (?)


Burkert 1985, 152-153Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1985.

Amar Annus

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