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Astarte[1] (Greek Ἀστάρτη, "Astártē") is the Greek name of a goddess known throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to Classical times. Originally the deified evening star, she is found as Ugaritic 𐎓𐎘𐎚𐎗𐎚 ‘ṯtrt ("‘Aṯtart" or "‘Athtart"); Phoenician "‘shtrt" (‘Ashtart); and Hebrew עשתרת (Ashtoret, singular, or Ashtarot, plural), and appears in Akkadian as 𒀭𒊍𒁯𒌓 D, the grammatically masculine name of the goddess Ishtar; the form Astartu is used to describe her age.[2] The name appears also in Etruscan as 𐌖𐌍𐌉 𐌀𐌔𐌕𐌛𐌄 Uni-Astre (Pyrgi Tablets), Ishtar or Ashtart.

OverviewEdit

Astarte was connected with fertility, sexuality, and war. Her symbols were the lion, the horse, the sphinx, the dove, and a star within a circle indicating the planet Venus. Pictorial representations often show her naked.

Astarte was accepted by the Greeks under the name of Aphrodite. The island of Cyprus, one of Astarte's greatest faith centers, supplied the name Cypris as Aphrodite's most common byname.

Other major centers of Astarte's worship were Sidon, Tyre, and Byblos. Coins from Sidon portray a chariot in which a globe appears, presumably a stone representing Astarte. In Sidon, she shared a temple with Eshmun. Coins from Beirut show Poseidon, Astarte, and Eshmun worshipped together.

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Other faith centers were Cythera, Malta, and Eryx in Sicily from which she became known to the Romans as Venus Erycina. A bilingual inscription on the Pyrgi Tablets dating to about 500 BC found near Caere in Etruria equates Astarte with Etruscan Uni-Astre that is, Juno. At Carthage Astarte was worshipped alongside the goddess Tanit.

Donald Harden in The Phoenicians discusses a statuette of Astarte from Tutugi (Galera) near Granada in Spain dating to the 6th or 7th century BC in which Astarte sits on a throne flanked by sphinxes holding a bowl beneath her pierced breasts. A hollow in the statue would have been filled with milk through the head and gentle heating would have melted wax plugging the holes in her breasts, producing an apparent miracle when the milk emerged.

The Syrian goddess Atargatis (Semitic form ‘Atar‘atah) was generally equated with Astarte and the first element of the name appears to be related to the name Astarte.

Astarte in UgaritEdit

Astarte appears in Ugaritic texts under the name ‘Athtart', but is little mentioned in those texts. ‘Athtart and ‘Anat together hold back Ba‘al from attacking the other deities. Astarte also asks Ba‘al to "scatter" Yamm "Sea" after Ba‘al's victory. ‘Athtart is called the "Face of Ba‘al".

Astarte in EgyptEdit

Astarte arrived in Ancient Egypt during the 18th dynasty along with other deities who were worshipped by northwest Semitic people. She was especially worshipped in her aspect as a warrior goddess, often paired with the goddess Anat.

In the Contest Between Horus and Set, these two goddesses appear as daughters of Ra and are given in marriage to the god Set, here identified with the Semitic name Hadad. Astarte also was identified with the lioness warrior goddess Sekhmet, but seemingly more often conflated, at least in part, with Isis to judge from the many images found of Astarte suckling a small child. Indeed there is a statue of the 6th century BC in the Cairo Museum, which normally would be taken as portraying Isis with her child Horus on her knee and which in every detail of iconography follows normal Egyptian conventions, but the dedicatory inscription reads: "Gersaphon, son of Azor, son of Slrt, man of Lydda, for his Lady, for Astarte." See G. Daressy, (1905) pl. LXI (CGC 39291).

Plutarch, in his On Isis and Osiris, indicates that the King and Queen of Byblos, who, unknowingly, have the body of Osiris in a pillar in their hall, are Melcarthus (i.e. Melqart) and Astarte (though he notes some instead call the Queen Saosis or Nemanūs, which Plutarch interprets as corresponding to the Greek name Athenais)[dubious ] .

Astarte in PhoeniciaEdit

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In the description of the Phoenician pantheon ascribed to Sanchuniathon, Astarte appears as a daughter of Epigeius (Greek: Uranus) and Ge (Earth), and sister of the god Elus. After Elus overthrows and banishes his father Epigeius, as some kind of trick Epigeius sends Elus his "virgin daughter" Astarte along with her sisters Asherah and the goddess who will later be called Ba`alat Gebal, "the Lady of Byblos". It seems that this trick does not work, as all three become wives of their brother Elus. Astarte bears Elus children who appear under Greek names as seven daughters called the Titanides or Artemides and two sons named Pothos "Longing" and Eros "Desire". Later with Elus' consent, Astarte and Hadad reign over the land together. Astarte puts the head of a bull on her own head to symbolize Her sovereignty. Wandering through the world, Astarte takes up a star that has fallen from the sky (a meteorite) and consecrates it at Tyre.

Ashteroth Karnaim (Astarte was called Ashteroth in the Hebrew Bible) was a city in the land of Bashan east of the Jordan River, mentioned in Genesis 14:5 and Joshua 12:4 (where it is rendered solely as Ashteroth). The name translates literally to 'Ashteroth of the Horns', with 'Ashteroth' being a Canaanite fertitility goddess and 'horns' being symbolic of mountain peaks. Figurines of Astarte have been found at various archaeological sites in Palestine, showing the goddess with two horns.[3]

Astarte's most common symbol was the crescent moon (or horns), according to religious studies scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell, in his book The Devil: perceptions of evil from antiquity to primitive Christianity.[4]

Astarte in JudahEdit

Ashtoreth is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a foreign, non-Judahite goddess, the principal goddess of the Sidonians or Phoenicians, representing the productive power of nature. It is generally accepted that the Masoretic "vowel pointing" adopted ca. 135 AD, indicating the pronunciation ʻAštōreṯ ("Ashtoreth," "Ashtoret") is a deliberate distortion of "Ashtart", and that this is probably because the two last syllables have been pointed with the vowels belonging to bōšeṯ, ("bosheth," abomination), to indicate that that word should be substituted when reading.[5] The plural form is pointed ʻAštārōṯ ("Ashtaroth"). The biblical Ashtoreth should not be confused with the goddess Asherah, the form of the names being quite distinct, and both appearing quite distinctly in the Book of 1st Kings. The biblical writers may, however, have conflated some attributes and titles of the two, as seems to have occurred throughout the 1st millennium Levant.[6] For instance, the title "Queen of heaven" as mentioned in Jeremiah has been connected with both. (In later Jewish mythology, she became a female demon of lust; for what seems to be the use of the Hebrew plural form ʻAštārōṯ in this sense, see Astaroth).

Other associations Edit

Some ancient sources assert that in the territory of Sidon the temple of Astarte was sacred to Europa. According to an old Cretan story, Europa was a Phoenician princess whom Zeus transformed into a white bull, abducted, and carried to Crete.[7]

Some scholars claim that the cult of the Minoan snake goddess who is identified with Ariadne (the "utterly pure") [8] was similar to the cult of Astarte.Her cult as Aphrodite was transmitted to Cythera and then to Greece.[9] Herodotus wrote that the religious community of Aphrodite originated in Phoenicia and came to Greeks from there. He also wrote about the world's largest temple of Aphrodite, in one of the Phoenician cities. Her name is the second name in an energy chant sometimes used in Wicca: "Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna."[10]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Ishtar from Flickr.com
  2. K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst, "Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible", p.109-10
  3. [1] The Hebrew goddess by Raphael Patai -Page 57
  4. The Devil: perceptions of evil from antiquity to primitive Christianity by Jeffrey Burton Russell - Page 94
  5. John Day, "Yahweh and the gods and goddesses of Canaan", p.128
  6. Mark S. Smith, "The early history of God", p.129
  7. Lucian of Samosata. De Dea Syria. 4
  8. Barry Powell.Classical myth with new translation of ancient texts by H.M.Howe.Upper saddle river.New Jersey.Prentice Hall inc.1998.p 368
  9. R.Wunderlich.The secret of Creta.Efstathiadis Group.Athens 1987.p134
  10. BURNING TIMES/CHANT, Charles Murphy, in Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at sacred-texts.com
  • Donald Harden, The Phoenicians (2nd ed., revised, London, Penguin 1980). ISBN 0-14-021375-9
  • G. Daressy, Statues de divinités, (CGC 38001-39384), vol. II (Cairo, Imprimerie de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale, 1905).
  • Gerd Scherm, Brigitte Tast Astarte und Venus. Eine foto-lyrische Annäherung (Schellerten 1996), ISBN 3-88842-603-0.
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