Definitions

Astarte

Astarte

[a-stahr-tee]
Astarte, Semitic goddess of fertility and love. She was the most important goddess of the Phoenicians and corresponds to the Babylonian Ishtar and the Greek Aphrodite. She took a dominant place in Middle Eastern religions, and the Jews strictly forbade use of her name. She is referred to in the Bible.
or Ashtart

Goddess of the ancient Middle East and chief deity of the Mediterranean seaports of Tyre, Sidon, and Elath. Astarte shared many qualities, and perhaps a common origin, with her sister Anath. The goddess of love and war, Astarte was worshiped in Egypt and in Canaan, as well as among the Hittites. Her Akkadian counterpart was Ishtar. She is often mentioned in the Bible under the name Ashtaroth; Solomon is said to have worshipped the goddess, and Josiah destroyed the shrines dedicated to her. In Egypt she was assimilated with Isis and Hathor; in the Greco-Roman world she was assimilated with Aphrodite, Artemis, and Juno.

Learn more about Astarte with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Astarte (from Greek Ἀστάρτη (Astártē)) is the name of a goddess as known from Northwestern Semitic regions, cognate in name, origin and functions with the goddess Ishtar in Mesopotamian texts. Another transliteration is ‘Ashtart; other names for the goddess include Hebrew עשתרת (transliterated Ashtoreth), Ugaritic ‘ṯtrt (also ‘Aṯtart or ‘Athtart, transliterated Atirat), Akkadian DAs-tar-tú (also Astartu) and Etruscan Uni-Astre (Pyrgi Tablets).

According to scholar Mark S. Smith, Astarte may be the Iron Age (after 1200 BC) incarnation of the Bronze Age (to 1200 BC) Asherah.

General discussion

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. At Beirut coins show Poseidon, Astarte, and Eshmun worshipped together.

Other faith centers were Cytherea, 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 breasts which are pierced. 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 Ugarit

Astarte appears in Ugaritic texts under the name ‘Athtart', but is of little importance 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 Egypt

Astarte first appears in Ancient Egypt beginning in the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt along with other deities who were worshipped by northwest Semitic people. She was worshipped especially in her aspect of a warrior goddess, often paired with the goddess Anat.

In the Contest Between Horus and Set, these two goddesses appear as daughters of Re 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 (ie. Melqart) and Astarte (though he notes some instead call the Queen Saosis or Nemanūs, which Plutarch interprets as corresponding to the Greek name Athenais).

Astarte described by Sanchuniathon

In the description of the Phoenician pantheon ascribed to Sanchuniathon Astarte appears as a daughter of Sky and Earth and sister of the God El. After El overthrows and banishes his father Sky, as some kind of trick Sky sends to El 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 El. Astarte bears to El children who appear under Greek names as seven daughters called the Titanides or Artemides and two sons named Pothos "Longing" and Eros "Desire".

Later we see, with El's consent, Astarte and Hadad reigning 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 (meteorite) and consecrates it at Tyre.

Astarte in Judea

The Masoretic pointing in the Hebrew Tanach (bible) indicate the pronunciation as ‘Aštōret instead of the expected ‘Ašteret, probably because the two last syllables have here been pointed with the vowels belonging to bōshet "abomination" to indicate that word should be substituted when reading. The plural form is pointed ‘Aštārōt.

For what seems to be the use of the Hebrew plural form ‘Aštārōt as the name of a demon, see also Astaroth.

Astarte, or Ashtoret in Hebrew, was the principal goddess of the Phoenicians, representing the productive power of nature. She was a lunar goddess and was adopted by the Egyptians as a daughter of Ra or Ptah.

In Jewish mythology, She is referred to as Ashtoreth, supposedly interpreted as a female demon of lust in Hebrew monotheism. The name Asherah may also be confused with Ashtoreth, but is probably a different goddess.

The Christian mythologyical tradition links Ashtoreth to Friday, visually represented as a young woman with a cow's horns on her head (sometimes with a cow's tail too), resembling the Ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor.

Other associations

Some sources claim that the Greek goddess Aphrodite (especially in her aspect as Aphrodite Erycina) is another name for Astarte. 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."

References

  • 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.

External links

Search another word or see Astarteon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature