image Gods and Goddesses

Ashtoreth

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Key Facts
Other names
Year of origin
Location
Parent(s)
Partner(s) Moloch
Children
Aspect(s)
Major Centre(s)
Period of worship

 

 

Background

Ashtoreth was the goddess of war and fertility, from Northwestern Semitic regions, called Ishtar by Assyrians and Babylonians, Astarte by Greeks and Romans. Another transliteration is ‘Ashtart.

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.

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

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

Anal sex between male and male worshipers and male and female worshippers was viewed as an offering to the goddess.

The priests and male prostitutes, who were consecrated to her cult were called qadesh, qedishim or sodomites, Deuteronomy 23:18; I Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46.