Who was Astarte?
She was the Phoenician predecessor to the Greek Aphrodite. To the Sumerians, she was known as Innanna; to the Babylonians, she was Ishtar. As Queen of the Morning Star, Astarte was a goddess of war. As Queen of the Evening Star, she was a goddess of passionate love. It is the latter aspect of Astarte that this invocation is to concentrate on. Astarte appears as a beautiful woman in a chariot drawn by seven lions, wearing a crown of myrtle leaves and accompanied by doves.
Astarte, also spelled ASHTART, was the great goddess of the ancient Near East, chief deity of Tyre, Sidon, and Elath, important Mediterranean seaports. Hebrew scholars now feel that the goddess Ashtoreth mentioned so often in the Bible is a deliberate compilation of the Greek name Astarte and the Hebrew word boshet, ³shame,² indicating the Hebrew contempt for her cult. Ashtaroth, the plural form of the goddessıs name in Hebrew, became a general term denoting goddesses and paganism.
King Solomon, married to foreign wives, ³went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians² (I Kings 11:5). Later the cult places to Ashtoreth were destroyed by Josiah. Astarte/Ashtoreth is the Queen of Heaven to whom the Canaanites had burned incense and poured libations (Jer. 44). Astarte, goddess of love and war, shared so many qualities with her sister, Anath, that they may originally have been seen as a single deity. Their names together are the basis for the Aramaic goddess Atargatis.
Astarte was worshipped as Astarte in Egypt and Ugarit and among the Hittites, as well as in Canaan. Her Akkadian counterpart was Ishtar. Later she became assimilated with the Egyptian deities Isis and Hathor, and in the Greco-Roman world with Aphrodite, Artemis, and Juno, all aspects of the "Great Mother."
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