In search of Astarte

Date

2022-05

Authors

Finefrock, Mell Nicole

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Abstract

Scholarship looking at the cult of Astarte throughout the Phoenician diaspora has long associated her with the aspects of sexuality, fertility, warfare, and violence. This broad generalization, especially in reference to her being a goddess of sexuality and fertility, comes from older scholarship which took ancient sources out of context and misused them, most commonly Herodotus 1.199. In contrast to this depiction of Astarte, argue that perpetuating the understanding that she holds all those connotations concurrently through the entire Mediterranean has led to a loss of the true nature of Astarte in each of the cities she is worshipped in. By looking at her in the cities of the Levant, Sidon, Tyre, and Byblos, we can see Astarte differently, with aspects appearing according to the needs of the local community. I then turn to the wider Mediterranean, to Carthage and Kition, where Astarte’s nature changes drastically both in contact with deities indigenous to these communities, and according to the heavier emphasis on maritime travel, which puts to the forefront her association with the sea. Through this, we confront the broader question of a Phoenician ethnicity, and whether we can truly view these cities as existing within a larger Phoenician identity.


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Keywords

Astarte, Phoenicians, Goddess Cults

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