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Astarte, Worshipped by Phoenicians

Astarte is one of the names that was commonly linked with the female divinity of the people during the early Bronze Age. It is listed on the Biblical Timeline Chart around 1754 BC.  It is also the Greek name of Ishtar, who is a Mesopotamian Semitic goddess. She is linked with war, sexuality and fertility. Among her symbols included the horse, dove, lion, star within a circle and a sphinx.

In Phoenicia, several states including Byblos, Tyre and Sidon were among the centers of worship for Astarte. For instance, there were coins in Sidon that included the symbol with a chariot where a globe or stone appears, and this represented Astarte. Moreover, Astarte had a temple that was shared with Eshmun, in Sidon. As in Beirut, some coins depicted Astarte, along with Poseidon and Eshmun being praised together.

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‘Book of Judges – The worship of Ashtaroth. And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not him. (Judges 10:6) ‘

Several other centers of worship were located in Malta, Eryx and Cythera. In Sicily, Astarte became popular as the Venus Erycina of the Romans. There were even Pyrgi tablets that contained bilingual inscriptions, which dated back to 500 BC. It was discovered that Astarte was linked with the Uni-Astre of the Etruscans. As for the land of Carthage, the goddess Tanit was worshipped along with Astarte.

According to Donald Harden, there was a statue of Astarte discovered in Tutugi, which was located near Granada, in Spain. The statue dated back as early as the 7th or 6th century, and Astarte was depicted as sitting on a throne. She was also flanked by several sphinxes, and there was a bowl held just underneath her pierced breasts.

The pantheon in Phoenicia was generally ascribed to the Sanchuniathon. In the description, it was presented that Astarte was the daughter of Epigeius and Ge, and that she was Elus’ sister. When Epigeius was overthrown by the god Elus, a virgin daughter was sent. This was a trick that Epigeius made to Elus, although it failed to work. Astarte, Asherah and Ba alat Gebal, who were sent to Elus, eventually became his wives.

The goddess Astarte bore Elus seven daughters (Titanides) and two sons (Pothos and Eros). Eventually, Astarte and Hadad were given the right by Elus to reign over the land. To show her sovereignty, Astarte decided to place a bull’s head on her own. She also wandered around the world, and she was noted to have picked up a fallen star or a meteorite and placed it at Tyre.

In the Hebrew scriptures, Astarte was referred to as Ashteroth Karnaim. It was a city that was situated in Bashan, which was in the eastern part of the Jordan River. This place was mentioned in the Book of Joshua and Genesis. When translated literally, Asteroth Karnaim means “Ashteroth of the Horns”. Moreover, Ashteroth was a fertility goddess from Canaan, and the horns were used as a symbol of the mountain peaks in the land. In Israel, several figurines of the goddess were discovered, and she was presented has having two horns. Hence, the goddess Astarte was commonly depicted as having horns or the crescent moon on her head.

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