Who is Astarte?
Astarte in the Late Bronze Age
As early as about 3000 BC, Astarte was a Semitic goddess of love and fertility. Like the Roman goddess Venus or the Greek goddess Aphrodite, Astarte started out as the goddess of the evening star (really the planet Venus), and Astarte is a lot like Aphrodite and Venus in many ways. Indeed, the Greek goddess Aphrodite may have originally been taken from the Phoenician Astarte.
People worshipped Astarte mainly among the Phoenicians, and especially on the island of Cyprus. Here in the eastern Mediterranean Astarte was the wife of Baal, the main Phoenician and Canaanite god. Probably early Jews also worshipped Astarte and Baal along with Yahweh, sometimes thought of as a brother of Baal.
Astarte had a lot in common with the Sumerian goddess Ishtar. By the time of the New Kingdom, about 1300 BC, people also worshipped Astarte in Egypt, calling her a daughter of Ra, the sun god, but the Egyptians thought of her more as a goddess of war. Sometimes Egyptians thought of Astarte as being the same as Isis.
Astarte during the Roman period
All through the Hellenistic and Roman periods in West Asia people continued to worship Astarte. But when most people converted to Christianity in the 400s AD, they stopped thinking about Astarte so much.
Ancient Mesopotamians, by Elena Gambino (2000). For kids, retellings of Mesopotamian stories and lots of context.
Gods, Goddesses, and Monsters: An Encyclopedia of World Mythology, by Sheila Keenan (2000). Easy reading.
Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia : An Illustrated Dictionary, by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green (1992).
Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia, by Jean Bottero (2001).
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