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A Reconsideration of the Aphrodite-Ashtart Syncretism

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Scholars have long recognized a one-to-one correspondence, or interpretatio syncretism, between the Greek goddess Aphrodite and the Phoenician goddess Ashtart (Astarte). The origin of this syncretism is usually attributed to the eastern origins of Aphrodite herself, whereby the Greek goddess evolved out of the Phoenician, as is suggested as early as the writings of Herodotos. In contrast to this understanding, I argue here that the perceived syncretism actually emerged differently on the island of Cyprus than throughout the rest of the Mediterranean. On Cyprus, the syncretism emerged out of an identification between the two queen goddesses of Cyprus - Aphrodite and Ashtart. In Greece, by contrast, it evolved out of a slow "Orientalizing" of Aphrodite combined with a Greek tendency to equate almost all eastern goddesses. As a result, the identification between Aphrodite and Ashtart was quite general, and both goddesses were syncretized not only with each other, but with a full range of Mediterranean goddesses.


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